“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42 NIV)
My son Soren was born one week before his due date. I was not expecting that. When, at about 1 AM, I realized those new pains I was having were really contractions I had a small moment of desperate pleading with God. You see, I was ready to be done being pregnant but I wasn’t quite sure I was ready to start being a mom. Not to mention, I hadn’t finished nearly enough of the Pinterest-inspired creative things I had put off, I had more cleaning to do, I had more vegetables I should’ve eaten and the list went on. Of course I wanted to meet my son, but when the time had come all I wanted was more time.
There is a phrase that the generation younger than me uses that makes me want to pull my hair out, YOLO: You Only Live Once. It has become a mantra for choices that are reckless couched in the idea that since we’ll all die someday we should experience all this world has to offer no matter the consequences to our bodies, our relationships, our minds or our spirits. Now, no high-schooler would ever tell you that when they say YOLO they are pre-determining their actions to be without thought to the equal reaction that would happen, but that is because no one has told them that. Before annoying anagrams there was an equally flippant and more widely used phrase by many previous generations: “Life’s too short.”
How often have you heard someone say that “Life’s too short,” to justify actions that sobriety and responsibility would not have heeded? At the beginning of Lent we are confronted with our own mortality, that we will return to dust, and that is frightening but it is not an excuse to waste the time we’ve been given. We need to, as a church, remember to encourage our members, especially our young people that time spent doing good is not wasted.
The night Jesus was betrayed He spent time in prayer, asking God if He could take away the cross if at all possible. When the time had come, Jesus also wanted more time. If we think of Jesus’ ministry on Earth, just think of the reasons we could have said He should have more time. He could have healed so many more people, he could have spoken to more people to get them to believe, he could have fed more, said more, loved more. We can see a hundred reasons why more time could have helped but Jesus got brave about his time and said the most difficult thing we can imagine “Not my will but yours be done.”
We love our own wills, they are calculated and generally plan on a specific amount of time but the truth is we don’t know how much time we really have. This isn’t to be fatalistic; it’s to be realistic and optimistic. If you think about it, we have TIME! Every moment is time we have been given by the one who created time. Jesus’ ministry lasted for about three years and in that time he loved and lived and gave and prayed and communed and worked like crazy. No one, reading the Bible 2000 years later thinks he should have played more X-Box. I think Wendell Berry says it best in his Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front:
Ask the questions that have no answers. Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias. Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest.
Of course the day Soren was born was one of the happiest days of my life, through pain and exhaustion came the greatest gift I’ve ever received and I am better for it. I did not get more time to do laundry or make a monogrammed canoe paddle, I got a son, I became a mom and I pray each day for God’s will to be done in his life.
So as we walk toward the cross and eventually the empty tomb, as you come before the death of the Savior of the World, do not beg for more time because the time has come. Instead reflect on the time you’ve been given and if you are given tomorrow, plant sequoias.
Ali can be reached via email here.