Last Sunday morning about daylight, the skies over our horse and bull pastures were dotted with the 30-35 swirling and chattering Purple Martins that call our place home during the breeding season. Just like they have been doing for the last three months, they were busy chasing down their first meals of the day. As I sat there drinking my coffee in the cool of the early morning, I could see the adult birds pushing the younger ones on to keep flying and learning how to feed themselves.
Sunday night, after a long and strenuous week, I was tired and did not feel like going to church, so Lisa went alone. Instead, I wanted to go outside by myself, in the quieter and cooler minutes before dark, and just pull up a chair with the horses and relax. I looked forward to just being alone, being still, and spending time with the Lord and the horses as I watched and listened to the Martins in their usual vigorous activity just before dark.
However; something had vastly changed in the hours between sunrise and sunset. Other than a few weaned calves that were still calling out for their mamas and an occasional blowing of one of the horses, there was complete silence. Not one Martin could be seen. The skies that just hours before had been showered with darting and singing Martins, was now clear and silent. Every Purple Martin had left their gourds and moved on to prepare for their long flight to South America. They were literally here one minute and gone the next.
As I reflected on the sudden exodus of the Martins, I somehow started thinking about my age, my family, treasured friendships, and the ministry of Cattle For Christ. Somehow, my being 60 years old began to set in. My Daddy died at age 66 and I thought he was old then. I thought about my Mother who died in Feb 2018 at the age of 89, but I still remember what she looked like at the age of 34 when my baby sister was born (My baby sister is now 56). I thought about my Mother in Law who I first met when I was only 17 and she was only 37. She passed away 9 years ago, but would be 80 if she was still alive. To top it all off, my children are now 33, 34 and 36. My six grandchildren range from ages 4-12 years old and the oldest is beginning the first stages of puberty. I still remember exactly the way my wife looked and what she was wearing when I picked her up for first date 44 years ago when we were only 17. Where has the time gone? How could this be possible?
As I continued to think about the reality that I too am mortal and do not have much longer to live on this earth, I reflected on close friends who have either died themselves or have lost either a child or their spouse. I thought about what it would be like if Lisa never made it home from church. What if one of my children or grandchildren would pass on into eternity without me ever seeing them again. I thought about my brother, sisters, and their families and how my world would be changed if they passed on. I thought about the many morning breakfasts and coffee times Jack, Darrell and myself have shared and what it will be like when only two of us show up and just an empty chair is left where the third had sat for so many meals and times of fellowship.
As I reflected on these relationships and scenarios with family and friends, I tried to remember what my last words were the last time I saw them. What would it be like to walk into the bedroom of a lost child or grandchild that was never coming home? What would it be like to wake up in my own bed, just to realize anew that my wife was no longer beside me? What would it be like to come home to a dark and quiet house, realizing that my wife was suddenly gone, yet in every room I could see her face because they all had memories of times that we had spent together? What would my wife, children, grandchildren and friends remember about me if I were the one to die first? What last words of mine would they remember? Did we last argue and fuss, or did we laugh, hug and tell each other: 'I love you'? When they thought of me after my death, would they smile or would they be filled with regret? Would my life have encouraged them and brought them closer to the Lord or would they be torn between what I said to them versus how I treated them. What would they remember about how I lived my life?
Just like the Martins, our time on earth (mine, yours, our family and our friends) is soon coming to an end. At some point, we and those we love, will literally be here today and be gone tomorrow!
How would you answer the questions about what you last said or how you last treated your loved ones, if they died before you saw them again? What would they remember or say about you and how you spoke to and treated them the last time they saw you? Did you point them to Jesus or did you point them to a different direction by what you said, by your actions, or by your attitude?
Even if we live to be 100, there are many works and people in our lives right now that we have a brief opportunity to invest in, to finish, to treasure, and to enjoy. Some opportunities may have already passed us by, but all, will one day soon, come to an end.
None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. In fact, we are not guaranteed another breath or heartbeat in this life, on this earth, or in this family. Ready or not, we and our loved ones will literally be here one day and gone tomorrow, whether it be through death or through the return of Christ Jesus to take His children home. Either occurrence could happen at any time, in just a twinkling of the eye! Knowing this, shouldn't we strive to live our lives and enjoy our relationships and opportunities without regret? I pray that we will swallow the harsh words, that once spoken, cannot ever be taken back. I pray that we would seek opportunities to speak words of love and encouragement, and opportunities to show acts of kindness that bring peace and cause others to see God's love.
I once heard it said: "There is never a right time to do the wrong thing, and, there is never a wrong time to do the right thing." Now is the right time to start, or to return to, doing the right thing! It is the only time that we have promised and we cannot go back and change yesterday. We need to prepare ourselves and we sure need to prepare our children to walk in the ways of the Lord so that when life gets hard--and it will, when our children and family face pain that seems unbearable (and they will), when they face temptations that seem irresistible (and they will), when they fail, stumble or even fall away (and they will), they will still have a solid foundation on which to stand that will not and cannot be broken, no matter what may come their way. A sound foundation on which they can stand firm, claim the promises of God, and be able to confess, repent and return to being who God created and is preparing them to be.
Neither we nor our children will ever be sinless, but we can learn and we can teach them to walk in God's ways, to seek Him, and to have a personal relationship with Him. With this foundation on which to build, as our children begin their lifelong journey of walking with God, they will be better equipped to enjoy and value the peace of His forgiveness, the comfort of His presence, the depth of His love, and His power to live victorious lives that glorify God and lead others to Him.
So many times, we as parents and grandparents place much more value and invest much more of our time, energy and finances preparing and teaching our children to be successful in various temporary and earthly pursuits such as sports, grades, entertainment, popularity, self esteem, getting into the right college and becoming financially secure than we do teaching them the things of God. There is nothing wrong with any of these pursuits in and of themselves. But, if we do not make it our number one priority to prepare our children spiritually to walk in His ways, we are neglecting our number one, God given role as parents and Christians. If we neglect our responsibility, or if we allow the short window of opportunity to pass us by in which we have to teach our children God's will, we are setting them up for failure in this life, and perhaps an eternity in hell! "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?"
Perhaps this chorus of an old country song by Garth Brooks will help make the point that we need to make the most of the short windows of opportunities and relationships that we have with those we meet just in passing, and especially with those we love the most, while we still have the time. We never know when these opportunities we have to treasure, enjoy and to invest in those we love, will be here today and gone tomorrow.
"If tomorrow never comes, will she know how much I loved her? Did I try in every way to show her every day, that she's my only one? And if my time on earth were through, and she must face this world without me, is the love that I gave her in the past, gonna be enough to last, if tomorrow never comes? So tell someone that you love, just what you're thinking of, if tomorrow never comes."