When You’re Still Here Breathing

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You know those moments that stop you still in your tracks and enable you to see clearly – if just for a short while – what really matters in life?

Loss; near death experiences; curve balls thrown at you; powerful stories. For most, life over time tends to have a mix of both highs and lows that opens our eyes to the few things that are worthwhile, and the many things that are simply not.

Many of these moments for me have come at times of great loss. Suddenly as something very precious is taken, I can’t help but see the real value in all that is around me. It’s as if somewhere in the aftermath of shock and sorrow, a calming clarity falls on me and I’m both reminded of what is most important to me in life and am ignited by a flame to urgently chase after it.

This past weekend, Big Fisch and I drove along a rainy highway on our way back to Boston after attending the funeral of a sweet, young relative whose life was taken suddenly and tragically. Rain slamming down across our windshield, we drove on quietly as our heavy hearts replayed the look of sadness and brokenness we had just seen in our loved ones’ eyes. Another life gone, just like that. Too young; too soon; it was all around heartbreaking.

During the service, our deceased relative’s friends lined the pews to my right. They were young, all around age 20, and sat with distraught, tear-stricken faces, deep in disbelief as they stared up at the casket holding a body that looked so different than the soul they had known. I knew that look of devastation in their eyes all too well; burying your best friend when you should be planning your next road trip together. It was unfair and maddening; a nightmare you’re forced to accept as reality.

I gazed in their direction, seeing my 19 year old self in them as they comforted one another. I wanted to get up and give them each a tight hug; tell them that no, the pain won’t completely go away, but yes, it will get lighter with time; tears will become less frequent. But I knew no words really helped that much in the moment, and sometimes the mourning needed their space to just mourn.

Their faces stuck with me as we drove on for hours, in and out of rain storms. My mind churned with frustration over how broken much of life is, and how so much on this side of heaven remains unanswered. Suddenly the sky before us began to glow as the clouds finally parted, spilling out rays of sun and the most vibrant rainbow I had ever seen.

The colors were stunning and the arch expansive. The beauty of it was captivating and it appeared so close in proximity that we couldn’t help but “ooh and ahh” over it as if we were kids again. A big smile spread across my face as I felt the presence of our very real and living God, stronger than I had in a long time, reminding me of the divine promise of faithfulness He had made to his people thousands of years ago, and still makes today, represented in each rainbow He throws across the sky.

With each brilliant color displayed before me, He was promising again that even in pain and confusion, He does not forsake us. Even in loss and sorrow, His control of our life has not slipped. Even in brokenness, He promises to mend and restore. And even in darkness, His love shines much brighter.

I knew, again, in that moment that life was quite simple: love Him, and love others, above all else.  And do it in the ways in which He leads, using the talents He gives.

I closed my eyes a few times and tried hard to plaster the sight before me on my memory. I wanted to remember that peaceful view and feeling forever.

The moment of calming clarity passed, as it always does, but my mind was left noodling over that which matters most in life.

You see, I spend – and waste – a lot of time questioning how best to live. I start to second guess the worth in the things I do when I measure it’s value against the world’s standards. I then find myself approaching the Lord with the same question over and over – “what would you have me do with my life?” Or as Harvard Business School would say, with my “one, precious life.”

If He were to speak back audibly to me, I think He would say something along the lines of live it. I’ve given you this life for a certain number of days. Live alive in me and use what I’ve given you.

It becomes so beautifully simple then, and my daily metric switches to “did I serve Him today?”

Did I write when I felt led to write? Did I reach out to that friend when they crossed my mind? Did I use my talents, and energy, productively for good?

In those rare, clear moments, He reminds me that life is short, and we are here for a purpose. So do what you are called to do, even if the world sees little value, if for no other reason then it being right in your soul.

I believe God leads us with the passions He places on our hearts when we seek Him, and the direction He nudges us to move in.

That may look like writing even if few others care to read it.

Or singing even if no one chases you down to produce it.

Creating even if no one is raising their hand to buy it.

Dreaming even if no one else can envision it.

Even in your doubt, do it. Because for you, it is living. Do it because for you, it is your purpose.

Do it because if you’re still here breathing, you’re here to make an impact. And whether your impact changes one world, or a million worlds, it is an impact worth making.