I have to be honest, sometimes I feel like an NFL running back when I start my day. Have you ever watched one of the greats build up a head of steam, get their momentum moving up field, then run over, around, past or through every would-be tackler in their way? I check my “TO DO” list (although most days I’ve already run through the list before I ever wake up), then I head to the office, cell phone in hand, building up a head of steam . . . so often, I view would-be distractions as if they were the opposing team’s defense that I must run around or through. Management consultants and leadership experts might call this “focus”, a good thing when not taken to an extreme.
Focus can become a dangerous mindset, if, in our mad rush, we miss the beauty of—or forget to treasure, cherish and prize—our lives. Like me, you’ve heard this warning before, but the challenge of avoiding this pitfall can be as imposing as climbing Mount Everest. From time to time, God’s providence gives us reason to pause and recognize the costly gifts of friendship, love and our very existence. This was one of those weeks for me.
I was sitting in my office with files, spreadsheets and site plans strung across my desk, when I received a phone call from my dad, who had just been informed that he has cancer. It doesn’t matter that my father has lived 82 consistent, faithful, fruitful years—his continued survival is important and precious to me! No sooner had I gotten off my call with Dad, I received an e-mail about my young friend, Emmett—30 years old and has “barely had to use a band-aid”—who just received the news that he has quite advanced cancer as well. There is not enough room here to describe the emotions that have swept over me since Wednesday night.
Instead, I’ll focus on the spiritual reality that has finally settled itself deep within my soul, no longer lost in the shuffle of daily demands, expectations and obligations. Life on earth is brief. Delicate. Dear. No one is exempt from the possibility that our departure may be sooner than we expected. Shouldn’t this reality affect the way we live and carry out our business today? The wisdom of James warns us: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit,’ yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (4:13-14)
Admitting that my life is like steam, mist, or a hazy fog shouldn’t provoke me to blow off that business plan or my annual goals, but it does condemn any presumption that I’m indispensable to this world. The brevity of life is obvious and unsettling when we look out over the ridge of eternity, but it has given me new perspective on the streets of the marketplace. Your industry, your company needs more men and women like you—who are living out Psalm 90:12 in its halls, shops and warehouses “ . . . teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”