Today I write with a heavy heart.
Two days ago, a friend of mine passed away in a freak accident that nobody could’ve seen coming. One moment she was alive and well and enjoying the beginning of her summer, the next she was in unbearable pain and just barely grasping onto the finals cusps of life. In the moments that followed that, what little life that was remaining seeped out until, with one final breath, she was gone. Here one moment, gone the next. Boom. Poof. Gone.
She was nineteen years old.
I can’t claim that this girl was a particularly close friend of mine, but she was a friend nonetheless. We’d shared conversations and we'd shared laughs; we'd even had a few classes together back in high school and I just recently learned that apparently she had gone to Texas A&M too (I had just never seen her there). She was a funny and kind and caring girl who was amazing at pretty much anything she set her mind to (sports, academics, you name it), and I can just imagine in my head all the dreams and aspirations and plans she had to have had for her life. Scenarios that would’ve played out in her mind. Places she wanted to go. Goals she wanted to accomplish. Things she wanted to experience.
But now she’s gone.
This really got me thinking. You see, today’s my twentieth birthday, and that simple thought nearly brings tears to my eyes, even as I write this. I’m older now than my friend ever got the chance to be. On this day – June 30, 2017 – I am officially two decades old, old enough to be familiar with death and recognize its permanence here on earth (while also fully grasping its beauty when considering the life to come), while also understanding how tragic it is that many people, like my friend, will die before they ever get the chance to see the day that I experience right now. My friend, like many others before her and many others to come after, will never get the chance to have a twentieth birthday, that unstated luxury which I would be so quick forget when it comes to gratitude.
Here's the thing: our entire lives, we go about dreaming about the next big thing – high school, college, a job, marriage, a family, etc. – going day-by-day as if we are simply playing a video game in which we are trying to achieve the next level. Oh, high school is fine, but wait until college! Or until sophomore year! Or junior year! Ah, maybe graduation! We are always so enamored and focused and worried about what’s to come that we never stop to truly enjoy what we have been given here in the present, and that is where we fail ourselves. That is where we likewise fail those around us.
You see, like I said before, my friend had her own dreams, her own aspirations, her own goals and plans and vivid imaginations that she could only hope would one day come true. But in the flash of an instant – an instant that she could have never seen coming – boom, she was gone, and all those hopes and dreams and goals died with her. God decided to call her home, and in that calling, His voice became loud and clear. But don’t mistake what I’m saying here, because God wasn’t only speaking to my friend. When He called her home, He was speaking to me too, and hopefully through the words that I currently write, I can carry His message to you as well:
Look, my beloved. Time is so, so expensive, and life is so, so fragile. Come to me. Remember me. Run into my arms. I will give you rest.
The truth is this: we have no idea when we are going to die. Even as I write this – at 12:27am on June 30, 2017 – who am I to say that I will even wake up come morning time? If God were to decide to call me home tonight, that would be entirely His call, His choice, His will, and I would have to be satisfied with that (and believe me, I would be). The bittersweet thing about this truth is that when I die, like my friend, all the dreams I might have, all the goals I sought to accomplish, all the plans I had aspired to go about… they would all become meaningless, like a chasing after wind. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. God could take me in my sleep, and I could be in heaven before the sun comes up here on earth.
Oh God, even if I don’t live to see tomorrow, may I live to glorify you tonight.
Life is so short and fragile and time so, so expensive, yet we are so quick to seek the next moment without appreciating each moment we have been given. For just a few moments, I ask you to take in and let out a long, deep breath. Inhale, exhale. Do you realize that just that single breath right there is a gift from God? My friend doesn’t get to do that anymore. My high school cross country coach doesn’t get to do that anymore. My grandparents don’t get to do that anymore. It seems so simple, so arbitrary, so undeniable easy that we forget to be grateful for but that simple breath, yet even this is a gift from God. Then consider the fact that you can see with your eyes, that you can feel with your hands, that you can love with your heart. Consider the fact that God gave you a feeling in your stomach that lets you know when you’re hungry so that you don’t accidentally starve yourself to death without realizing it. Consider the fact that you can most likely eat three meals a day without even acknowledging the fact that a good majority of the world’s population don’t even get that simple luxury. Count how many water faucets you have inside your house and understand that some people have to walk dozens and dozens of miles for water that’s less than a tenth that clean. Consider your house, your family, your clothes, your surroundings, your freedom. We are not simply blessed, my friends, we are spoiled! Above all of this, consider your time! Consider the fact that each second is a gift from God and that you are never guaranteed to reach the next second with a beating heart. All of these things are gifts from God, yet we misuse them, abuse them, and forget to even be thankful. How foolish are we?
And now I ask you to consider this: a single ray of sunshine cannot shine its light without God’s permission, and yet He chose for you to be alive right now. In the case of my friend, God chose that it was time to bring her home, but if you are reading this message right here and right now, that means that God saw it fit for you to be alive and in the place where you now sit, reading the text before your eyes. Ask yourself this: why? Of all times and of all places, why did God choose for me, David Lee Tate, Jr., to be born on June 30, 1997 at 2:52 pm to two of the most loving and amazing parents in the entire world? It was no accident, it was no product of chance, it was no mishap. It was purposeful, a part of His grand plan and master design! God wanted me born at that moment, and now, twenty years later, He has kept me alive. Why? Why? Why?
My friend had her own dreams and goals and plans, but those dreams and goals and plans died with her when she collided with a 30-foot boat at a 90-degree angle. As a result of this, I hope you will recognize and respond to my plea that you join me in this prayer that I am about to write below. Consider its words and plant them in your heart; mean them and recognize that they are a response to the fact that God not only wants you here in this moment, but He wants what is best for you as well:
Lord, life is a fragile, fragile thing, and I see now that I am foolish for taking even a single breath for granted when it is in fact a gift from You. I have dreams of my own, but I lay those at Your feet. I have goals I sought to achieve, but I throw them to the ground. I have plans within my mind, but I pour them down before Your thrown. If I may be so bold to ask You, Lord, I ask that You dream for me, for your dreams are greater than any dream I could have for myself. I ask that You establish my goals, that each goal I make might be made so that Your name may be glorified during my short time here on earth. I ask that You let me surrender my plans over so that Your will might be accomplished daily through my perseverance. You are a beautiful, beautiful Savior and I am oh so grateful for every breath I breathe, every move you grant me to make. Not my will, but Yours be done. Amen.
NOW LET’S BE HONEST…if I had one birthday wish, it would be that you prayed that prayer and meant it with all your heart. For all I know you could live to be a hundred years old, but then again you could die this very day, and it is my greatest hope that you would spend each and every moment in humble service to the Lord, doing for Him works which you do not out of obligation or fear, but out of love and grateful recognition. Don’t be the person who says that they will serve God when they get older, because you aren’t guaranteed that adjective; serve Him now and serve Him boldly, recognizing that spreading His Gospel and sharing His Word is the most meaningful thing you can do with your life besides surrendering your heart in the first place.
God has placed you here for a reason; don’t take that reason for granted. It is so, so easy to get distracted by the things this earth has to offer – believe me, I struggle with this day after day – but cling fast to His true calling, remembering that we should live every moment for Him because there is not a moment to lose. God can call your name at any moment – and no matter how hard you try to hide, eventually that time will come – and so it is these moments we have here – these short, short, precious moments – that we must recognize that Jesus left us with a mission. A commission. A Great Commission. Oh, to make Him our meaning in all things. Do not waste your life away, my friends. My brothers. My sisters. Christians. Do not place He who write the future on the backburner while you go about trying to forge a future of your own. Surrender yourself to Him and let Him dream for you, because He put you here for a reason.
Don’t let that reason go to waste.
Our hearts may long for eternity and our souls might be getting restless for that place where we belong, but the fact that we are still here shows that there is work to be done. Perhaps Jesus has not returned for us yet because He is still waiting for us to fill up that mansion that He’s built for us. There comes a day when tears and fears and pain and intolerance and injustice and time itself will be no more, but today is not that day. As that clock keeps going round and round, recognize that each tick is an instance in which you can glorify God and go about His will. His plans are still to prosper and He has not forgotten us. Remember Him and pursue Him, for He alone is worthy of our praise. Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Him. It is the best decision you could ever make.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.