By Curtis Hail
President & CEO, e3 Partners
The sound of tornado sirens groaning in the night sky is enough to send chills down your spine. In Dallas, we’re used to them from time to time. It comes with living in Texas. Every Spring, the bluebonnets come out, the temperatures warm up, and we review where to go in the event a column of wind starts gunning towards you.
But the day after Christmas?
While many of our kids and grandchildren were still playing with their new toys, many communities blasted their sirens as a once-in-a-decade storm ravaged the area. While our house was safe, many others were under the gun. The storm was so strong that radar could pick up its debris field, the obvious sign that something terrible was happening for those in its path.
One of my wife’s former students, a wonderful woman who overcame terrible odds to build a meaningful life, was driving down the highway with her baby girl when the tornado struck. The storm threw her car off an overpass, killing them and many others in an instant.
Needless to say, the Hail family’s holly-jolly Christmas came to an abrupt close.
A few days later, we received word of yet another tragedy from one of our partners in Egypt. Joshua, a passionate young man, was still celebrating the birth of his newborn daughter when his beautiful bride was killed by a blood clot to the brain. Just days before the new year, Joshua found himself a single parent mourning the loss of his sweetheart.
Tragedy and convenience have never met. Whether over Christmas or the middle of random Wednesday afternoon, tragedy strikes without regard for our plans or expectations. As I reflected over these events, God laid a harsh but crucial realization on my heart.
“I, along with everyone I know and love, will be gone in 100 years.”
Whether by a sudden accident or old age, I will be gone. So will my wonderful family and all of the incredible friends I’ve enjoyed through the years. Few will know our names, much less our faces or personalities. James comes to the same conclusion in his New Testament letter.
“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
At some point or another, we all face this realization that life is short. Some react by trying to soak up the most out of it, seeking pleasure and adventure. Others go into depression. As Christians, this realization should come with a sense of urgency. The brevity of life is ultimately contrasted by the hope of eternity. The short time we’re given on this Earth is an invitation to join Christ in restoring lives with his Gospel. Your life may be short but your legacy doesn’t have to be.
A STORY TO TELL
As I dealt with these emotions at home, several of our staff were mingling with students at the Urbana Missions Conference in St. Louis. Over 16,000 college-age young adults gathered for a time of worship and teaching, each challenged with this question – “What story will you tell with your life?”
Whether you’re just breaking out on your own or staring into life’s sunset years, it’s a question worth asking. We all have the opportunity to live personal comfort, notoriety, wealth, or power. We can make these years about ourselves or plug them into a story much greater than ourselves – the story of how the rightful King stepped off his heavenly throne to overcome death, give hope to the broken, offer freedom from sin, and endow each of us with purpose. If the story of your life is about you, it’ll be buried with your body someday. If it’s about him, it will live beyond your time here.
THE 100 DAY CHALLENGE
So, as I come into this year, I’m adopting a challenge and invite you to join me. I want to focus on nothing more than the next 100 days. I’ve decided to leave it all out on the field, making the most of every opportunity, every relationship, and every resource so that these next 100 days count for his Kingdom. When they’re done, I’ll stop and reflect before launching into the next 100 days. We’re not even promised that much but just imagine what could be accomplished. It’s not just a New Year’s resolution. It’s an intentional step towards enjoying a focused, missional life.
How will you make these next 100 days count? You could commit to a week of introducing another culture to Jesus, or do the same for your barista around the corner. It could mean being more generous with your finances or more aware of those around you in need. Let’s make each day count towards his story rather than our own, for restoration instead of the status-quo. I pray the vapor of our lives leaves an impression well beyond our years.