I was reading a newspaper publication recently and curiously, my attention got drawn to an obituary advertorial that reads: “With gratitude to God for a life well SPENT we regret to announce the passing on of Chie XYZ” Then beneath the name was written “ July 1956- May 2015” – the lifespan of the diseased. To be frank with you, this was not the first time I had come across an obituary ad on newspaper. Often times, when I read the papers and saw an obituary ad, I would flip through it without paying special attention (this is exactly what many of us do). But on that particular day, the word “spent”, on the obituary ad, struck me with a deep sense of conscious introspection. After a pensive meditation, the meaning of the word “ spent” jolted me to the inevitable reality of the essence and ephemeral nature of our existence as humans. When I checked up the meaning of the word “spend” in the dictionary what I found gave further clarity and import to our transitory life on planet earth.
To spend, according to the dictionary, means, “To give (money or something) to pay for goods or services, that will benefit someone or something”. Looking at this definition closely it shows that, our lives could be likened to money- that is used to pay for goods or services. It means that we give our lives to pay for something. Since life is measured in time, then how we spend our time is exactly how we spend our lives. The significant question would be: what is that “something” that we spend our lives or time to pay for? Simply put, that “something” is the purpose or the reason for our existence. Our purpose in life, essentially, is to help others add value to their lives. Dalai Lama was right when he says “our prime purpose in life is to help others, if we cannot help them at least we should not hurt them”
Now when we spend our time fulfilling our purpose in life, we bring joy and glory to our creator. God “benefits” from the use of our lives, when we carry out his assignment on earth. We are on a mission on earth to carry out God’s assignment! God wanted something done on earth, and so he sent you here, and equipped you with the requisite ability to execute that assignment.
It is instructive to note that the creator has given each of us a time span or if you like a “life span” within which we are supposed to fulfill the purpose that necessitated our existence in the first place. How you spend your limited time on earth in accordance to your divine assignment is important to God. By and large the usefulness of your life to God is measured by your obedience to his will for your life. However, many of us do not seem to understand this core reason for our existence nor appreciate the value of the limited time- span that constitute our lives. Majority of us journey through life aimlessly, totally oblivious of our lives’ purposes and the need to properly use our limited time- resources to fulfilling it.
Now take a look at the quote below to help you re-appraise the essence of time
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”– Annie Dillard
Because age is measured in years, it creates a false sense of lengthy longevity. We are unable to appreciate the cursory nature of our life span. We are deluded to think that we have “enough time” to play with, before we do anything serious with our lives. However, our perception of time changes when we measure our life- span in days. 70 years is equivalent to 25,550 days. If you are 40 years old right now, it means you have lived for just 14,600 days. So you can see that every day you live is actually a DEDUCTION from your lifespan. Any day of your life you spend may never be regained. But what is crucial is how you spend each day of your life. A day spent in fulfilling purpose is an investment of time. But a day spent outside purpose is wasted time and by extension a wasted life. Alice Bloch captures this tragedy succinctly when she says:
“We say we waste time, but that is impossible. We waste ourselves.”
You matter – do not waste yourself.
Your life and the time you have is a tremendous gift, a tremendous opportunity – but there is a real risk of having it go to waste by either not doing the things you were created to do, or trying to “keep busy” by doing things that don’t matter to your creator out of ignorance, self-centredness, procrastination or lack of motivation.
On the other hand, taking action, taking control and doing what actually matters in your life leads not just to fulfillment in the present moment – but also long term happiness, and a deep, profound sense of satisfaction with your life. You can look back on your accomplishments with pride – but you can also look back on the journey, at your personal actualization, and feel satisfied as a person for how you’ve lived your life and what you’ve done.
As you read this piece, the clock of your life is ticking. Seconds become minutes. Minutes turn into hours……into days……into months…..into years and then you are moving closer to meet with your creator someday, when you will be required to give a full account of your life on earth. The creator on that “fateful day” will ask you only one question: “did you do what I sent you to do on earth”. In other words, was your life SPENT in fulfilling purpose? He will not be interested in your financial and material success; your material possessions will not be considered; your social status and influence in society will not be reckoned with; whether you were a president or a governor is inconsequential. If you spend your life pursuing selfish ambition and gratification, you would have lived a wasted life.
I know that the gravity of this truth about purposeful living may not make sense to many of us because of the deception of transient material success around us. We are deluded by momentary ‘enjoyment’ of life. We are unnecessarily distracted by the pursuit of material wealth. We are held captive by the lust to satiate our greed. Our lives are on a trajectory of aimless voyage.
In conclusion, let me re-echo a popular quote by Myles Munroe of blessed memory, which captures succinctly, the reality of our lives: “The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but life without a purpose” . I challenge you today my dear friend to reflect on this truth and re-order your life accordingly. Time is ticking away! Today may be the only opportunity you have to make recourse to your purpose. Seize it!
The international coordinator
Voice of Change Network International