Thursday, November 04, 2004

Seizing the Day vs. Brushing Your Teeth

Living with Passion AND Responsibility

I don’t know if you caught it in the last post, but Jonathan Edwards really raises the bar on what carpe diem means in practical terms. Resolution #7 reads: “Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.” Now that proposition should stir us up to some really serious thinking…

How many of my normal responsibilities would I do if I knew it were the last hour of my life? Would I write this post? …sleep? …brush my teeth? Probably not. And so the tension emerges: how do I reconcile responsible living with passionate living? Am I forced to choose either “be responsible” or “seize the day” as my philosophy of life?

Some might say we ought to find a balance between the two options. They would argue that sometimes we “seize the day” and other times we just do what we have to do. But I don’t like that answer for two reasons. First, it’s subjective, leaving me without a way to tell if I’m balancing the two ideals correctly. There’s no way to tell if I’m too reckless (seizing the day) or too conservative (being responsible).

Second, it leaves most people right where they started, comfortable with their nonchalant, passionless approach to life. If we resolve the tension of Edwards’ resolution by saying, “Well, you can live that way only sometimes, not all the time,” most people will breathe a sigh of relief and flip the TV back on for the rest of the night.

So here’s the solution that I would propose. We need to take a longer view of “seize the day” than just what it means for me right this moment. In other words, we need to keep tomorrow in mind when we ponder how to seize the day today. We might forfeit opportunities to seize the day tomorrow if we don’t seize the day in a certain way today.

For example, I would love to skydive and feel the explosive adrenaline rush of freefalling for several thousand feet. So I carry that little desire with me for what “seize the day” means for me: skydiving first chance I get. But what if I’m standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon someday and “seize the day” comes to mind? Do I have to choose responsible living over passionate living? Do I say either "yes" to my desire (passion) or "yes" to living for another day (responsibility)? Nope. I just need to be more careful about how I define “seizing the day,” realizing that I might have an opportunity to freefall for several thousand feet AND live to tell about it sometime in the future.

So here’s the application to you… If you’re a student, seize the day by studying with all your might so as to maximize your opportunities in the future. If you’re an employee, work with all your might for the same reason. If you’re a parent, disciple and train and pray with all your might so as to maximize both your own and your children’s opportunities in the future. If you’re a Christian, know and make known Jesus Christ with tomorrow in view. If you’re not a Christian, consider well how you seize the day, realizing that your own eternal joy is at stake.

No matter who you are, take Jonathan Edwards’ resolution as your own for every day and everything you do: “I will never to do anything which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.” Wow. What kind of people would we be if we really lived that way?!

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