When I read a book one of the things I am looking for are punchy quotes. I collect them and organize them by topic to use when I speak. People will forget a sermon, but they will remember a statement given in an economy of words stated in a memorable way.
One such statement I heard many years ago stuck with me; it concerned the value of being aware of the present and acting upon it. It goes like this, “‘One of these days’ is none of these days”.
Haven’t you ever said, “One of these days I’m going to do that”. I’ve said it to my family, “One of these days we’ll go there” or “One day we’ll have to do that”.
The reality is that it is usually a statement of procrastination rather than action. It’s easy to delay something until a more convenient time. Sometimes the tradeoff is missing a very special moment with the people we love the most. Meaningful conversations and memories often occur at unplanned times.
Years ago we were on a family vacation driving to our destination and my son, Jon, was sitting behind me. He saw an interesting place on the side of the road and excitedly said, “Hey, Dad, let’s go there!”
I knew we had a long trip ahead and replied, “Jon, that’s a great idea. One of these days we’ll do that”. Quick as a blink he replied, “‘Dad, one of these days’ is none of these days”. Ouch! We all laughed because Jon was preaching my own sermon at me! (At least I knew he was listening during those years).
It’s true though, isn’t it? We so easily put off what we can do in the present for the future. And it rarely comes to pass. The regrets come later, but they will come.
God has taught me the importance of having a laser focus on the present by having people very close to me die, many of them unexpectedly. I learned that the things one takes for granted become precious when you realize they are gone. After the loss of the relationship you wish for the opportunity to relive the smallest things you formerly assumed upon. When we realize there will not be a tomorrow one day, the present becomes sacred.
If I want to be a good Dad when my child is 18, I must be a good Dad when he is 18 months. A great father understands the value of each moment and the cumulative effect of those moments. Relational success is really easier than we make it. It means making the most of the moment. Sadly, this lesson usually comes at a price.
God has given us seven precious children. We also have seven in Heaven through miscarriages. Our losses gave Paula and me a deeper gratitude when we held our children God gave us to train. Our moments with our living children took on a different perspective when we realized how precious time was.
If I want to be a good friend, I must take my friendship seriously on a daily basis. If you’ve never lost a close friend you don’t comprehend how valuable they are. If you have then you know it motivates you to savor the moments you do share.
One of dear friends is Richard White, a pastor in Louisiana; he’s like a big brother to me. Richard has a quality that endears people to him; he is a good listener. When people spend time with Richard he makes them feel like they are the most important person in the world. He is never in a hurry to rush through a conversation. He enjoys the moments, the little things that happen.
I believe Jesus Christ was that way with people. He took time with them, looked at them, listened to them and genuinely cared for them. You will never find a place in the Bible where Christ was in a hurry. Yet, He fully accomplished His Father’s will for His life. If Satan can’t have our soul he wants our effectiveness. Nothing wrecks our relational effectiveness like hurry.
I feel very deeply about my relationships and am quick to express my feelings and love for my family and friends. Occasionally someone will tell me that they wished that they loved as deeply as I do. It came at a cost. I learned that moments are precious because they may not be here again tomorrow.
When I was 21 years old, my best friend, David, died in a tragic car accident. It marked me for the rest of my life. Every March on the anniversary date of his death I visit his grave and remember him. I smile, I cry and I rejoice because I know I’ll see him again in Heaven one day.
The night before his funeral I stood alone in the funeral home before his casket and made a promise to myself. I would do whatever I could to help his family for the rest of my life.
I didn’t comprehend what this meant. I just wanted to serve his family, most of whom I knew well, and be there for them in their time of need. Since I couldn’t do that for David anymore I would do that for his family. It has been my joy and privilege to do so.
Since that time, over thirty-five years ago, I have led his uncle to Christ and had the privilege of baptizing him in his 80’s. His mother, sister, nephew, niece and brother attended our church. I spent some time each year visiting his family.
I became especially close to his brother, Doug. The thing that brought us together was what we had in common – a broken heart. Neither of us ever got over David’s death. Ours was a friendship born from grief and sorrow and as we talked about it we helped each other.
On the anniversary of David’s death every year one of us would be the first to call the other. Occasionally we would have a meal together. Doug reminded me a lot of his brother. He never tried to impress people, but was genuine and real. There was a simplicity than made people comfortable around him.
A few weeks ago, early in the morning, I received a call from Doug’s son. He told me that Doug had been in the hospital and had passed away suddenly. It was a call I wasn’t expecting.
A little over 48 hours later I was standing in a cemetery conducting the funeral for him, his family seated before me and his coffin behind me as I spoke. A few minutes later he was buried beside his wife. Just a few feet away were the graves of his immediate family. I had conducted five of their funerals through the years.
When I made a promise to my friend I didn’t realize what it involved, but I’m glad I did and that I filled part of my days serving his family. I’m grateful because I enjoyed the journey with two brothers, David and Doug, who were great friends to me. I shall miss them for a while, but I’m so glad I took intentional opportunities to serve them. I have no regrets. I took advantage of present moments to care for those I loved.
Sometimes God would impress upon my heart to call Doug. It was tempting to think, “One of these days I’m going to do that”. I’m so glad that more often than not I followed upon the prompting in my heart and called him. Now those opportunities are gone until we meet again in glory.
I believe success in life is intertwined with our relationships – with Christ and with people. This is why God made me, to love and be loved by the Lord and to love and be loved by my family and friends. It is how I treat the opportunities in present moments that will ultimately determine my success.
Have you been saying “one of these days” to your time alone with the Lord? To your wife, children or grandchildren? To your friends?
It’s a harsh truth – “‘One of these days’ is none of these days”. Change it to, “I think I’ll make that call, send that e-mail, throw the ball with my son right now”. You’ll be so glad you did.