Life Can Change in an Instant

Imagine that you’re going about your workday . . . mindful of all kinds of tasks that need to be completed. The errands that must be completed after work, the kids’ games that are on the calendar tomorrow afternoon, the monthly bills that still need to be finished, and the project that needs to be emailed to a client by 4 pm this afternoon. It feels a bit like a frenzy, but it’s made more complicated by some conflict in your office. You know you’re right about a decision, but two of your co-workers resent you for it.  You have a promotion that sits on the other side of that decision and you have been driving hard to attain it.

As you sit at your desk, you are distracted by all of this and you play games in your mind about how to manage all of it.  You feel like your reasonably smart, efficient, hard-working, and honest, so you should be able to juggle all of this, but on many of your days, you’re just exhausted by it all.

Suddenly, your coffee cup contents is sloshing, your chair rolls slightly to one side of your desk, and the lights above you begin to sway.  The shaking gets more violent and you realize that you need to get out of the building and find open space where you can feel safe.  You’ve never experienced an earthquake, but you know that you don’t want to be in the building, so you skid down stairs and take the first emergency exit you can find.  Outside, you see thousands of other people who have taken the same strategy to safety.  The rumbling stops and starts again two or three times during the half-hour you and everyone else have been outside.  People around you are hurt.  Two buildings on the block are in ruins.  Cracks spiderweb in many directions, and you’re not sure it’s safe to re-enter you building.

Then you hear it.  Your brain doesn’t register this sound as familiar, but your panic senses are pricked with electrical impulses.  By the time you realize what you’re hearing, the wave has mounted the street and is rushing toward you.  You have spent plenty of days at the beach.  Waves approach the beach, break, crash, and retreat.  But this one shows no such sign.  It’s advancing, taking everything in its path–cars, people, bikes, buildings.  And you realize in that instant that all those projects on your desk no longer matter, that the promotion you have sought is now a distant past, and the kids that you were worried about shuttling are in the path of the wave that’s about to consume you.  Thirty minutes ago, you were consumed with “stuff;” now, none of that matters.  Your life has changed. . .forever.

This is reality.  Ten thousand miles from here, someone was doing exactly as I described in another country.  They had no idea how life would change.  And they wish they had savored the life they had before it was ripped from them.  This isn’t fiction.  What I have shared today is a retelling of an account I heard while standing on a barren beach many years ago, listening to a woman describe the day a tsunami roared away with her life.  She lost consciousness in the wrath of that destruction and awoke in a place that was 14 kilometers from where she had last been alert and standing on her street.  Just a few days ago, another wave devastated the city of Palu, changing the lives of thousands of people in a matter of minutes.

Life can change in an instant.  “Life is like a vapor,” James says.  It’s unpredictable and shorter than we expect.  You probably will never face a tsunami or earthquake or tornado.  But if you did, how would it change the priority order of your life’s details?  I have been watching the news, reminded of that conversation on a beach in Banda Aceh, reminded that I must make life count every day.  God has place me on this earth for a purpose, for a time, and I must savor it, love well, keep short relational accounts, and live thankfully, for life can change in an instant.

Dear friends, pray for Sulawesi, even as you take a little more time to hug your kids, make peace with your co-workers, and seek God’s leadership in your life.  Time is, indeed, precious.

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