As I get older, and hopefully wiser, I have a lot of time to reflect on things. As a project manager, one of the things I do, as all good project managers do, is conduct a “lessons learned” event. At the end of a project, the team comes together and they reflect on the positive and negative elements of a project. I often refer to the event as “the good, the bad and the ugly”. Since I enjoy westerns, I like to use that phrase a lot with my own teams.
When conducting a lessons learned event or, if you are more into agile, a retrospective, the big thing is to find out how the project went. By looking at each element of the project like processes, resources, materials and other things, the team is able to provide their assessment of the project and give insights to the next team that will be taking on a similar project. In short, we learn from our mistakes and improve on those things that went well.
We do the same thing in our own personal lives. We reflect on the events of our lives and how we can improve on them. There are a couple of times during the course of a year when we really concentrate on having a more meaningful life by learning from our mistakes and improving on the good. The first event is New Year’s Eve or Day and the second is during a funeral that we attend.
When we start a new year, most of us make resolutions to improve ourselves. We promise to lose weight, eat better and exercise more. These three are the most popular resolutions. We all want to do those things so that we can live longer and have a better life.
We all start out with good intentions of living up to our resolutions and seeing them to the end of the year. However, things change and soon we find ourselves with broken resolutions and we have gone back to our old habits.
The second event, a funeral, really drives home our mortality and how we have spent our lives. When you read the obituaries of some individuals, you find that they may have done a lot of great things. Their list of accomplishments can fill the entire newspaper or a webpage.
After we read their obituaries or attend their funeral or memorial, thoughts about our own lives begin to fill our heads. Have we led a fulfilling life? When we die, will our lives have meaning? These questions are very natural for all of us. They give us time to pause, reflect and learn. We have a chance to make changes in our lives.
In chapter seven of the Book of Ecclesiastes, the author writes, “A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time.”
There is a reason why a wise person thinks about death a lot. It allows that person to think about all of the events of his or her life to that moment and reflect. Like the lessons learned event, each of us has an opportunity to think about our life experiences and, if necessary, make some changes. Some of those changes can be more physical in nature. We may decide to change our daily habits and exercise more and eat less. Other changes aren’t as visible. These tend to be more spiritual and tend to try to answer the question about the meaning of our lives and what we have done.
If we devote ourselves to just the physical aspect of our reflections, we may live longer, but will it address the bigger question? Instead of just asking the question about the meaning of life, the real question is about the meaning of our own lives. Are you leading a meaningful life?
As you read this message, you have an opportunity to reflect on your life and what you have done to this point. If you have devoted your life to the pursuit of wealth and fame and nothing else, you may have concentrated on those things and forgotten about other things like taking care of those around you. It doesn’t take much to make a difference in a person’s life, but if you haven’t even done the simplest of things, like offer others food, shelter or something to drink, your life may have no meaning to others.
While you see yourself as living a meaningful life, others may not see it that way. They may think of you as being self-absorbed and selfish. To them, your life may not have any meaning at all. I hate to be that brutal, but it may be true. Looking through the eyes of others and considering what they see is important when you reflect on your life. Instead of seeing a successful individual, others may see only a self-centered person interested in his or her own comfort and not the needs of others.
The author of the Book of Hebrews, in chapter thirteen, writes, “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’”
I’m not saying that you should not work and make money, but money is only a means to an end, a nobler end. If you are just concentrating on making money and spending it all on yourself rather than helping others, can you honestly say that you’re leading a meaningful life?
When you spend all of your time and effort in pursuing money or whatever earthly desires you have, you aren’t spending time with the Lord and you aren’t living a Christ-like life. Once again, I’m being brutally honest with you.
James, in chapter four of the book that bears his name, writes, “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”
Our lives are truly like the morning fog. In time, we will all stop breathing, die and turn cold. It is just part of life. We weren’t made to live forever in a fallen world. The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there are seasons of everything. There is a season for every event in our lives including a season for us to die.
When we are born, we are already beginning our journey to our final destination, death. Each day we live is another step closer to the end of that journey. I ask that you look back at each step that you have made to this moment and think about each of them. Have the steps you have taken made an impression in the lives of others?
Living a meaningful life is more than fame, wealth and prestige. It is living a life dedicated to being Christ-like each day. We should devote ourselves to doing only those things that are righteous in the eyes of the Lord.
Paul, in chapter four of his letter to the Ephesians, tells us exactly how we should live a Christ-like life, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”
If you live your life by following the example of Christ Jesus in everything that you do and say, you can rest assured on that day when you take your final step that you can look back at all the steps and say that you have lived a meaningful life. At that very moment, you will take the first step to the Father and stand firm in His grace for all eternity.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.