Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky. Remember him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble; and before your shoulders—the strong men—stoop. Remember him before your teeth—your few remaining servants—stop grinding; and before your eyes—the women looking through the windows—see dimly.
Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades. Now you rise at the first chirping of the birds, but then all their sounds will grow faint.
Remember him before you become fearful of falling and worry about danger in the streets; before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom, and you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper, and the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire. Remember him before you near the grave, your everlasting home, when the mourners will weep at your funeral.
Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well. For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad. (Ecclesiastes 12:1-6; 13b-14 NLT)
Challenging ourselves to exceed our past victories isn’t necessarily a bad thing; at least, unless it drives us into depression or a feeling of failure when our present isn’t quite as exciting as “what used to be.” Ask most uber-successful (at least in the public’s eye) what their greatest fear is, and many will tell you something like, “I’m afraid of becoming a has-been; irrelevant; a metaphor; obsolete; on the markdown rack of the record store of life.” They’re afraid that they’ll not be able to remain suspended on the high of success, to the status of champion, the blockbuster, the well-known, the respected. A bestseller status may come with a sobering thought: “Will I ever be able to do this again, will I ever be able to break my own record? Can I still be happy even if I don’t?”
Face it, at some point in time, you will do, see, go to, taste, become, experience the greatest thing of your life. Can you be ok with life going back to normal after those singular greatest experiences, or will you constantly compare the present to the past and rob yourself of enjoyment of what’s here, right now, and what’s to come? Can you remain grateful for life even with its ups and downs, the temporary nature of success, or the awareness that those greatest moments only last for a little while? Yes, you can.
The only thing that you for sure haven’t done yet is to FINISH. We will all finish, sometime in our future. Some will arrive there sooner than others. There will be no chance to repeat or exceed that experience because a finish means no more, at least in this one short life. Maybe you cannot roll back the years and be who you once were, or do things you aren’t able to do now, but you can finish well. Even if you’re a hundred years old and on a cane. Even if no one’s still around who remembers the victory lap, the full head of hair, the trophies, the most lauded season you ever had.
You aren’t who you were then. You have grown. You develop character not because of the slam dunks, but more often from the timeouts and the losses and the time spent on the bench. Sure, it’s nice to relive in our memories, but you’ve one responsibility you haven’t yet met, whether you realize it or not–and that’s to finish and finish well.
Don’t be so focused on what no longer is that you cannot turn your attention to the present, and even more importantly, to eternity. Don’t let it prevent you from celebrating others who now are getting to experience what you may once have…because you can be the one to give them an example of how to remain happy after a pinnacle moment passes. They need you to show them how to successfully remain grateful all the way to the finish. You don’t have to live vicariously through other people in order to appreciate when they get to experience their moments–you can actually enjoy it as YOU, and then go right back to being who you are now–happy for who you were then but also happy for who you are now. Gratitude keeps time from souring us!
Lord, help us to be grateful even when life comes with disappointments or downhill paths. Help us to be thrilled when we have those unforgettable experiences, but not jaded when we discover that not every day is full of success, winning, achieving, experiencing a new personal record. If You are the source of our joy, it can’t be taken from us…whether we’re maxing out or bottoming out. You are our constant.
May we give You thanks in spite of it all–the wins, the losses, the mediocre days in-between. Thank You for all the seasons of our life and our growth from the burst of life in spring to the winding down of winter. We can remain at peace in all of it, free from the need for constant affirmation of others. May we keep You first and complete what Solomon described as the “whole duty” of a person–to reverence You and follow your commands. May our eternity be a good one because of the choices we make now–and may we inspire other people to live for You, as gratefully and as intentionally as they can, so that we all might finish well. Amen.