“The Last Time”

We all did it, we just didn’t recognize it for what it was at the time. Yours might be slightly different than mine, but for each of us there was a time we placed a beloved and integral part of our gaming experience back into the case for the final time and simply didn’t know it. After untold months of renting it at Blockbuster every single time we went, there was a time that I returned Tecmo Bowl and simply never picked it up again. There was a day in my past that I flicked the power button on my original NES for the last time I would ever do it. There was a night that my friends and I gathered together for our regular Halo 2 LAN party for the final time, but we didn’t KNOW that would be the last time. And considering how much that experience meant to us, I’m ashamed to say I don’t even remember when it was. To be honest, it probably wasn’t even that memorable… my best friend and I probably just lost a match 50-13 on Burial Mounds (our least favorite map), we all packed up our stuff to go like we always did, and that was that. A small group of us moved on to playing Halo 3 together online, but most of us went our separate ways. It was the last time for all of us, and we had no idea. I wish we would have recognized it at the time… I wish we would have celebrated it, cherished it, took time to share what it meant to each of us, and made those goodbyes more intentional and meaningful, since it was the final time we would all do this together. But we didn’t know.

The sad reality of life on this planet is each of us are all too familiar with time being cut short… our day off always seems less than 24 hours long, vacations always end sooner than they should, children grow up faster than we are prepared for, and loved ones move on before we are ready to let them go. Special moments that we have been preparing for all of our lives speed past us in the blink of an eye, and in our technology-obsessed culture we are often guilty of spending more of our time looking and planning towards tomorrow than we do recognizing the value of the present space and time that we are currently occupying. And with the reality that tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us, what we choose to do with today becomes even more magnified in its’ value. If we were able to look into the future and know which parts of our lives were occurring for the last time, I have a feeling we would probably view them a little differently. Sure, it is annoying when our child makes a mess in the back seat of the car… but one day they won’t be dropping French fries in the back seat anymore. They won’t even be in our car… they will be driving their own, and we will miss the days those grubby little fingers were dropping crumbs everywhere. There is a “last time” for everything, from the exciting to the mundane, and we will rarely know that it is the last time in advance.

There is a “last time” we will receive a text message from someone… there is a final time we hear their voice on the other end of the phone. Many of these moments are the nearest and dearest to my heart, but they also cause my heart to break because I didn’t know how much I should have cherished them until they had already passed. And I would have treated those moments far more carefully if I had known and recognized them for what they were… the last time. And while I can’t do anything to change where and how those passing moments became permanent memories, I can still do something about the ones that are still in front of me. The problem is, how do I know which things I am doing for the final time in the moments that they are occurring? How do I truly cherish and make everything I choose to do in my life as meaningful as possible? If we knew today was our final day on this planet, how would we choose to live it?

One of the reasons I love reading the book of James is because he gets straight to the point… he doesn’t mince words; he tells it exactly like it is. And when it comes to pondering the exceptionally temporary amount of time we get to spend on this planet and how we should think about it, James does not disappoint…

James 4:13-17 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

No matter how long of a life span the Lord grants us down here, it will still be an incredibly brief time period relative to our eternal existence. But that doesn’t make it less important or valuable… the exceptional brevity of our mortality makes each day even more meaningful because each day is so precious and irreplaceable. And recognizing the fleeting and perishable moments we are currently living in shouldn’t make us feel like none of what we are doing matters… it should make us live like everything we are doing may matter for the final time.

Hebrews 3:13-15 But exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

I carry many regrets in life… things I have done, things I didn’t do, things I said, and things that went unsaid. Like the evening I sat in a room surrounded by my dearest friends as we laughed our way through a Halo 2 match that was the final one we would ever play together, I didn’t know that it was the last time for any of those moments. I didn’t know I was ejecting that disc and placing it into its’ little collector’s case permanently. If I had recognized that moment, I would like to think I would have stopped and hugged each of them before they got in their cars and left. I would have told them that I loved them, even if it was uncomfortable or weird for them to hear it from me. I would have told them that these were some of the best moments of my life, and that these highlights were carrying me through some seriously dark times. I would have shared my love of Christ with them with all the sincerity I could muster, because they meant so much to me and I want them to have a home in eternity in the same neighborhood as me so we can make this friendship last forever. But I didn’t know… and now that time has passed. Sadly, so have several of my friends. And with that sobering thought in mind, I know that I can’t change what has occurred in the past. But I CAN allow the power of those memories to change what I do NEXT.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

It is true, our life is just a vapor… but when placed in the hands of the Lord, He makes even the smallest mustard seeds grow into massive trees (Matthew 13:31-32). The length of our life span is not in our control, but what we choose to DO with it is. Perhaps what lies in your past is as blemished as mine, and reflecting on those mistakes and missed opportunities brings a tear to your eyes… I know it does for me. But that only serves to strengthen my resolve to play each day of this game of life as if it is the last time I will pick up the controller, because one day it truly will be. Let’s make today the day we show love as if we won’t get another chance… let’s forgive others while each of us are still able to hear and receive it. Let’s share Christ’s love boldly and without fear, because we may not get another opportunity (Ephesians 5:15-16). Let’s hug like we mean it, pray like it matters, and serve like it is the last time we will have the honor of doing so.

Each and every day is a day we may be doing something or sharing an experience with someone for the final time… and we may not realize how much this current moment matters until it has passed. Let’s “play the game” today with full knowledge that we are passing through some of these stages for the last time… not with sadness, but with appreciation and gratitude (Psalm 118:24). We can’t change who we were or what opportunities we have missed, but we can approach today with a determination that demonstrates our awareness that we are one day closer to the endgame (2 Peter 3:11-13). And if we enter each round of our battles today with our knowledge of eternity in our hearts and our understanding of our limited time on this planet on our minds, we will live each moment to its’ fullest and make every opportunity we are given matter. Now if you will excuse me, I have some calls to make, some hugs to give, and some messages to send… because I have already let too much time go by and left too many things unsaid. Today is the only “today” that I will ever have, and the clock is already ticking on the countdown screen. Today may be the last time, so there is no time left to lose… only time left to USE.

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1 reply

  1. What a timely word, especially with so many people talking of end times. I really loved this line “Let’s hug like we mean it, pray like it matters, and serve like it is the last time we will have the honor of doing so”. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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