Living in the time we have left.

I know that in the 16 months since I wrote this, much has changed. But I think the point is still worthwhile.


“I’m so glad we had this six months.”

That’s what the woman said to her sister, talking about the time they’d had since the diagnosis until now. It was a time of clarifying what matters to them, about putting arrangements into place, about tying up loose ends.

I kind of laughed when she said it. Not loud enough for her to hear. I wasn’t laughing at her. I was laughing at all of us. We all have just six weeks to some change, a week to an accident, six months to live well.

And if you and I make the changes now, without the precipitating event, we will find in six months that we have lived better.

And that’s what Paul talked about in a letter to some people he knew. In this letter and in his first letter, he talked about death, about the end of time as we know it, about the coming of Jesus. And then he talked about how to spend the time we have.

First, he spoke about how some people were living.

“For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.”

We know people like that. We’re not like that, unruly, undisciplined, running everyone’s life but our own. But Paul knew that such people exist. And that they existed in that church. And they may exist in our mirror.

Paul’s life was the opposite of that.

We think of him telling people what to do. We think of him making lives difficult for other people. But that’s not what was true at the time.

At the time, he writes, “with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you.” He did it as a model, to show them how to live their lives. He ran his tentmaking business. He wrote and encouraged. He traveled more simply, expected less, than others.

But this isn’t just about job work. For the woman and her sister, it meant taking care of paperwork that would guide her care for the end of her life so that others wouldn’t have to worry. It meant having conversations that had been put off. It meant writing letters, praying, smiling, forgiving, enjoying being with the people she was with.

That’s hard work, too, of course. But it can be freeing work.

Paul knew that his life could end any time, that his life would end when his work was done. So he worked hard at the work he had.

So that in six days or six months or six years, he’d have taken care.

So can we.