Paul writes in Ephesians 5 (16-17): “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
Now, I don’t know what Paul’s voice sounded like, but I do know that I really like Joni Mitchell’s voice. And even though Paul may have said it better, I would still rather hear Mitchell sing it. See, it is her words (Sorry, Paul!) that I first hear when I realize that I have missed a golden opportunity:
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.
To be perfectly honest, Mitchell wasn’t as concerned about opportunities missed as she was about how people were treating environment (“They took all the trees and put ’em in a tree museum / And they charged all the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em.”), but regardless, that one line still haunts me: “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” Now, I know what you are thinking. I should read Ephesians more and listen to hippie-type folks from the 70’s less; and while that is probably true, the message is clear: we don’t often see the opportunity in front of us until it is too late.
As I write this, we are in day three of the coronavirus captivity of the church. It is a strange time. And I don’t have a lot of great wisdom about how to stay calm and quarantine on, but this I know: Don’t waste this time. Three weeks ago, I took getting together with friends and family and having church for granted. And I bet you did, too. I also took buying toilet paper for granted. Believe me, I won’t make that mistake again! But times have changed, and we need new maps to help us navigate through these waters that we have never encountered before. But all of those “new” maps are going to give us the same starting point: we need to tell the people in our lives how much we love and value them.
Think about it. A month ago, most of us were running around from one activity to another, barely having time to have half a meaningful conversation with someone (if that!); but now that we’re not together, I feel having those conversations is crucial. I don’t want to miss the opportunities I have to tell the people close to me how much I care for them and how grateful I am that they are in my life – not because I am afraid I won’t ever get the chance to say those words, but because in times of crisis, saying these words draws us closer, even if we are physically apart. And right now, we all need to feel closer.
And so, let me start the ball rolling. I want to tell each one of you how thankful I am for your friendship. Lots of pastors never get to go to church with people they would call true friends. But that is not true for me, and I am so grateful. I also can’t tell you the joy I find in worshipping with you each week. I find a special delight in watching parents interact with their young children. And each Sunday, I laugh at least once at something one of our kids did. And I love interacting with each of you before and after the service. The best part of my Sunday is talking to people after church. And Friday nights at the Edge are just an incredible blessing to me. Each and every person who comes to the Edge has found a special place in my heart. What a great church we have, and I am so proud to walk together with you, my friends, in this journey. And I bet I am not alone in feeling all of that. So, here’s my advice: don’t miss the opportunity to share with the people in your life what’s in your heart. Tell them (over and over again) how much they mean to you and how grateful you are to God for them.
There’s a great story in David McCullough’s book, Brave Companions, about the creation of the portrait of Teddy Roosevelt by John Singer Sargent. Apparently, Sargent had tried to contact the president for days to schedule a time to pose for the painting, but with no success. And then one morning when he was in the White House, the two met unexpectedly as Roosevelt was coming down the staircase. “When would be a convenient time for the President to pose for the portrait?” Sargent asked. And the president said, “Now!” You can even see the staircase Roosevelt was descending in the portrait!
Here’s my question for you: when is the most convenient time to tell the people in your life that you love and value them? The right answer, the “presidential” answer, is always, “Now.” Don’t waste this time. Tell the people around you that you care about them.
Stay well and stay connected at the River’s Edge.