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The Ticking Clock

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

Psalm 90:12

This week, I read the obituary and discovered I WAS IN IT! Well, almost.

While casually scanning the “Life Stories” section of Focus magazine, Andrews University’s alumni quarterly, I saw the name Richard Martin. My eyes widened, and I gasped in disbelief. “Surely, this is misinformation,” I exhaled. “I’m still alive!” Then, looking closer, I read one more name. Ritland. Richard Martin Ritland (1925-2019) had passed, not Richard Martin (1988- ).

What a difference seven letters can make.

A couple of days before this sobering moment, I heard a question on a podcast and it made me think. The question was this: If your life were to end at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon, how would you spend the time? Well, how would you spend the time Pastor Martin?

At the time of this writing, I’d have approximately 21 hours left to live. So, I would not be able to travel and see everyone I’d want to see. My wife and I would meet my parents half way between Ohio and Virginia. They were in the delivery room on the day of my birth. I’d want to be together for my final moments.

But, before connecting with my parents, I’d need to spend quality time with my wife. What a jewel. We would sit, weep, hug, kiss, worship, and pray together. Prayer has undergirded our friendship, engagement, and marriage. It is our love for God that fuels our love for one another. I would seek to find the perfect words to communicate how immensely blessed I am to have shared five years, five months, nine days, and twenty-two hours as husband and wife. After this, we would do whatever she wanted to do because I’m going out saying, “Yes, dear!”

What would we eat? Since I would not want my wife or mother to use time cooking, I’d opt for takeout from Olive Garden. Fancy? Maybe not. Filling? Yes, indeed! If they insisted on cooking, then we would have my wife’s alfredo and broccoli followed by my mother’s banana pudding. But, I wonder if I would have an appetite at all. Would eating seem like a waste of time?

I would notify other friends and family who might want to make an effort to travel to the designated location or connect for one, final Zoom call. I would record video messages for my best friends. I would tell one to make hard decisions. I would thank another for unquestioned loyalty. I would charge another to change the world. I would admonish another to make things right. I would encourage another to never let go of hope. I would insist that another write the book. So much to say, but so little time.

I would cry my eyes out with my sisters. Those are my girls and they mean the world to me.

I would write letters to my nieces and nephews for the days of celebration and days of challenge, pushing them to learn from both.

I would call the beautiful people of my congregation and tell them they’re “already loved!” and charge them to be faithful even until death.

I would sketch a loose outline of my memorial service, designate key causes to financially support, and identify certain, personal items to gift to individuals.

Then, with whatever time is left, I would have my family surround me. My Dad would pray. Then, we would sing the chorus of Charles A. Tindley’s Someday:

I do not know how long ’twill be, nor what the future holds for me. But this I know, if Jesus leads me, I shall get home someday.

My friend, time is not promised. I hope you and I are alive and well tomorrow afternoon and many years beyond. But, do not wait until the final hours to clarify priorities. Do it now. Consecrate your heart to Jesus Christ. Love your family well. Share life lessons. Help others grow. Cherish the gift of life.

You’re already loved,

Pastor Martin

July 17, 2020

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