Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

Life is Short, So Give it Away

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I once attended a conference where one of the keynote speakers framed her entire talk around one idea. Life is short. She kept repeating one phrase.

Your life is a vapor.

Even though I consider myself young, I am developing a sense of what she means.


photo by Gustavo Duran

My oldest son is now 13. It feels like he was born yesterday.

I finished my medical training and started practice 4 years ago. I remember when I was only starting the first of 4 years of medical school, 5 years of residency and 1 year of fellowship. An eternity that has long since passed.

I graduated from high school 17 years ago. Enough said.

Life is short. It is a truth that is too easy to ignore.

When we accept or become aware of a truth, it gives us a framework on how to make better decisions for our lives.

Tomorrow We Die

When I think about the brevity of life it leads me to 2 possible responses.

One is to have the best possible time. Eat. Drink. And be merry, for tomorrow we die.

Make choices that promote my sense of happiness and well being. Avoid the hard stuff of life as much as I can.

From this perspective it makes sense to buy the biggest house possible. Because I would enjoy that. It makes sense to buy the expensive 2 seater sports car. Because that would be fun. It makes sense to spend as much money on clothes as it takes. Because I might as well look good while being merry.

From this perspective it would make sense to not take any unnecessary risks with life. To avoid vulnerability and pain. To avoid the possibility life would end prematurely. To avoid being hurt either physically or emotionally. Because life is short and it doesn’t make sense to waste time.

From this perspective it makes sense to hang onto our own lives as long as we can, because tomorrow we lose everything.

Today We Live

The other option is to realize that life isn’t something we can hang on to.

Like trying to hold onto water or sand, no matter how much we struggle, it all slips through our fingers.

Preserving our lives is fruitless because one day, we can’t preserve it any longer. Trying to always stay safe doesn’t work, because one day something will destroy us. Hanging on to right now doesn’t work because soon, right now will be gone, like a vapor.

And from this perspective we can find the freedom to give our lives away. To stop worrying about what how much it will cost us to do work that matters for the good of other.

When we start letting go of our life, we gain the freedom to truly live. (Tweet that.)

Life is About Making Trades

If our time here is limited, then however we choose to spend it is a trade off.

When we choose to do one thing, we lose the opportunity to do another. When we choose to spend our time on one purpose, we lose that time, making it harder for us to live for a different purpose.

And if you think about us, most of us are making decisions as if we believe we will live forever. We save. We protect. We do less. We rest.

We are afraid of being hurt. We are afraid of feeling pain and sadness. We are afraid of being vulnerable.

We keep most of our lives for ourselves, holding back what we could give to others. We live for tomorrow even though there isn’t one.

Today is an Opportunity

Giving our lives away isn’t about God loving us or a reward or salvation. I believe that God loves us no matter what we do.

If whether or not God chose to love me depended on my actions, I would be lost. If his love for me depended on whether or not I have enough belief or faith, then there is no hope for me. I don’t believe the right things. My faith is weak.

But he loves us in spite of our weaknesses and mistakes and choices. He loves us in spite of how we choose to spend our lives.

But our life is his gift to us. It is an opportunity. To live for something more. To do something bigger. To give away for the good of others.

God gives all of us the freedom to choose what we do with it.

Does life seem short to you? Have you ever given any of your life away?

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About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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2 Replies

  1. Lyman

    Good word, JS. Reminds me that even though we can’t make life longer, we sure can make it bigger. When the angel of death finally puts his arm around my shoulder, I want him to say “I’ve been here awhile, I came for you but you were in the middle of something God liked, so He told me to wait.”.

  2. Life can definitely be bigger. We can definitely do more. All of us.

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