It was Mother’s Day, 1989. After Sunday morning services we went to lunch with Steve and Melody and their children, another family from our church. Our oldest child was an impressionable 13-year-old girl. Theirs was an intelligent 15-year-old boy. During lunch, each of the six children sitting at the table was asked to think about what they wanted to do in the future. As expected, the youngest girl in each family wanted to be a mommy. The middle children had grand plans for an extensive education and careers that changed the world. It was our friend’s oldest son, Jake, whose answer left us speechless. “I want to be a race car driver,” he said, “But I don’t think I will be alive past age 22 so I am not planning for a future.” Like many teens, his answer was probably meant to shock us. And it certainly accomplished that goal.
I don’t remember the precise words that each parent used as we reacted to Jake’s plans. What I do remember is what happened the next day. It was early evening and Jake’s mother, Melody, called us with some troubling news. Jake was at the hospital with a serious injury. We took our children to their house so our oldest daughter could watch the younger children and we met Jake’s parents at the hospital. We were with Melody and Steve when they were offered a last opportunity to see Jake before they took him off life support. We were with them when the emergency room doctor said that Jake was gone. And the next day we supported them as they saw Jake in the funeral home. These were moments that no parent can be prepared to experience. All of us who provided support and comfort to Melody, Steve, and their two daughters hugged our children more often and struggled to explain the tragic death of a young teen who had so much to live for.
While we all plan for a future of some kind – from young girls who just want to grow up to be a mother to college students who plan for a rewarding career and grandparents who want to see their grandchildren grow up to be fulfilled in life – all of our plans are temporary. The nature of human existence is that our time on earth is limited. While planning for our future on earth makes good sense and it is certainly an important part of living a responsible life, we must also be prepared for what comes after this life. James 4:13-17 reminds us that while we may plan for what happens today or tomorrow, our life is “even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” Each day God gives us is a stepping stone to a final reward. Keeping an eternal perspective helps us to make decisions about what we do with the days we are given and how we prepare for our eternal future. It also ensures that we are ready for whatever may come.