Life is a heartbeat.
I could name many big days in my life – opening a show that I was performing in, graduating from university, getting married. The big days and the significant events are often what we focus on both looking back and in the future. These are the peaks, the things that stick out because they mean a lot to us, and are important as markers in our lifetimes. Sometimes things stick out in our memories that aren’t highlights – times that we’d rather not reflect on, maybe thing that we’re ashamed of. These are the valleys – things we’d rather not remember, but they’re markers nonetheless.
So this is the pattern of life – highs and lows. I want to focus on the highs in particular today. When you stop to consider it, in both society and Christian culture, we’ve become obsessed with the highlights – in fact, that’s all we show the world anyways on social media. It’s event to event, party to party. We love to focus on and show the world our achievements and highlights. But here’s the thing: linking every one of the big days in our life is a series of small, seemingly insignificant days. In fact, if the average human life lasts about 29,000 days, then these insignificant, quiet days represent the majority of our lives.
But that’s not normally how we choose to view things. For years the Christian community has been comfortable letting talented Christians get into positions that their character can’t possibly support. And then we’ve spent days aghast at reports of affairs and lies and fake breathing apparatus. Until we choose to slow down and look at the importance of every day we live, we’ll keep repeating this process, because we’re always living for Sunday, always living for the stage, always living for the big event. But life is more like a ginormous amount of tiny choices, interspersed with a few large mountains. Allow me to use MS Paint to demonstrate:
As aptly demonstrated by my profound artistic skills, life is a heartbeat. You have your up days, and they seem to stick out on the horizon. You also have your down days, and they’re ever present. But in between every one of those events is the day to day, the mundane and the normal. We’re still living life in those long periods between the high points, so we should justifiably focus on how we live the days that make up the majority of our lifetimes.
There are a couple of fairly straightforward steps we can take to make the days count. Firstly, we need to recognise that every day will not be exciting – and that’s ok! Relax – go walk the dog. Secondly, we need to know that God cares about the little things. Jesus demonstrated this when he told His followers that God knows the sparrows and the hairs on our heads – and he cares about both. We also see that when Jesus taught us to pray, he specifically pointed out those people looking for the limelight and encouraged us to pray in private, not seeking attention out in the street. Finally, we need to set our eyes on the everyday with a new passion. Every day is not going to a highlight, but we need to stop our obsession with always being “on”. We need Christians who are the same on stage as they are backstage; leaders who aren’t too busy chasing the next big thing to talk to ordinary folk, and will be ready to make people a priority over position.
Practically, for all of us, this means implementing the words of Jesus: loving our neighbours as ourselves. That’s demonstrated in the decision to not yell at our partner when they’ve inconvenienced us, or when we choose to give up some of our time when we’d rather play golf to help out a friend, or even the choice to simply smile at the people around us and say hello. We can make a choice every moment of every day to be growing, to live every moment of life’s heartbeat in a way that’s worthy of the life we’ve been given. It’s not enough to simply be “on” when people are watching in the big moments, because eventually the truth will out, we’ll be weighed in the scales and found wanting.
Because life is a heartbeat, and character isn’t formed in the peaks and the highlights and the big days – it’s uncovered in those moments.
So here’s to quiet nights in watching television with the family, and to putting a load of washing on before we get asked to. Here’s to looking after our friends when they’re sick, to not skipping the boring family dinner and to getting that 3,000 word essay on postmodernism in Western society in on time.
Because life is a heartbeat, so let’s make every moment count.