This young man was an avid observer of people. He watched and listened and saw that a lot of people felt they had little or no control over their lives. They tend, he said, to live lives of quiet desperation. As a result, they often feel discouraged, depressed, or desperate.
This young man was determined not to live a life of meaningless existence. In a bold experiment (many years before reality TV shows like Survivor), he decided to leave civilization and live alone. For three years he got along in the woods, without roommates, modern conveniences, and any human contact. He kept a journal and published it a few years later.
He wrote that he went to live in nature to try and live deliberately, to confront the brutal and essential facts of life, and to see if he could learn what living in solitude had to teach him. He hoped to avoid what he saw among many of the people of his day, who seemed to be walking the typical path of life (i.e., family, career, comfort, and ease) that led eventually to death. This young man did not wish to live what was not life, because he recognized he had only one life to live. Living life well is critical, he believed, because living well is so dear.
This young man’s name was Henry David Thoreau. His journal writings of the years 1845-1847 were published in 1854. He called it Walden and it has been a classic of American literature for over 150 years. His three-year journey covered his time at Walden Pond, Massachusetts.
But Thoreau was right, wasn’t he? We can live and eventually die without really having lived. But what does “really living” look like? Is it the sort of life that is shown on TV and the movies that portrays casual sex, violence, ill manners, and crudeness in a positive light? Is it getting wrapped up in the party scene in school in order to run with the in-crowd? Is it demeaning others in order to feel powerful? Is it forgetting your dreams due to failure, criticism, or lack of effort?
Centuries before Thoreau came on the scene, one of the early Christian writers named Paul spoke of living lives that were intentional, meaningful, and centered. He had discovered that real life, eternal life, meant getting off to a good start. He wrote that we first need to turn from own deeds to rely on the work of Jesus Christ, and what he did for all mankind on a 1st century cross.
Read John 10:10 and Philippians 3:7-11. Paul said people tend to succumb to a self-centered and sinful lifestyle, which robs them of God-given potential, fulfillment, and life. He believed way too many people settle for second best. He argued that after finding his way back to the Creator and literally getting a second chance (Acts 9), he wanted to go on with his life and live like Jesus did. He wanted to experience as much of a Christ-like life as there was. He knew from experience that Jesus was the smartest person he ever met, he lived a life of purpose, love, and service, and that he was never out of sync, rushed, or off course. Jesus lived in the power of the Spirit and modeled a life of mission. Paul’s desire was to fulfill in every way the purpose for which God had saved him from himself. He knew Jesus came to provide a life worth living.
Walk wisely. Are you living a life of quiet desperation? Does your life have much real meaning beyond yourself? If your life is turning out to be sour, it is probably time to re-focus. Jesus came to help us re-orient our perspective from self-centered to God-centered. He also came to empower us to live well, participate with Him in His kingdom, and give others a chance to find their way back to God. If we follow the example of Jesus, we can live before we die.
Love is a verb,