Here’s a sign of the times: a high school in western Michigan has been renovated to protect against a mass shooting.
The design takes a cue from World War I trenches that were dug in zigzag patterns so the enemy could not shoot in a straight line down the trench. In a similar fashion, the Michigan school added curved hallways to reduce a gunman’s range, barriers to provide cover and egress, and classrooms that can lock on demand and hide students in the corner, out of a killer’s sight.
In related news, a school district in Colorado has provided buckets and cat litter for teachers to have on hand in case children need to relieve themselves during a prolonged active-shooter lockdown. The district has also supplied sharpies for writing the time tourniquets were applied.
“The greatest catastrophe since the dawn of civilization”
It is obviously important to do what we can to minimize tragedies before they strike. But there’s only so much we can do to prepare for the unpredictable.
Nature is a regular threat. For instance, lightning struck a tree at the Tour Championship in Atlanta Saturday. The tree exploded, injuring six spectators with debris.
The New York Times reports that an eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano would produce a toxic ash cloud that would reach both coasts. It would destroy crops, ruin power lines and electrical transformers, block sunlight, plunge global temperatures, and cause farming to collapse. In short, according to a group of researchers, such an eruption would be “the greatest catastrophe since the dawn of civilization.”
An asteroid missed our planet last week but was undetected by astronomers until it passed us. A study shows that shark attacks in major metropolitan areas have doubled in the last twenty years. And Brazilian troops have been enlisted to fight unprecedented wildfires in the Amazon.
Teenager exposes hundreds to measles at Disneyland
Diseases make the news regularly as well.
The CDC is warning of an “alarming” outbreak of drug-resistant Salmonella that has infected 255 people in thirty-two different states. And a New Zealand teenager made headlines over the weekend with the report that she may have exposed hundreds of people to the measles when she visited Disneyland and other popular tourist destinations.
Accidental tragedies are also an ever-present danger. A couple was married last Friday in Orange, Texas, then the groom drove them to the reception. Entering the highway, their car was struck by a truck pulling a trailer. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
No place or person on our fallen planet is truly safe.
“We spend our lives like drunken sailors.”
We might think that the constant drumbeat of threatening news in the 24/7 news cycle of our day would cause us to be more aware of our mortality and more prepared for eternity than ever before. However, our culture has become so technologically advanced and thus removed from the daily challenges of previous generations that it is easy for us to ignore them personally.
This, of course, is foolishness. Just because I have not yet contracted cancer does not mean that I will not.
In The Hungering Dark, Frederick Buechner notes: “William Hazlitt wrote that no young man believes he will ever die, and the truth of the matter, I think, is that in some measure that is true of all men. Intellectually we all know that we will die, but we do not really know it in the sense that the knowledge becomes part of us. We do not really know it in the sense of living as though it were true. On the contrary, we tend to live as though our lives would go on forever. We spend our lives like drunken sailors.”
Adapting Buechner’s metaphor, a better way is to “spend our lives like spiritual sailors.” The ship in which we are sailing is a means to an end. One day, we will arrive at a destination. And preparing for that arrival is, paradoxically, the best way to make the journey.
The joy that comes when we “abandon in every particular”
Jesus told his first followers, “Anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:19 NLT). Aligning our lives with biblical truth and teaching others to do the same is the path to eternal reward and present significance.
Conversely, many of us think we can live for this world and for the next world at the same time. We give God Sunday but not Monday. We give him some of our money and time so we can do what we like with the rest.
However, as Oswald Chambers observed, “We will never know the joy of self-sacrifice until we abandon in every particular.” Partial obedience is joyless because it entails partial sacrifice but forfeits what God can give only to those who are fully his.
Anything we do not abandon to God is a spiritual cancer that must be removed. Only when all the malignancy is gone can the patient experience the full health that makes the surgery worthwhile.
Living as if “it were the last hour of my life”
If you knew you would meet God tomorrow, what would you change about your life today? Making that change is the best way to live today.
Jonathan Edwards helped spark the First Great Awakening that transformed our colonial nation and is widely considered the greatest theologian America has ever produced. His secret? He lived by the resolution “never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.”
He also resolved “that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.”
Will you do the same today?
NOTE: My latest book is now available.
In Blessed: Eight Ways Christians Change Culture, I discuss how Jesus’ Beatitudes define what it means to be a culture-changing Christian—even today.
His timeless words can guide us toward living a life that reveals his truth to others and that God then blesses in return.
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I pray that my newest book challenges and inspires you to live for Jesus.