What will you do with the time that’s left?
Will you live it all with no regret?
Will they say that you loved till your final breath?
What will you do with the time that’s left?
–Mark Schultz, Time That Is Left
“Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.”
“I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.”
(Jesus, John 8:28)
It is well past dusk at the neighborhood Starbuck’s and I am sitting in a café of more empty tables than customers. A couple sits over the top of my laptop screen talking in quiet tones, oblivious to the gentleman who spilled his coffee just now. They seem to be enjoying each other’s company immensely. A gray-haired gent is pounding a younger upstart at a game of chess to my right and two Hispanic fellows are pouring over their medical books and glossary terms immediately next to me, quizzing each other and studying mind-numbing graphs. I steal a look to my left and a woman who doesn’t need to order a large cheese-covered pretzel is ordering one nonetheless. It is the thrum of life amid the cloying smells of danish and java.
In a little over twenty-four hours a new year will begin. The iconical old man is heading down the long hallway to his appointment with the ossuary of the past. He is passing the naked baby who awaits its grand entrance, shoulders slumping with each retreating step, a milky grayness replacing the sparkle his eyes boasted just months earlier. Time rudely ignores him and wishes him to pass without incident.
Here today, gone tomorrow…
It is in this coffee-scented milieu I think about standing, er, speaking up to the sparse gathering and telling them about the Life. I picture myself saying, “Men and women, may I have your attention?” I see them turning to the sound of my voice, some curious, some frightened, others downright disturbed by the intrusion. Can you see the old geezer with hand on dark knight looking over his bifocals at me, berating me with wizened eyes? The woman reading her Bible across the way would smile as she has at almost everyone who has passed near her, and wait for the forthcoming oracle, yet tinged with some cautious reservation.
I think about having Heaven smile down on me as I put myself on the line for the Kingdom and saying, “what are you all living for?”
Tomorrow? Riches? The next paycheck? To feel loved? For another chance?
I think about a mantle of apostolic authority gracing my shoulders, with attesting signs and wonders following, bridging the long gap between the first century and now. I imagine an angelic sheen on my face as I relate the good news, the breathtakingly glorious news: Jesus Christ has made a way out of the darkness by His death and resurrection and waits to escort you to your divine destiny if you will call upon His Name.
I fantasize a stunned silence. Then an outcry. Likely, even my presumed sister in Christ with the Bible might even lower her eyebrows and wonder if I were some loony fanatic who just gave people like her a bad name when all they wanted to do was to live the life and let that speak for itself (then again, maybe not, who am I to say?). One of the girls behind the counter would pick up the phone and call for a manager and for security. I would be told to knock it off or leave the premises and if I persisted, they would have no other choice but to call for the police. I would go down in all my glory, cuffed and pleading for the souls of men. Taken to my Mamartine. My Patmos.
Just now my ipod blasts Tomlin’s “How Great Is Our God” and I find myself wanting to put external speakers to it and letting this anthem drown the din of men’s spiritual apathy here in the Starbuck’s. Let that speak for it’s self. I could just play it and watch the sinners fall one by one.
I pass by a girl reading from the New Age section, too pretty and innocent to fall into the trappings of the likes of MacLaine or Cruise or any of our “psychic friends” out there in la-la land. An inkling of an idea comes over me to go over to her and tell her to put it down, that’s not good for you, that will lead you into deeper darkness. Then I quickly set any such notion aside with a “Nah, she’ll just think I’m hitting on her.” So I pass wordlessly behind her and back to my table, back to my quiet, safe and dignified life.
There is the thought that niggles: of course I am not to stand, er, speak up on my own initiative but to wait for the Lord’s direction if and when to do so. Jesus operated out of this and I must as well. But the niggling becomes a pricking: what if God does speak and directs me to raise my voice above the din and share the glad tidings?
What if the ‘idols of Athens’ so aggravated me and the ‘perversions of Sodom’ so vexed me that I could not hold my voice? That the fire in me (is there a fire?) so ravages all that makes my fear of man and longing for self-preservation be burnt to a crisp so that the pain and pleadings of the Almighty could not be held back? What if I suddenly found my voice and the fire of heaven fell at the corner Starbuck’s?
It’s near closing time now, and I am putting away the tools of my trade. My fingers are hitting all the right keys to go into hibernation mode. I check the watch again and put a rush on things. I need to get back to the house. I’ve already missed the whole first quarter of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Zipping up the satchel, I turn to the lady behind the counter. She smiles and I return a smile. And then I unceremoniously remove my presence, not missing the irony that I make my living as a communicator, but spent the whole evening pecking keys on a keyboard.