Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Six Months to Live

The executive director of a non-profit organization called me with a proposition:  would I consider helping them rework their training program? And then teach it?

My mind whirled. I would love to do this! It would allow me to do a lot of the things I enjoy: teaching adults; formulating the program; and sharing my personal experiences from the field. I could stay connected to the professionals in the Juvenile Justice system and make a wholesale difference in the lives of children . . . .

“Sure!” I replied. “I would consider it. Let’s talk.” In the pleasant office of the executive director, we discussed training expectations, time frames, and compensation.

At home, I pulled up my iCalendar and inserted an orange event entry for each of the possible training sessions spanning 2010.  I felt a sense of dread and claustrophobia just looking at all those orange evenings and Saturdays, and I hadn’t even accepted the position yet. I decided to decline.

But the following week the director called again; the Board had considered my reservations and decreased the time commitment by about a third, and they would still pay me the original amount. “With these concessions,” she asked, “will you reconsider your decision?”

My mental wrangling began afresh. In the days that followed, I would convince myself to do it by envisioning the many potential positive results and intrinsic rewards. Then I would talk myself out of it by looking at the calendar. Even though it was doable, the reduced training schedule was still intensive.

But it was intriguing and new, and I decided to accept for a one-year term. I figured even if I grew to dislike it, I could tough it out for a year. I went to bed and planned to call the director the following morning.

I tossed and turned during the night, for even though I had made the decision, I still felt unsettled. Then I remembered a question I’d heard years before:

If you had only six month to live, what would you do?

Nothing like impending death to help you focus on what’s important. The question gave me clarity: If I had only six months to live, I would not do the training. I called the director, thanked her and the Board for their consideration, and said, “No.”

A myriad of worthwhile opportunities can claim our time, energy, and resources. Furthermore, when we do everything “as unto the Lord,” we may fulfill a position successfully and even exceptionally. But we’ve heard the adage, “The ‘good’ is the enemy of the ‘best.’”

It is important to examine each endeavor to discover whether it is the best match for our unique and individual gifts, the best choice to bring the highest honor to God, the best way to bring the greatest satisfaction and blessing to others and ourselves.

In reality, we don’t know how long we may live.  The “six months” question is just a nudge to remind us to make the most of the time we’ve been given. It is a clarifier to help us define what is most valuable to us.

I am certain that the non-profit organization will find a trainer who will be dedicated and excited about their very worthwhile cause. But if I learn that I do indeed have only six months to live, I am happy about my choice.


  1. Your post sounds uniquely similar to discussions we have had lately concerning involvment in multiple ministries at church..


  2. As the years pass I am learning what is most important. Keeping my eye on the Lord has helped me to not have an over full calendar with things that "ARE" important, but are they the right things to be busy with. Thanks Doris