These words come into focus each day I sit down at my desk to write. They are etched in a glass cube given to me by a friend for a birthday some years ago. They first made an impression on me more than 30 years ago when my husband and I went to see the movie, Dead Poets Society. As time passed, the words continued to leave an imprint, nudging me to discover what that looks like for me.
What does it mean for me to “seize the day”? Various definitions given most often speak of enjoying the moment, the present, or even “plucking” the day as if it is ripe and ready for enjoyment. Some have said it means to also make the most of each day since the future is uncertain and largely unknown.
I once heard a graduation speaker say, “If you love life, do not waste time for time is what life is made of”. As a result, reflecting on the words “carpe diem” cause me to consider the speaker’s admonitions as well. It would be wonderful to tell you that I have not wasted time most days, but I can make no claim to that. As I have gotten older, I am less clear on what might be considered a “waste of time”. Too often our culture drives us to be productive and to accomplish something that translates into what the culture values at that period, but what if the culture is not what is to be the guide for my life, as I believe it is not?
Sitting watching the beauty of a sunset might be considered a waste of time by many, but if it stirs my soul to not only enjoy the beauty but also draw closer to the One who created it, is it not valuable? Taking time to read a story to a grandchild while I ignore laundry waiting to be done may not seem very productive, but is it not truly choosing the best? Pausing to be still so that I can enter into solitude and simply enjoy the Lord’s presence would be described by some as wiling away my time, but is that how He would see it? Choosing to skip a meeting to listen to a friend who needs encouragement and care seems to have more eternal value than attending a meeting.
My faith is to be the guide for my life and many times that faith does not align with current cultural values. That faith is to be informed by His values above all others and reflect His truth. That faith is also to shape my character and be stamped on my priorities as evidenced by my words and my choices.
A few years ago, my husband and I were visiting our son’s church. During the pastor’s message, he quoted a line from Martin Luther that crystalizes the meaning of carpe diem for me. The quote is this: “There are only two days on my calendar, today and THAT DAY!”
As Luther’s words have stirred in my heart, I have looked at seizing the day a bit differently. What would He have me choose today that would most impact “THAT DAY”? The words have not sent me scurrying off to get involved in more religious activities, but rather slowed me down to reduce my activities to discover the important ones He would appoint for me “today”. That focus has pulled me to consider how often I foolishly can get caught up in the “cares of this life,” what John Eldredge would call “the Midlands.”
Christ’s life, his ministry lived out on this earth, did not match the societal culture of the day or the religious culture of the day. He took time to be alone with His Father. He went off to spend time in community with His closest friends. He took time to notice a woman at the well, a blind beggar, a wee man up in a tree, and so many others missed by those aligned with the culture of the day. He was more present in the moment than anyone else who has walked the earth.
As a result, when I look at the glass cube on my desk that says carpe diem, I am reminded of Luther’s words as the Lord’s guidance for the day: “There are only two days on my calendar, today and THAT DAY!”