I turned 26 today. It was a mostly uneventful day but still pleasant: lunch with friends, dinner with my parents, nothing unusually adventurous. Besides being another year older, 26 is not all that remarkable of a number. That is how it would appear anyway, unless you were to know the details of my story. In the fall of 2000, when I was just a junior in high school, my brother Christopher was diagnosed with cancer. He was 26; he died two years later.
I know what you’re thinking. No, I’m not expecting to contract cancer just because that’s how old Chris was when the disease found him. Still, it’s a very blatant reminder that good health and longevity are not guaranteed to any of us. Though he was a man of great faith, my brother was no clairvoyant. Before his diagnosis, he would never have guessed that his time spent in this life would be limited to 28 years. One maxim properly extracted from Chris’ story is that our days are numbered, and whether you live deep into your 90’s or don’t escape your 20’s, the only thing that matters is what we do with the time we have. I believe this to be an irrefutable truth. However, that hasn’t stopped me from taking my life–my minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years–for granted. I think we are all prone to getting caught up in the passage of time. We find ourselves in the middle of a rapidly-flowingly stream, and rarely do we pull ourselves onto the shore and pause and reflect as we consider every blessing we have received, every new breath, every new day.
Now you know a bit more about my story. Now you know why 26 isn’t just another number for me. This year, I won’t be in seclusion, hoping to sneak past this year unscathed. No, my 26th year will be a celebration of life. An outpouring of thanks for the good health I’ve experienced and a commitment to getting even healthier. I want to be a good steward of every day that I’m given. Listen, we all have a habit of settling for mediocrity, of reaching far short of God’s best for us. I don’t want to settle anymore. I want to strive. To fight. To labor for something worthy of my limited time here. Thank you, God, for every provision, every blessing, every day. Thank you for Christopher, for what his death meant for my life. Thank you for the years to come, even if I can’t know their number or what they may bring. I pray that I make them count.
I will end with one of my favorite quotes:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”