A real man knows what he is doing when he gets behind the wheel of a car. They can commit road rage, pull out of a skid, change the radio station and talk on their cell phone all at the same time. Inside every man there is a little Tony Stewart of Jeff Gordon attempting to break free; every man that is except for me. There is a good chance that your grandmother drives faster than I do. I have a tendency to soil myself out of fear every time a big rig pulls in the lane next to me on I-95.
You really can’t blame me for my reaction. After all, unless you count the bodies lying six feet under, there wasn’t another soul around me during my formative driving training. While other 15 year olds were experiencing how to drive the open road on the actual open road itself, my first encounters behind the wheel were in a cemetery where the speed limit topped out at a whopping 15 MPH’s.
The location was my parents doing as they felt more secure in knowing that if I got in an accident the probability of me killing someone was almost 0%. You know, since the parties involved would have long since met Jesus. Looking back on it now, learning to parallel park a car between tombstones probably led to me failing Maryland’s driving test on my first two shots. For those of you who are wondering, this is where the official expression of “third times a charm” gets its’ origin.
Driving at a snails pace in the cemetery, I was able to read the majority of the tombstones near the road. There were some who lived a long life while others time on this spinning globe was cut way too short. Still, each one attempted in a few short words to capture what they wanted to be remembered for: caring husband, devoted wife, lover of life, kind friend, idealistic dreamer, laughed a lot. Men want life to make sense and to see a grander picture of what their time on earth is for. None of them desires for their life to be just a blip on the radar screen. We want to make an impact that will last long after our years have passed.
I toss and turn at night dealing with this paralyzing fear that I am going to completely blow it when it comes to the precious time I’ve been given. Here lies Tony Ripa…an utter failure. But, the thing is, most of my decisions are based on the right now with little regard to the impact it will have on the finished product. What I mean by this is that my words and actions are largely driven by how I am feeling at the present moment.
One day I will die. So will you. It is inevitable. Stop reading for a second and take a breath. Didn’t last long did it? Now, let the words of Palm 39:4-6 sink in: “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered – how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” Thinking of the wording that will appear on your tombstone might at first seem morbid, but it also helps one to start to think of the legacy they will leave behind. What will be chiseled on your tombstone?