vapor

YOLO, brevity, and the fullest life


Does anyone remember the word YOLO? This “four letter word” practically took over our society last year. Usually tagged on to the end of a terrible decision, YOLO is of course an abbreviation of the phrase “You Only Live Once.” This generation’s carpe diem,” the sentiment behind this phrase is basically that you only get one life, so live it up. To illustrate, I searched Twitter for a few examples:

“It’s spring now so I’m not wearing a coat anymore #YOLO
“Wearing the same shirt for the third day in a row. #YOLO
“I wore a dress today but didn't shave my legs #rebel #yolo
“I’ll be surprised if I ever get a job after last night. #yolo

I could keep going…but you get the point. YOLO is often used as justification for making bad choices. I only live once, so why change clothes? Life is short, so why shave my legs? This never really made sense to me.

Now in some ways, I think there is some truth to the YOLO sentiment.

Life is short. Life is a vapor. Here today gone tomorrow. Think about “forever.” When I try to think about forever, I think of the biggest number I can. Then I double it. Then I square that and I keep going until my brain hurts…

Then I remember that we will probably be on earth for about 80 years, if we’re lucky. Even if you don’t believe in an afterlife, there is no denying that life in this form is incredibly short.

So in some sense, the YOLOers are right, we do need to live life to the fullest. There is very little time for regret. We need to capture every moment, seize every day, because you only get a handful.

But what is the fullest life? What does it look like to seize the moment? Does that mean living for yourself; drinking or partying or doing whatever makes you feel good in the moment? Is wearing the same shirt 3 days in a row or not shaving your legs really “seizing the moment”?

Or maybe the fullest life is the successful life? Get a 4.0 in college, work 60 hour weeks, climb the corporate ladder, flood your 401k, and retire to Florida. To have people know your name; to become important. Is that seizing the moment?

Is that really the fullest life, or is there something better?

There is this wisdom book called Ecclesiastes.

The writer of this book was a man named Solomon. Legend holds that he was the wisest man to ever live. He was the main contributor to another wisdom book: Proverbs (Note: read my previous post about Proverbs here).

Solomon, the wisest man ever, sets out to figure out the meaning of life. This is what he says about it:

I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine — my heart still guiding me with wisdom — and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.
I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees…I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. (Ecclesiastes 2)

So Solomon begins this big experiment, to try to find the fullest life. He searches for meaning in every facet of life; in his work, in nature, in wealth and power, in sex, and even in art. Sounds like many peoples’ bucket list. He continues:

So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.(Ecclesiastes 2)

All. Was. Vanity.

That’s pretty heavy. Solomon spent a big portion of his life pursuing and achieving fame, fortune, pleasure, and power. And in the end, he says he gained nothing.

I think at this point we should look inward. Look at all the things Solomon did: I made, I built, I gathered, I kept, I became. Are we searching for the fullest life in the works of our hands, in “I ______” statements? If we are honest with ourselves, is your identity mainly rooted in what you do, or what you have accomplished, or what you have gathered?

I am certainly guilty of this. Too often my sense of self-worth is tied to “I______” statements. How well I perform at work or at school, the way I look in the mirror, the things that I have gathered, and built, and become. This is a dangerous way to live. Why?

Because it’s never enough. Bank accounts empty; job titles come and go; you can never gather or build or become enough. Solomon calls this striving after wind. The fullest life is always just out of reach. Maybe this is how you feel. Maybe you are chasing after meaning in things that are fading away.

Jesus also makes an “I ______” statement:

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” -John 10:10

I believe that the fullest life lies in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Why do I believe that? Because that is the life of freedom. Freedom from guilt, freedom from expectations, and freedom from shame. We are not to be stifled by our faith, but to be liberated by it.

So that’s the answer, that’s what Solomon found out the hard way. We can experience the fullest life not through what we do, but only through what Christ has done.

Yesterday we celebrated the Resurrection. This tradition is literally a celebration of the fullness of life. Jesus, God made flesh, was so full of life that not even death could hold him. He led the fullest life, and is constantly calling you and me to join him, to participate, to follow his example.

Now this is no easy task. The way of Christ is the way of the cross. If Jesus is truly our example, then we see the full life involves suffering, pain, and death, but the empty tomb shows us that death no longer has the last word!

And so, in light of the cross and in light of the Resurrection, may you capture every moment. May you seize every day.

May you have life, and have it to the full.

-JA

Thanks for reading this week. If you liked it, please take a minute to pass it on! Check out some of my other posts below, and be sure to come back next week for something new!

more: White SpaceRegret — Community — The Whole Pizza — Relationships in Proverbs — Apartment Tours: part 1 & part 2

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