I’m feeling my mortality this week. Yes, it’s that time of year. Facebook will soon be filled with birthday greetings. As I look forward to another year, I find myself looking back as well. What have I done with the years I have been given? What will I do with the years yet before me by God’s grace?
My thoughts have been influenced by the recent deaths of several celebrities:
Thomas Kinkade died last week at age 54. An artist known as “The Painter of Light,” he spent his life creating art that pointed people to the Light of the World. Yet his final years were darkened by allegations of driving under the influence of alcohol, and financial troubles that drove him to file for bankruptcy.
Reporter Mike Wallace died this week. He was 93. Known as an intrepid reporter who not only informed us of current events, he spoke openly about clinical depression – a condition he struggled with for many years.
Singer Whitney Houston died two months ago, her life cut short at 48. Houston was a gifted singer who entertained and enthralled. But a troubled marriage and addictions silenced her voice.
Baseball player Gary Carter died shortly after Houston. He had known the joy of being an all-star catcher, a Hall of Famer, and winning a World Series. But he lost his fight with brain cancer, succumbing at age 57.
What especially surprised me is the attention these deaths received in the media. Even as Kinkade was mourned as a Christian artist, critics continued to belittle his art. Houston’s death has rarely left the news two months later, despite a life marked by deterioration and addiction. Carter was a family-man who took his position as a role model seriously, raising millions for community charities and even traveling on mission trips. Yet how many of us heard anything about him beyond the initial death notice?
I am also amazed by our culture’s standards for accolades among the living. Actress Kate Winslet recently received an honorary award for lifetime achievement during an awards ceremony in Paris, France. Lifetime achievement? She was 36 years old! Yet Christopher Plummer (best-known for his role as Captain von Trapp) was 82 when he was awarded his first Academy Award earlier this year.
As I’m reminded of the quickly passing years and the fickleness of our culture, I’m glad I don’t work for the world’s accolades. The apostle Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).
I may celebrate many more birthdays or this might be my last birthday. Either way, the greatest lifetime achievement award I could receive is to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).
What accolades are you working to win?