“And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: and he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods… I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)

“All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” (Ecclesiastes 3:20)

One life… and then eternity.

One life… and then an irrevocable legacy.

I have circled the sun a mere 20 times, and in that time, I have come face to face with death more than once. The fact that I am alive today is unquestionably a miracle. God has been far too kind to me.

Grappling with mortality at such a young age has put life into perspective for me. I came to realize that life truly is—whether one dies an “early” death or not—short. Frighteningly short.

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Coming to terms with this unpleasant reality is an abasing process that most humans seek to skirt. We seek, instead, to feign immortality. We’d rather believe we can spend our whole lives in a dream-like state, brush off any sense of transience, and ultimately dodge our inevitable fates.

But for me, reckoning with my existential impermanence was one of the greatest blessings imaginable. It was liberating. It unshackled me from the burden of living for a thousand meaningless pursuits and burdened me instead with the determination to live an unwasted life.

Additionally, I now have a passion to help ensure that others do not waste their lives, either. Life is, indeed, a precious gift, and the stakes couldn’t possibly be higher.

That is why it concerns me to look out on this nation and watch so many people throw away God’s priceless gift of life. None of us have time to waste, and yet that’s exactly what we do.

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As Americans, most of us are familiar with the story of American spy Nathan Hale and his famous last words. Although he likely never uttered the iconic line for which he is remembered, legend tells of how, when captured by the British and sentenced to hang, the young patriot boldly declared, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

I’m afraid that, when most of us find ourselves on our deathbeds, similar words will torment our consciences. Only our one regret will be much different than Hale’s.

As mortality sets in and ushers us into eternity, will we not admit, “I only regret that I have but one life and wasted it”?

It hardly matters how we wasted it. Regardless of the “how”—whether we squandered our lives in the bond of bitterness, or at odds with our families, or fighting God, or enamored with trivial passions that mean nothing in light of eternity—the simple fact is that once we breathe our final breaths, the stories of our lives are forever complete.

We cannot retcon them. Not a single word can be reversed.

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For some of us, our stories will contain chapter after chapter that tells of how we played video games or watched TikTok even as the country went to hell. Others will tell of how we kept our heads buried in the sand. Yet more will reveal that we built barns for ourselves yet were poor “toward God.”

And in their final chapters, many will recount that we were struck with a sudden panic, a sudden realization that we were always mortal, after all. We would to God that we could go back and write it all over again.

But of course, it would be too late. 

I do not want my story to end like that. I do not want anyone’s story to end like that. But none of us know when that final chapter will be written. It could be today, for all we know.

To live life with this realization may seem like a burden, but it is actually freedom—freedom from the things that do not matter. It’s freedom from the things that will plague you when it’s all said and done.

It takes the perennially bored
“Nowhere Man” and sets him on a mission. It gives him an assignment of eternal significance.

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When John Lennon wrote the lyrics to “Nowhere Man,” his life was notoriously caught up in meaningless. As one journalist uncovered, “[Lennon] can sleep almost indefinitely, is probably the laziest person in England. ‘Physically lazy,’ he said. ‘I don’t mind writing or reading or watching or speaking, but sex is the only physical thing I can be bothered with any more.’” An official biography corroborated that he could “look into space” from dawn to dusk.

Millions are doing close to the same thing today. Don’t let that be you.

You’ve got only one life to live. Just one. How terrifying. How thrilling.

May this be the chapter in which you determine not to let it go to waste.

Jakob Fay is a staff writer for the Convention of States Project, a project of Citizens for Self-Governance.