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“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14

A few years ago I read an article by a writer whose stuff I have been reading for over 30 years. He has had a profound impact upon my life and thinking these many years. Of the many, many, many books and articles I have read one regularly comes to mind. It is the article from which I got the title to this post.

One of this writer’s favorite one-liners was “procrastination kills!” He’s right. My sixty years of life have attested to the truth of that admonishment, time and time again. It kills opportunities. It kills relationships. It kills businesses. It kills the present for a hoped for but not guaranteed future time and opportunity.

He was waxing eloquent about procrastination and began to describe the time in his life where “the light came on.” It was in his early twenties. He described it this way: “I began to hear the clock ticking.” (The author is now in his seventies.) He went on to admonish the reader to listen for the ticking of the clock because all of us only have a certain, measured number of “ticks” in our life. There will come the time, he wrote, when we start the countdown of the last ten of them: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…then eternity.

Unlike the author I did not begin to hear the “ticking” of the clock until much later in life. I can say though, when it becomes clear in your mind, and central in your life, you begin to think and rethink how you spend your time. You begin to reevaluate outlook about relationships (and hopefully) change for the better. As the parent of six adult children I can tell you how easily I can fill myself with regret about the misspent time and wasted opportunities I now see, in hindsight, in my life. A regret that can become paralyzing, except for the hope and promise of the Gospel. For years now I have admonished our children, “live in such a way that your life won’t be filled with regrets when you get older.” I wish someone had told me that very early in my life and brought me to understand what it means.

Parents, childhood is NOT a dress rehearsal. You don’t get “do-overs.” You don’t get two chances to shape and influence your child(ren) so that they come to love truth, beauty, and goodness. You don’t have unlimited time and opportunities to show them how to “…love justice, do mercy, and walk humbly before your God.” Listen for the sound of “the clock ticking.” Hear the sound of the countdown to the end of your life and theirs. Teach them to value good relationships, love laughter, forgive quickly, put away bitterness, and confess their sins and faults to others.

Don’t let the cuteness of your child distract or deter you from the training you must do. Enjoy the cuteness but keep the sound of the clock ticking in mind. It is true, as folks will say often with warning in their voice, “they grow up quickly.” Don’t procrastinate. Spend lots of time with them. Make it a habit so that you become, very early in their life, the most important influence in their life, in both word and deed. Don’t procrastinate. Tick-tock, hear the clock.