Enjoy the peaks and troughs of life

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Whenever I hear of someone who has been hospitalised, someone like the great F1 driver Michael Schumacher for example, being described as being in a ‘stable condition’, I have to admit that I cannot be sure what that means.

I suppose it is meant toconvey that belief that the condition of the patient is not getting worse, but it could mean that they are not getting better. It can also mean that the patient is dead; that’s pretty stable, isn’t it?

It was Woody Allen who said, ‘I don’t fear death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.’

I have to say that I don’t fear death either, perhaps because I have had so much experience of it that I have come to see it as part of the cycle of life.

It will happen, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, and I think when we come to terms with that, we can adopt a healthier attitude to death.

In contrast, my worst nightmare has got to be the condition described as ‘locked in syndrome’.

I first came across it some years ago when I read of a man who, mentally alert, had spent 22 years capable of breathing and nothing more. Horrible beyond words, and yet I have a young relative, he’s 20 years old and studying... something at the Ulster University in Coleraine ... who I sometimes think might as well have locked in syndrome; he never does anything.

His parents tell me that when he comes home for the weekend, which he does on a regular basis, he either lies in bed or mooches around.

No ambition, no passion, no energy - maybe that’s normal for that age group these days. Is it?

But that’s unfair, for I had another relative, an old man who died when he was 94.

In truth, he probably died many years before that, as my old mum used to say, perhaps he was dead if he had the sense to stiffen.

His advice to his children when asked about their future never extended beyond ‘...a job in the civil service with a good pension.’

No apparent understanding of fulfilment or excitement or the thrill of challenge, and that’s how his children turned out.

To them, life resembled the predictability of a merry-go-round when it could have been, perhaps should have been an exhilarating roller-coaster. There are no peaks in life unless there are troughs, and success can only be understood when there is a risk of failure.

I am reminded of a study carried out by my old friend Tony Campolo in which he asked fifty people over the age of 95 what they would do differently if they had the chance to live life over again. Among other things, they all said they would risk more.

I think that’s what Jesus had in mind for us when he said, ‘I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full.’

I’m not keen on New Year’s resolutions, maybe because I have made so many over the years that had fizzled out before the end of January. Having said that, as I approach my ‘three score and ten’, I will continue to throw caution to the wind, to risk more, to live on the edge of defeat and failure in order to know success. In other words, I want to live life more abundant in Jesus.

Join me, and have a Happy New Year!