I remember seeing Robin Williams for the very first time as a guest alien on the supremely popular TV series Happy Days. I was just a little kid then, but it took about two minutes for me to recognize that there was something beyond special about this guy.
Four years later he was handed the opportunity to star in a spin off series called Mork and Mindy, and I became a follower of Robin Williams long before there was Facebook or Twitter. His unique and mesmerizing ability to impersonate, make cultural references and dole out one liners at the same time (in the same sentence!) was truly lightning in a bottle.
But what truly spoke to me through Williams work was his reoccurring portrayal of the highs and lows in the spectrum of the human condition. He was a dad who would fight Captain Hook or cross dress as an English nanny for his children, and he was the husband who would go to hell to rescue his wife. He was a doctor who brings laughter to terminally ill children, and he was the therapist who could tell you that “it’s not your fault”…and you could believe him.
But the most impactful performance he ever gave for me was in the film Dead Poets Society as Professor John Keating. You may not have seen the film, but you will probably recognize the phrase “Carpe Diem.” Williams played an English teacher at a prestigious High School in the late 1950’s. In one very powerful scene, he takes his class to a trophy case with pictures of students from the past and says:
“If you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – –
And then he whispers, “Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day, boys, make your lives extraordinary.”
I will forever be in debt to this wonderful actor and caring human being for teaching me the meaning of carpe diem, because I walked out of that theater wanting to make my life extraordinary—and although that movie came out over 20 years ago, I still am inspired by that three minute scene.
RIP, my Captain…you will be missed, and I will keep your family and friends in my prayers.
And I (and anyone else for that matter) am not in a position to gauge where Robin Williams will spend eternity, but in the midst of this tragic loss, I am going to redouble my efforts to live an extraordinary life every day that God chooses to grant me. Perhaps that’s why William’s Carpe Diem speech moved me so much, because it reflects one of the great mandates that God’s Word has given us as well:
Listen carefully, those of you who make your plans and say, “We are traveling to this city in the next few days. We’ll stay there for one year while our business explodes and revenue is up.” The reality is you have no idea where your life will take you tomorrow. You are like a mist that appears one moment and then vanishes another. It would be best to say, “If it is the Lord’s will and we live long enough, we hope to do this project or pursue that dream (James 4:13-15).
Some people plan their whole lives out—and I guess that’s wise on many levels. But planning sometimes gives a sense of false confidence, and even precludes us from taking advantage of God given opportunities to seize the day. Buried deep inside all of us is the desire to make our lives extraordinary, but most of the time they are just burning embers that we occasionally stoke to endure the drab of daily details. That’s why James encourages us to remember that our lives are simply a mist in the grand scheme of things, which is why seeking God’s will in everything should be our lens for looking at life.
And what is the “Lord’s will”? How can we make our lives extraordinary?
First and foremost, it is trusting in Him for salvation. Jesus lived the life we should have lived, and died the death we should have died to bring us into a relationship with the Father, and we find forgiveness and eternal life when we place our hope in Him to save us.
Secondly, it is being faithful to THE Cause of Christ. It is looking at everyone you meet as an ever living, never dying, eternal soul who can find forgiveness and fulfillment in Jesus—and you have the truth that can set them free!
Finally, it is never wasting an opportunity to be the best friend, son, daughter, sibling, student, employee, whatever, that you can. Love God and love your neighbor, and you will find that Carpe Diem is happening right before your eyes.
Flashpoint: Ignite into Action
This week, look at everyone you meet as an ever living, never dying, eternal soul who can find forgiveness and fulfillment in Jesus. Pray, then initiate a conversation with a friend who needs Jesus about how Robin Williams’ untimely death stirs you to empathy for those whose lives feel pain-filled and hopeless. Look for opportunities to talk about the hope and purpose you’ve found in Jesus.
Accelerant: Fuel for THE Cause
Pray: Father, please comfort the Williams family and his friends in their loss, and help us to remember that we are just a mist. Let us focus on Your will and serving Jesus so we can make our lives extraordinary.
Read: Psalm 90:12. Teach us to number our days so that we may truly live and achieve wisdom.
Get: Lifted. Perhaps you or someone you care about struggles with discouragement, depression or self-harming behaviors. For anyone who’s ever struggled with the tough stuff of life, Katie Payne’s story of overcoming pain hurts will encourage you or your friends to embrace a different future—the future God wants for each of us.
Discussion Guide for Leaders
Big Idea: The death of beloved actor Robin Williams can remind us to make the most of our opportunities to serve Jesus and THE Cause.
Key Passages: James 4:13-15
- What will you remember about Robin Williams?
- Do you want to make your life extraordinary? Why or why not?
- How can the fact that our lives are a mist impact the way you serve Jesus?
- How can you apply this Soul Fuel to THE Cause?