Actions Really Do Speak Louder Than Words

What would you do if your doctor told you that you only had a few months to live?

I heard that question posed to an audience recently, and the questioner went ahead and answered it for everyone present: “Well, I’m sure that we would all spend the remaining time telling everyone about Jesus and how much he has done for us.”

The question was a good one. The answer? Well, it seemed a little odd and incongruent to me at the time. I recognized it as “Church of Christese,” code for “get out and door knock or go on a mission trip.” Maybe that’s not what he meant, but since the question and answer were left hanging with little clarification and practically no meat to the bones, that was the impression that was left with me.

It was as if a “proper” preordained answer had been shoehorned to fit into the sacred space reserved for very private reflections on a matter of utmost, even ultimate, importance. In fact, knowing how staged and managed everything is these days, I think the shoehorn analogy works quite well.

Our friend Barbara died recently of a brain tumor. She had been battling bravely for two years, and in keeping with the openness and sharing that characterized her charismatic Christian faith, there was not a single health care provider or fellow patient who had not had Barbara grab them by the lapels at some point during that journey and have her ask pleadingly, “Is there anything that I can pray for in your life?”

And she stayed that way all the way to the end. But when she was told in mid-March that all options were exhausted, that the tumors were growing uncontrollably and that this time she really, really did only have a few weeks left, you know what she did?

She gathered up her family from far and wide and they all went to Disneyworld.

An image of Barbara in her Mickey Mouse ears popped into my mind when the speaker asked that question, and I thought: I would do what Barbara did. Or maybe Rome and Florence (never been to either but want to go badly) with a side trip to Lausanne, Switzerland to meet Brady and his family.

Or maybe I would do a spin off of Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture” and try to come up with a “Last Blog.” Randy is the Carnegie Mellon professor who is dying of pancreatic cancer, and I had heard about his lecture last fall but had never listened to it until I was browsing in Barnes and Noble recently and happened upon his recently released book.

I sat down in one those comfortable chairs with a cup of coffee (half high test, half decaff–it was afternoon after all), and started reading some excerpts. It seemed to me that Randy was probably a Christian (he is) but didn’t spend a lot of time using “Jesus-speak” to describe his experiences. In his own words, this is what he was trying to do:

I was raised by parents who believed that faith was something very personal. I didn’t discuss my specific religion in my lecture because I wanted to talk about universal principles that apply to all faiths–to share things I had learned through my relationships with people.

The result is a lecture and book that are infused with love and wisdom and give sound, practical advice on how to live a full life, chasing and fulfilling your dreams and loving the people you encounter. It’s more about creating a “little heaven on earth” now than it is about “saving souls” for some distant and ethereal heaven down the road.

I can feel my life changing for the better as I have come to know Randy this week. His book and lecture are focusing my eyes in a way that no overtly “Christian” book, sermon or church service have in a long, long time.

I think sometimes we feel pressure to say the all the right things at the appropriate times when our hearts may be telling us something entirely different. Randy’s work these past few months is evidence of a heart touched by God, and the result is a both a reliable guide to living life now, and when our time is up, laying it down with grace, humor and class.

It may very well be that the best way to live a life of faith is not to spend as much time yapping in a language and dialect that many will not understand, but instead to live well-grounded and lovingly–speaking a more universal tongue–and letting those around us draw their own conclusions.

Actions really do speak louder than words.

  1. That Girl

    I have been following Mr. Pausch through his website for several months and have been impressed by his spirit.

  2. kdeats

    I have been the biggest fan of Randy Pausch since watching his lecture in November of last year before it was posted on YouTube. Actually I ordered his lecture so I could watch it and enable others to watch it if they didn’t want to stare at a computer screen for 90 min. His book, my husband gave me yesterday, but I bought it on iTunes last week, really expands on the thoughts and beliefs he wants to pass on he didn’t get to in his lecture. IF you watched the Primetime special others have been touched to rethink the value of life and our journey here on earth. ONe of my favorite things he says…”you have to decide whether you are an Eeyore or a Tigger” I am trying to be a Tigger

  3. Mike the Eyeguy

    TG–I’m sure you know this, but for those who don’t, Randy has a blog and health report update HERE.

    The cancer is spreading apparently and his tumor marker number is starting to climb through the roof. He’s not going to be with us much longer.

    Still, he’s already lived almost 3 months longer than predicted. If that man doesn’t know how to fight, I don’t know who does.

    kdeats– “Bouncy, Pouncy, Trouncy”–that’s so you.

    Remember Tiggergate? Click HERE and HERE

  4. dunderwood

    Wonderful post Mike!!!!!!! I couldn’t agree with you more. Also, I plan to get Randy’s book. Thanks for sharing that with the rest of us.

    God bless you and yours,

  5. Mike the Eyeguy

    You’re welcome, DU. And thanks for passing along those blessings.

  6. Hal

    I agree with DU. That was a great read! I didn’t know that he had a book out. I’ve seen some videos on-line. I will have to aquire his book.

    The speaker you heard said, “Well, I’m sure that we would all spend the remaining time telling everyone about Jesus and how much he has done for us.” As incriminating as this may be to me, that would not be the first thing that comes to my mind if I was given a short time to live. I think I would like to go to Greece or Australia.

    Hopefully, when the time comes, I will have an opportunity to positively impact the people around me – even if it is a fraction of the impact made by Randy Pausch, or even your friend Barbara.


  7. Mike the Eyeguy

    Greece would be on my short list too, Hal.

    Here’s the reality: The evangelical subculture has it’s own “spiritually correct” speech code which is much like the secular “PC” ones. I don’t mean to be too critical here, but I am asking all of us–myself included–to enlarge our view of the ways that God may work and to stop and think about what we’re saying in church and about God.

    I say this often these days: I believe in God more than I ever have in my life; I just don’t believe all of the things that men say about him.

  8. Brady

    A “side trip” to Switzerland? A “side trip”? I think you meant a “side trip” to Rome and Florence. Yes, I think that is what you meant.
    I think there are several people I would talk to (more seriously) about Christ-life if I knew my number was up. Not because I am afraid of answering to God about it all, but because these relationships have been developing for years so that I can share these essentials with them. I deeply love these people who are not yet Christians.
    And for the rest? I would pay the bills and get next year’s taxes ready, invite my friends over to finish off the wine cellar, have a picture taken of the whole family together, and write my last sermon.
    Yep, I think that’s what I would do.

  9. Mike the Eyeguy

    Oops, my bad! Listen, not that I’m wishing ill on you or anything, but, you know, should the need arise and you find yourself having to finish off that wine cellar, I am so there.

    And your conversations with those people in those waning days would be meaningful and echo into eternity precisely because you had a relationship with them and had loved them deeply and unconditionally prior to that. I think that is profoundly different than the prepackaged, almost glib phrasing that I heard recently.

    “The Last Sermon.” Whoa.

  10. Mike the Eyeguy

    By the way, Diane Sawyer’s interview with Randy is extraordinary. You can go to ABC News online and search his name and find it easily. There are 5 video segments to the interview plus the full lecture as well.
    In addition to getting to know Randy and his family better, the interview highlights the inspirational effect that Randy’s story has had on many other people. It’s amazing what one life, lived well, can do.

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