“Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” –Psalm 90:12
There is wisdom found in the contemplation of death. It may seem morbid, but it most certainly is true. Recognizing that our days are fleeting has a way of bringing sobriety to the days we are living. The problem, however, is that we inhabit a culture of death avoidance. In ages past, mortality was an inescapable presence, but for the first time in human civilization we are able to somewhat relegate its reality to the fringes of our thoughts. With advanced medicine we delay it, with endless entertainment we distract from it, heck—with photoshopped pictures and cosmetic surgeries we even hide our progression toward it. And yet death still remains an obligatory passage that awaits us all. You don’t just have a birth date; you have a death date. And with every breath it draws nearer.
That’s not something we like to think about it, but occasionally we have no choice. Sometimes death forces its way into our normal routine and demands we stare down its inevitability, and such has been the case for the BBN this week.
There are countless tributes being written about Jared Lorenzen, and I could certainly write one of my own. After all, he remains my favorite quarterback to ever put on the Kentucky uniform. But I’ll leave the tributes to those who knew him best. Instead, I just want to say what we’re all thinking: This sucks.
Jared Lorenzen has died. As we collectively try to grapple with that reality, I suggest that the grappling itself is the best way to honor this beloved man. Do not so quickly move on, as tempting as it may be. Instead linger so that you might learn. I believe that’s what Jared Lorenzen would want for us. Learn the sacred wisdom that an untimely death uniquely affords us.
Toward that end, here are four suggestions for your consideration:
Do what God made you to do in life while you still have life to do it. Watching Jared Lorenzen play football was something to behold. Yes, of course, because of his unconventional stature and unprecedented talent—but there was something else about him. Something intangible yet unmistakable. I would suggest it was a man doing exactly what he was made to do. It didn’t matter if it was for his beloved University of Kentucky, or an NFL Super Bowl team, or a nearly empty Arena Football stadium—Jared just loved to compete. More than that, he was made to compete. Another great competitor, Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell, said it like this: “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” That’s the sense we got from Jared on the football field. Not just playing, but pleasure in playing. And did you know that God created you for similar pleasure? You are just as glorious as Jared Lorenzen. Chances are that glorious design won’t bring you as much fame, but it most certainly will bring as much fulfillment. Life’s too short for you not to be you, so find what you were made to do and do it with the same passion as Jared on the football field.
Prioritize the important things of life while you still have life to prioritize them. Though I’ve met Jared, I didn’t know him well. But a consistent phrase from those who did is that he was “down to earth.” What does down to earth even mean? It is the unconventional ability to stay grounded by prioritizing what truly matters in life, and this was certainly true of Jared. Of course the media and casual fans talk most about his football career and his larger than life stature, but what I’ve noticed from the tributes of those who know him best is the way he always made time for every fan, his hometown pride in his KY roots, his fierce devotion and loyalty as a friend, and most of all, his love and adoration for his children. And I suggest if that’s all Jared accomplished in life, then it was a life well spent. Let us learn from a life so well-grounded. Nobody on their death bed wishes they spent more time pursuing power, fame, possessions, wealth, and the many other things our culture tells us to prioritize. Rather, it is God, family, friends, and the mundane joys and memories that dominate the final thoughts of those dying. May they likewise dominate the routine thoughts of those living.
Address the flaws in your life while you still have life to address them. One of Jared’s most endearing qualities was his vulnerability. While most public figures hide their weaknesses and struggles, he talked openly about his. This was especially truly about his weight. What was once his trademark eventually became his demise. We know this because he himself told us. He courageously invited the public into the details of his struggle, hoping to inspire to others. And just because he is done fighting doesn’t mean he is done inspiring. It’s his challenge that lives on. What is threatening your life? Jared’s struggle was more obvious than many, but we all have them. Every single person reading this has something you know you need to fight, and nothing would honor his legacy more than for his death to inspire your fight.
Ask the big questions of life while you still have life to ask them. This lesson is not exclusive to Jared, but applies to every human being who has ever lived and died. A part of my job description as a pastor is the business of death. I have been by the sides of many people taking their final breaths, and I can assure you, without fail, the big questions of life always become the immediate questions before death. Is there a God? If so, which God is true? What is the purpose and meaning of life? And most significantly, what happens after death? There are many proposed answers to these greater questions, and you are, of course, free to answer them how you see fit. My only admonition: Answer them now. If Jared’s untimely passing teaches us anything, it’s that we are not promised tomorrow. Settle life’s greatest questions so that you are prepared to face life’s greatest dilemma—the dilemma of life’s death. As for me, I’m going to my grave trusting what I wrote in a KSR tribute to another hero of mine, Billy Graham. I’m all in on Jesus, and I think I have good reason to be. You may agree with me, you may disagree with me, but one thing you mustn’t do is nothing. Decide in life what you’re going to do about death.
Death is not something we want to think about, but when it takes the life of someone larger than life, we have no choice. Jared Lorenzen has passed away, and tragically there is nothing we can do about it. But what we can do is honor his death with new outlook on life, and in this way, the legend lives on.