Going Home Empty: What I discovered about living on the day I could have died

When I started writing this post last weekend, it began with these words: “I have a million things to do today, but my heart is pounding and my fingertips will not be stilled.  Thoughts…stuff…has been racing around in my head all morning.”

Last Saturday morning, I was getting ready to hit my yoga mat and follow it up with a run when an alert on my phone changed my day.  The emergency alert stated that there was a Ballistic Missile threat to the State of Hawaii.  So I turned on the TV and sure enough there it was- “seek shelter, stay indoors,” they said.  Not long after, the sirens started blaring.  Thirty-eight minutes later, we found out it was all a false alarm.  Someone had triggered the warning system accidentally.  No missile threat. Everyone was “safe.”

Had that alert been real, last Saturday may very well have been my last day on this earth {turns out there’s really no “safe” place to go when you live on an island that is 30 miles across}.

When all the confusion died down and it was all said and done, I couldn’t shake the words of the late Jim Morrison.  It’s as though the vinyl was skipping; repeating over and over again in my brain, “No one here gets out alive….”

Jim may have been wrong about a lot of things, but he was on the money about that.  As his words hauntingly echoed in my mind, other thoughts began slowly creeping in–until, at last, one realization silenced them all:  There is zero doubt that every single one of us will eventually die.  In fact, unless we take matters into our own hands, the vast majority of us have no control over how or when we will die; but every, single one of us has been handed complete control of how we LIVE.

It’s how we spend our time here and now that matters—what we do with the precious time we’ve been given.  Do we waste it with worry?  Squander it with selfishness?  Do we spend all our days needing to feel loved or do we spend them making sure others feel loved?

The vast majority of us have no control over how or when we will die; but every, single one of us has complete control over how weLIVE.

Last Saturday, I wasn’t very afraid of taking my last breath or closing my eyes to this world. But afterward, I became terrified of not living my one life well.  I don’t want to leave this Earth with my work undone.

You see, each of us was created by God with a purpose and a plan.  There is a unique, special work that we alone can accomplish.  We can choose to look inward–make our lives about our own happiness, fulfillment, and comfort.  Or we can choose to look beyond ourselves–to live every day on this earth intentionally.  We can dig and dig until we uncover our unique purpose. We can choose to stop being afraid, stop doubting ourselves (and our God), stop making excuses and just.make.it.happen.

When we choose to live this way, suddenly we have an odd sense of peace when we think about leaving this earth because we know deep in our souls that nothing will be left undone.  This is what our pastor calls, “Going home empty.”  It’s intentional living–maintaining a mindset like that of Timothy:

 “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me….”      

2 Timothy 4:6-8 NLT

When we leave this world, we can choose to leave it with our hearts full of pride in our accomplishments, the memories of the ‘stuff’ our money bought us, and the knowledge that we made our lives great for no one but ourselves.  Or we can choose to leave it with our hearts and souls empty because we poured every ounce of our love and life into intentionally loving others.  “Going home empty” is the example that Jesus set for us.  And He set the bar good and high because He knows exactly what we are capable of.

Each of us has the power to choose how we will live.  We have the power to live intentional lives that leave a lasting impact.  Maybe we can’t change the whole world, but we have the power to change the world of someone.  The only question is, who?


*In full disclosure, this post took me much longer than 5 minutes because the unfinished draft had been sitting on my laptop since last Saturday.  When I saw today’s word prompt, I knew I had to finish.  This post is meant to be part of an online community. A one-word prompt is given every Friday and we are encouraged to just free-write for 5 minutes and post it to our blogs without over-thinking or editing. If you’d like to participate, you can get more info and link-up on this site.  This week’s writing prompt was, “Intentional.”

4 thoughts on “Going Home Empty: What I discovered about living on the day I could have died

  1. What an incredibly frightening thing to live through. I am glad it was a mistake and I’m glad you get to continue living God’s intention and pouring it out while you are here. I love the perspective in this post because it takes the pressure off of me “finding” my intention and instead just lets me live through God’s intention. Being open and accepting and doing the best I can to help others. May it be so! Hope you have a great week. (visiting from FMF)


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