rebelling against low expectations

The Fleeting Life


I found out today that one of the families I babysit for is moving out of state in a few months. I’ve known them since before their oldest was born, and I’ve spent countless hours with their three boys, watching them grown, learn, and develop their own little unique personalities. I’m going to miss them!

All of a sudden, I realize that my time with them is limited. Why do I take that for granted? Why do I assume I have all the time in the world?

How does each day pass by so fast? Each week? Each month? Each year? My entire life?!

The World Before You

As a recent college graduate, it seems I have so many options, so many ideas, and so many opportunities, but time passes by so quickly. As time keeps slipping through my fingers, I think of all I want to do during my vapor of life on earth: learn a language, visit another country, and all the other dreams that run around in my brain sometimes.

What if I don’t accomplish what I hope to? What if my plans are changed? What if I get to the end of my life and it looks totally different from how I thought it would look? How would that change how I spend these fleeting days?

William Borden

William Borden wanted to go to China. He wanted to be a missionary. Young (he was a recent Yale graduate), wealthy (heir to his family’s dairy business), and smart (did I mention Yale?), he had the world before him, and he chose to leave behind his life of ease for a life of dedicated service to God. He threw himself into preparing to work with Muslims in China, learning the difficult language, and pursuing the goal of bringing souls to Christ rather than more money to himself. At long last, he set sail for Egypt in 1912, where he would study Arabic before finally launching into China.

But he never made it to Chinese soil.

After all those plans, all that work, all that preparation, Borden died of spinal meningitis after a few short months in Cairo, at the age of twenty-five. Was his a wasted life? What of his ambitions — they were holy ambitions, right? What of his plans, his dreams to impact others for Christ?

We Can’t Do Everything

Time shows us we are not omnipresent. We are not omniscient. We are not omnipotent. We can’t even determine the courses of our own lives – but God can.

Time shows us that we are dependent on our all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere God to make our lives count for Him. We rely on Him to guide us, lead us, mold us, shape us, and prepare us to do those things He prepared long ago for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Time is proof that we can never do everything. Borden didn’t accomplish everything on his bucket list. He didn’t even accomplish his primary life goal.

Or did he?

In Every Moment

In his Bible, Borden wrote three short sentences that have often been repeated to summarize his life:

“No reserves. No retreats. No regrets.”

Did William Borden glorify God in everything he set out to do? Did he put Him first no matter what the outcome of his obedience might be? If so, then even if his life ended early (in our estimation), even if he didn’t cross off all of his goals, even if he didn’t attain his greatest desire, he had no reason for regret. Our great plans and goals may come to nothing, but a life that willingly seeks and follows Christ will never, ever be wasted.

As time slips through our fingers, may we not try to hold it back. Every passing moment only brings us closer to eternity, where we will have all the time we will ever need. May we live each moment to the glory of God, trusting the One who wrote the number of our days long before one of them ever came to be (Psalm 139:16). With Him, our lives will all have purpose, no matter what that looks like.

So I will pour myself into every moment. That’s all it is – a moment. Each one that flies right by me brings me closer to my goal, my reward, eternity. And in each and every moment, God will be there, too. No matter what I accomplish, if I do it His way for His glory, I will have no regrets.

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Photo courtesy of Anthony Bouch and Flickr Creative Commons.

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About the author

Lauren Dunn

is a writer and toddler teacher who can't remember the last time she read a book without highlighting in it or dog-earing it. Except for the ones from the library. She loves cookie dough ice cream, spending time with people, and seeing the clouds in the Midwestern sky. You can find more of her thoughts at These Traveling Days.


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  • Thank you for this article Lauren! This is such a wonderful reminder that we need to be using the short time that we are given on this earth for the glory of God. We don’t have forever, and the time is passing more quickly than we think! We should to be using every passing moment for Him. Again, thank you!
    Hayley 😀

  • Wow. William Borden’s story is a perfect example of us doing things God called us to do even when it looks like it was unnecessary or a waste of time. And although Borden didn’t accomplish what he wanted, I wonder how many people have been touched by his legacy. If everyone lived life not worrying about all the what-if’s and possibilities of failure, what a different place this would be! I read through “One Month to Live” by Kerry Shook, a couple years ago and it really impacted me on spending my time wisely. Your amazing article reminded me that it is about time I read through it again! Thank you for writing this! 🙂

  • What a great reminder to make the most of every moment. I have needed this challenge. Instead of staying on the internet more, I’ll study harder and spend more time with my family… thanks so much!

  • Very thought provoking Lauren. We waste so much time now-a days because we think of all the doctors and modern things we have that will generally keep us alive into our 70s-90s even. But we should not boast in tomorrow, but live like every day is our last. 🙂
    Thanks for this post.

    • Good point, Brookie. It’s easy to assume we have years and even decades left – but William Borden may have thought that, too. Thanks for reading!

  • Thanks for this, a wonderful reminder for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and it’s so comforting that God’s in control. Because I know He does everything for my best (Romans 8:28), I have no more fear for my future. I am God’s child, and everything He does in my life is only because it’s the very best thing for me and ultimately everyone else too – now that’s mind-bloggling!

  • Amazing article! It is so true! 🙂 This contrasts perfectly with my Sunday School lesson and a song I’ve been listening to (“Closer To You” by Love & The Outcome). I love that quote from William Borden! Life is not a waste when we live to glorify God!

    “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’ -1 Corinthians 10:31

  • Wow. This really shows that we should live every moment like it is our last. Don’t count on tomorrow. If we have the opportunity to tell someone the way to heaven, we shouldn’t say “Oh, I’ll do it some other time.” No. We or they could die by tomorrow. Or maybe Jesus comes back by tomorrow.

  • Thank you for this!
    I really need this reminder!
    This is the thing God has been teaching me these last few weeks and it was really refreshing and inspiring to me to hear this encouragement and truth!
    Be blessed!

  • “So I will pour myself into every moment. That’s all it is – a moment. Each one that flies right by me brings me closer to my goal, my reward, eternity. And in each and every moment, God will be there, too. No matter what I accomplish, if I do it His way for His glory, I will have no regrets.” Amen! Thanks for writing!

  • I find William Borden’s story interesting. William didn’t know he was going to die at 25. I wonder, if he had known, would he still have gone to Egypt and everything else? Or would he have said, “Well, I’ll never live long enough anyway. I might as well just stay home.”? But because he trusted God to guide him one step at a time (not one road at a time), he did live a life with no reserves. Obviously, God considered William’s life work done at 25 or He wouldn’t have taken him home. No matter how silly and insignificant your life might seem, if you’re still breathing, that means you have yet to accomplish all that the Lord wants you too. Which means the most exciting part of your life is yet to come. :). There’s so much food for thought here! Thanks Lauren! 🙂

    • It’s interesting to think about, isn’t it? Once William Borden entered heaven’s gates, I like to think he did look back over his life – and I doubt he regretted his major life decisions.

      You’re right – who knows what God has in store for us next?! Thanks for reading!

  • I am so glad I read this today! Thank you for this important reminder: that life is short, and that since we can’t control it, we need to simply glorify Jesus daily and hourly. It removes the pressure as well, doesn’t it? Knowing we don’t have to perform, we just have to pursue God, and our lives will fulfill His plans for us.

By Lauren Dunn
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →