Do Not Live Half A Life
If you have been reading these Devos for a while, it's no secret that Khalil Gibran is one of my favorite poets. His short life (he died at age 48) was one spent in the liminal space so often occupied by refugees, expatriates, and, of course, artists.
Gibran was born to a Maronite Christian family in Ottoman-controlled Lebanon, but when he was young, he migrated to Boston with his mother and sisters. He returned to Beirut for university and then studied art in Paris. He was an accomplished painter and a remarkable poet.
His longing was that one day, his beloved Lebanon would be free from the oppression of the Ottoman Empire, and he expressed this longing through his writing and his art. Although his books were translated into Arabic, they were banned in many countries during his lifetime.
Gibran believed that “Safeguarding the rights of others is the most noble and beautiful end of a human being.”
The poem I want to share today is one that I have read over and again and still have not plumbed the depth of its meaning:
Do not live half a life
and do not die a half-death
If you choose silence, then be silent
When you speak, do so until you are finished
If you accept, then express it bluntly
Do not mask it
If you refuse, then be clear about it
for an ambiguous refusal is but a weak acceptance
Do not accept half a solution
Do not believe half-truths
Do not dream half a dream
Do not fantasize about half-hopes
Half the way will get you nowhere
You are a whole that exists to live a life
not half a life.
There's so much in here that I could unpack, but I will focus on the first line, which sets the tone: Do not live half a life.
During the season of Advent, we have an opportunity to reflect on the stated reason that Jesus gave for his purpose on earth, even as we celebrate his birth. Jesus simply said:
"I came so that they could have life in abundance."
If those of us who call ourselves Christians believe that Jesus was the embodiment of the eternal and universal Christ, the second "person" of the Trinity, and who showed us what God desires from us, we must take what he said seriously.
When we choose to live half a life by constantly pulling back out of fear, worry, and anxiety, then we never really understand what Jesus meant by "life in abundance." We also miss out on all that abundant life offers us.
Jesus didn't shine his followers on by claiming that following him would lead them to riches, power, and success, at least not the kinds that our culture tends to value. Instead, he imbued them with the power to serve, heal, speak, and live as people who embraced the kind of life that matters.
Far too many of us spend so much of our lives only going halfway when it comes to experiencing joy, love, hope, and trust.
We sell ourselves short, and in so doing, we also sell God short. It's hard for us to trust that God's purposes for our lives are loving and pure. We struggle to hold on to hope when things get rough. We deny ourselves the joy that comes when we are living whole lives, entirely dedicated to stumbling after Jesus.
So, during this Advent season, ask yourself what it would look like to go all in on the life you have been given. Let yourself experience all of your one life, even the aspects that cause you pain and sorrow. Don't experience grief halfway. Don't halfway dream or wish or pray.
The One who came to show us what God is like, what God wants, and the glorious purpose that God has for each of us wants you to live abundantly, all in, totally committed to becoming the person you long to be.
May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.