I couldn’t help but feel I was invisible, just another body, as I walked the pathways of Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America.
The diversity of people roaming the walkways was undeniable – young, old, black, white, body piercings, Jesus jean jackets, Albino white hair, curly black wig hair, robed from head to toe, and scantily dressed.
But as I walked and then stood among the people, it was easy to see why anyone could feel alone, unimportant, just another number trudging the ground of this place called earth.
What is this place?
And why are we here?
What in the world is the point of all this anyway?
I pondered these things as I waited for my daughter to take a spin on the swings.
I positioned myself near a duck game and as odd as it sounds, the ducks called to me in that moment. Laying there lifeless, they reminded me of what I’d observed about people roaming Nickelodeon Universe’s walkways. Aren’t we all just waiting to be chosen, longing to know our lives have purpose beyond mere existence? Don’t we all want to believe we’re special, that we stand out amongst the rest? And why is it that everyday life sometimes causes us to become silent, lifeless, stuck in what feels like a plastic merry-go-round, just like those ducks? Can’t someone just come and rescue us, get us out of this place, help us know we’re more than just another body on the walkway of life?
This theme continued to emerge in different ways as we made our way through the Mall of America. Life CAN feel pointless at times. It’s not uncommon to feel alone, even in a crowd. And it’s ok to wonder if we’ll ever be fully loved and known here on earth. We wait, sometimes in desperation, for reassurance that our life truly does matter.
In all my Christianity, in all my belief that there IS more to this life, I paused and wondered, not for the first time…
What IS the point of all this?
Why do you even have us here?
The next morning, I woke bright and early for a desperately needed workout at the gym. Approximately 15 minutes into my workout, I noticed two women hovering over the ledge, staring down intently at the cardio and weight training area. One of the women was significantly distraught, the other was working hard to calm her.
I have radar intuition and knew something was horribly wrong, so I stopped immediately.
As I approached, the calmer woman said to the distraught one, “You need to leave. Get out of here. Everything is going to be ok. Don’t watch this anymore. Go.”
And then I looked down, into that open area where everyone but a few were completely oblivious.
A man was flat down on the ground between two weight training machines. His eyes were closed. He appeared totally unconscious. His chest was heaving notably. I could only assume he’d had a heart attack or stroke and might just as well be dying, right there as I watched.
Two gym members stood inches from the man; I assumed they were present when it happened. The manager of the gym was there, and one personal trainer. I’d arrived so early on in the scene that they were just affixing some equipment to the man’s chest, and were performing CPR. I wondered if anyone had called 911, but determined based on peoples’ behavior that it must have been taken care of.
I began praying silently, to myself, as I watched from above.
Part of me realized it might not be terribly respectful to watch this man in his worst of hours, his life possibly passing by. But there was a bigger part of me that knew – I needed to see this. Maybe the reason my eyes were opened to the incident while most were still oblivious was because there was something I really needed to learn that day.
So I continued to pray, watch with open eyes and an open heart.
Before I knew it, one first responder entered the main floor through the back door wearing layman clothing, nothing official. When he knelt down, I noticed the man’s chest was still heaving notably but irregularly, and he was still unconscious.
Just seconds behind the first responder came the policeman with a big plastic tote in hand. He, too, knelt down next to the man. They began a thorough examination.
Then, a whole host of medical and emergency professionals arrived. And now, there were too many bodies to count, all hovering around this one man.
His life was on the line.
It was then, when I could barely see the man on the ground because of the crowd around him, that I understood more than ever the fragility and sanctity of a single life.
Gym staff gathered large signs and arranged them as screens around the scene to honor and respect this man’s privacy as his body was transferred from the ground to a stretcher.
At that point, I thought it was best if I left, continued my run.
But as I made my way around the corner, pressed play on my iPod, and reluctantly pushed the headphones in my ears, I realized the most fitting song was playing.
And looked down once again, this time from a slightly different angle.
The music played.
I watched newcomers enter the space with great concern. I watched people on treadmills and ellipticals turn around and become aware of all that was happening for the first time. And I could feel and see the gravity of the situation on peoples’ faces as they passed and moved about.
It was a holy moment. Right there in the gym.
As the man’s body was rolled away on the stretcher, tears streamed from my eyes. Kari Jobe’s “What Love is This” played quietly on my iPod. And I couldn’t help but feel God’s presence.
There was something about those moments that made me realize – God’s truly in control. There’s a bigger story that’s unfolding and it’s richer and more complex than we know. We don’t need to know all the answers. We don’t need to understand every bit of why and what and when and how.
But what we DO need to know, what YOU need to know, is this…
You are chosen. God knows. your name. Your life means something. Whether you believe it or not.
In the end, what matters is that you loved and that you were loved.
Your life is at stake. Live it.
Because in the end, when you’re flat on the ground taking what might be your last breaths, you won’t be worrying about how much money you made, what position you held in the company, how big your house was, how fat or thin you were, whether you ate steak or hot dogs for every meal of your life, whether you wore Lululemon workout gear or cheap Target stuff, or whether your kid owned a real American Girl doll or the Walmart knock off. And in those final moments, nobody will give a rip whether you worked overtime, full-time, part-time or not at all.
The only thing that will matter when you’re on your death bed is whether you lived and whether you loved. Whatever your situation, live it and love it. That’s all there is.
And know. People care. People love you.
So be loved. Allow yourself to soak it in.
Whatever life circumstance in which you find yourself – whether you feel completely worthless and purposeless and like nobody really knows the real you, or whether you feel full of life and purpose and known by many – just know. you matter.
In the end, they’ll hover around you. It will be a sacred, holy moment. Your life will prove its worth.
So make the most of these days.
Because your life is short.
Do what you love. And love what you live.
Decide to do that.
Because none of us know when we’ll be flat on the ground.
So live for today, as if it’s your last.
And know. You’re important to the God of the universe. He formed your being, He named you special, worthy. He made you with purpose. And he wants you to live abundant. Today.
As I made my way around, to the place where the windows faced the ambulance where the man lay, men and women stood, looking on. “We all get to go like that one way or another at some point,” an older man said to me as we stood there quiet, watching. Nothing but the man’s lifeless foot was visible from the one ambulance door that remained open.
Live. So when you die, others might live differently because of your life.
That one thing you need to know about your life? It matters. So live it.