Posted by: Brad Stanford | November 10, 2009

Sunsets and Gunmen

Sunsets and gunmen don’t go together very well. One is gentle and lovely and peaceful. The other is not. This is why travel agencies use sunsets to sell destinations. I have yet to see a travel brochure showing a war torn street, or blood-stained walls. There is a reason for that.

And still, this is the world we live in. We are not free from either sunsets or gunmen. Not in reality, anyway. We may be required to ignore one or the other for the sake of survival, but that doesn’t make them go away.

So last week, while I was watching sunsets, others were dealing with the fallout of a gunman who opened fire in a crowded place. Who knows – one day those rolls might be reversed. But it’s not really up to me or you or any other human is it?

In the middle of typing that last sentence, I found out about the death of a relative of someone I know. The cause of the death is unknown. Knowing the answer won’t bring the person back.

While everyone is focused on terrorism in the light of this latest tragedy, I am simply reminded that there is a war going on. It is between spiritual entities, and the stakes are the highest they can be. It’s all or nothing. That is a harsh reality, especially when we are reminded of the guaranteed destination for all things consumable, like bodies. As the old t-shirt says, “The man who dies with the most toys…still dies.” Or my favorite variation: “You eat right, you exercise, and you still die.”

I know that I will be dealing with the passing of relatives within the next five years. I already know it’s going to be difficult. I’ve started to prepare my family for its impact. But one of the ways I prepare us is to emphasize sunset moments. These are times where the right the thing to do is to stop and take in a situation, a place, a scene, or a relationship. If yesterday’s flower is still in bloom, then stop and smell it again. If there is a sunset, try to take notice. If there are animals about, observe and learn. Live.

(And especially to you God-fearing dads out there: if you teach your kids to “always do what’s right”, but you never stop to take in life when it’s right to do so, then what kind of example is that?” Just a thought.)

Depending on the day, this could sound odd coming from me because I have so much to do, and I’m usually very intense about it. But there is usually something in every day in which God puts his hand under my chin, and makes me look up and pay attention. It has only been in the last few years that I’ve felt satisfied enough to be ok with death. And I suppose that’s why I think what I do, because everything that is happening right now is so beyond what I deserve, it could almost be classified as injustice. Here I am with my family and the sunset, while others no longer have that privilege.

And then again, people who know they are dying are the first to remind you to get every drop out of life. It’s almost like denying the enemy his pleasure in our death. You know how when kids are playing, and the one says, “Well if I can’t have it, neither can you,”? (Or is that the adult world? Hard to tell sometimes). It’s like that in reverse: “If I can’t have life, then you be sure and live.” Together, we’ll make sure that life is greater than death.

So, even though I’m hearing about these sad and difficult events, and I know there are more to come, it makes me all the more focused on living well. My attitudes, my actions, my legacy – they are all dependent on the gift of being able to count the days. When the days seem finite, the sunsets are a tad more important. The reality is that we will each have our own “gunman” to face. And that should motivate us all the more to live while we can.

Solomon said in Ecclesiastes that the best things in life are relationship with God, enjoying your work, and enjoying good food, drink, and friends. Everything else is chasing after the wind. If any one of those is out of line tomorrow, start fixing it. And at the end of the day, take in the sunset, and pray for those who have had to deal with the gunman named death. You will find yourself better able to deal with both.

Don’t go to bed afraid. Don’t go to bed sad.

Go to bed thankful, and wake up determined.



  1. […] a little about how a family who had been hit with tragedy lately (I mentioned them briefly in Sunsets and Gunmen) had been surrounded by people who made sure their dairy kept running, and also made sure they had […]

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