In Disney’s latest big-screen movie, Onward, two brothers have a chance to do what so many of us have dreamed of doing—spend one more day with a loved one who has died. Onward is set in a magical world of elves, pixies, centaurs, and manticores, where magic has been all but forgotten. But one spell, powered by a legendary stone, may be enough to bring back a father to two boys who barely remember him.
The film deals with an emotional question many of us have asked in our own lives. If I had one more day with my father—or mother, spouse, best friend, or child—how would we spend it? What would I say? What would I most want to do? Where would we go? If I only had one more day….
We have a limited amount of time on this earth. We know that. But somehow we go through most of our lives taking time for granted. There’s always tomorrow to say the things I need to say to the people I love. There’s always tomorrow to do the things I need to do. There’s always tomorrow—until there isn’t. Most of us aren’t ready for those tomorrows to end when we lose someone we love. Nor are we ready to be the one who leaves.
The Bible reminds us that we have a limited number of tomorrows. “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall” (1 Peter 1:24). “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field” (Psalm 103:15).
For Christians, there is hope beyond our mortality. We are promised eternal life in a world made new. But that doesn’t mean we should waste the time we have on this side of eternity. Jesus told many parables about being ready (Matthew 22:2–14; 25:1–13) and making good use of our limited time (Matthew 24:45–51, 25:14–30; Luke 13:6–9). Paul spoke with great urgency about doing the work of God with a clear focus (1 Corinthians 7:29, 9:24). The writer of Hebrews also encouraged us to push forward with determination like runners racing to the finish line (Hebrews 12:1).
The whole Bible encourages us to use our time well. We can start by asking ourselves if this were my last day of life, what would I wish I had one more day to do? What would I wish I had one more day to say? Aren’t those the important things I should be doing and saying today?
In Disney’s Onward, the father of Ian and Barley Lightfoot spent time creating a spell that would bring him back from the dead for 24 hours to be with his boys. We don’t have that option. As parents, we need to use every 24 hours we have to raise our children well and make sure they are prepared for the future.
That brings me to my favorite scene in Onward, which happens during the climactic battle near the end of the movie. Throughout the movie, Ian and Barley’s mother, Laurel, does all she can to protect her boys. That’s what moms do, and this mom turns out to be pretty fierce when her boys are in danger. But in the end, Laurel passes a sword to her son to finish the battle. She could have held onto the sword and tried to get in position to continue the fight. She could have looked around for someone else to take up the sword. Instead, she throws it to her son, trusting him to be the brave, wise, strong young man she’s trained him to be his whole life.
That may be the hardest thing any parent has to do—letting go and letting our children succeed or fail on their own. That’s why we shouldn’t wait too long to pass the sword to them. I love that the Word of God—the Bible—is called a sword in Ephesians 6:17. A sword is something we need to be careful with. It’s dangerous in the wrong hands. But a trained warrior can do an awful lot with it.
We need to train our children to use the Word of God well—to study it, memorize it, and be guided by it. We can’t simply tell them what to believe about the Bible. We need to show them how to learn from it themselves. We need to equip them to take up that sword and fight battles we can’t fight for them.
We have one today and a limited number of tomorrows. How are you using your time now to make sure you have no need for one more day?
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What is my mission as an author? The goal dearest to my heart is to help Christians think about what they really believe and then to act as if they believe it. It all begins with understanding what it means to be a Christian. Then we have to learn to live like a Christian.