Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph 5:15-17; NIV)
I watched Dead Poet's Society with my daughters not long ago. I felt they were just about old enough to digest the message and process through the tragic parts of the movie. I've also been thinking about Robin Williams, so that's probably the thing that triggered the idea in the first place.
The movie made the Latin phrase carpe diem (seize the day) cliché. The story revolved around a group of boys who reoriented their thinking toward the goal of nonconformity. It's often misguided, so in some cases things go wrong for them. I think that, generally speaking, it was understood by viewers as a mandate to enjoy the moment, because we are soon to become food for worms, as Williams's character says. Don't follow rules that interfere with doing the thing that you want to do. That was the way some boys interpreted it. That's the way a lot of people interpret it. It wasn't the entire point that Williams's character was trying to make. He first introduced the idea of carpe diem by urging them to make their lives extraordinary.
God wants that very thing from us. He wants us to seize the day. But not to milk some fun out of it while we still have time. We have an eternity of time with him to look forward to. He wants us to seize the day so that our lives on earth are extraordinary. And by extraordinary, I mean that they have eternal significance. Like the servants in the parable of the talents (Matt 25), what we have to show at the end of our time here will demonstrate our faithfulness with the time and resources entrusted to us.
If we don't seize the day and just try to enjoy them all, we will end up with a lifetime of days that amount to nothing. Solomon wrote,
Light is sweet,
and it pleases the eyes to see the sun. (that's youth)
However many years a man may live,
let him enjoy them all.
But let him remember the days of darkness,
for they will be many. (that's old age)
Everything to come is meaningless. (Eccl. 11:7-8)
I've wasted a lot of time. It makes me a little sick to think about it. I've pursued pastimes that were fun, but accomplished nothing of significance to justify the time I invested in them. Everyone needs to unwind and have some time to enjoy life, but we seem to be a culture that takes on stressful and draining workloads and then finds relief at happy hour. The goal is to find joy in things that contribute something to the kingdom. That includes the lives of people you care about, your family, and those who need to know Christ that are drawn into your path. We need pastimes that result in something significant, something that lasts. Service for his glory.
The challenge is what Paul identifies in Ephesians 5:16 -- the days are evil. Life here isn't neutral, it sucks you in. Time has a million ways to distract us from what matters. To lull us from a sense of urgency. Until we are Rip Van Winkle, waking up to discover that we missed everything that we really care about.
Set your alarm clock, every day. Maybe around 10 AM, to interrupt your work day. Meet the Lord in prayer. Make short term and long terms plans to accomplish something that will last forever, then do them.