When I was a freshman at Vanderbilt University, Bon Jovi's song, "It's My Life," was my anthem. I'd play the song on repeat in my dorm room, tossing my curly hair with the big-haired, Bon Jovi boys from New Jersey (even though their perms had shrunk considerably by the time "It's My Life" was released). Electric guitar and drums spilled into the hallway. Dorm mates would join in the dance. Mom and Dad weren't there to tell us to turn the volume down, so we turned it up.
I don't wanna be just a face in the crowd
You're gonna hear my voice when I shout it out loud
IT'S MY LIFE
It was the perfect theme song for a young person experiencing freedom for the first time. I was figuring out who I was and what I wanted my life to be.
Time moved on, and I donated my Jon Bon Jovi collection to a thrift store in Nashville. I went to graduate school and settled into "my life" as a pastor. I had forgotten about the song -- until I stumbled upon the television show, Glee a couple of weeks ago.
I had read about Glee since it debuted in 2009, and I said four dangerous words: I'll never watch that. I called it "silly" with its story of obviously-20-something actors playing high school misfits with amazing, song-dance coordination. One evening, at the end of a long day, I picked up the remote control in search of something to watch that required (a) little thought and (b) mild entertainment. As the cast sang, "Don't Stop Believing," in the pilot episode, I started to believe in Glee. Pardon my cheesiness :)
A few episodes into the first season, I was half-listening, half-watching when I heard the familiar sounds:
Bomp bomp... ba da da bom bom... bomp bomp ..... (or something like that)
It was my song from freshman year! My voice joined the glee club as the lyrics rushed back to memory.
It's my life
It's now or never.
I ain't gonna live forever.
I paused mid-dance and felt a strange chill go over me. The young man who'd just sung, "I ain't gonna live forever," was Cory Monteith. A week before I watched this episode, Monteith died at the age of 31 as the result of drugs & alcohol. Bon Jovi's song played on, but I was not singing or dancing anymore.
Seize the day.
Enjoy the moment.
Live life to the fullest.
Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
No day but today.
These are all adages reflected in "It's My Life" that are positive reminders. We're not guaranteed a tomorrow, so we should indeed make the most of today. But there's also a dangerous trap in the phrase, "It's My Life." It's the "me." Am I so focused on what I want and need that I neglect to see the needs of those around me? Am I so caught up in my own world that I forget it's our world? Do I focus so much on living my own life that I forget Who gave me life?
Cory Monteith's tragic death reminds us of life's brevity and unpredictability, reviving the lyrics to another song of long ago:
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him
(Psalm 103:15-17, New International Version)
It's not my life. It's not your life. We're not just one face in the crowd. We are many faces in community. So let us work together to help each other and to glorify the one who gave us Life. Let's shout it out loud: it's our life.
all good things to each of you,