I don't have a pithy quote by a famous person. I do have some wise words, the exact phrasing of which I can't recall, said by a 19 year old just out of high school. These words sparked a change in my outlook and have been a guiding philosophy in my life ever since.
The words of wisdom went more or less like this:
"The important thing to remember is that the only thing that really matters is getting through this life and getting to heaven."
Some context: I had just graduated from high school and had been battling depression since the second half of my senior year. I was on the phone bemoaning to my friend J Carlos the hopelessness and futility of life and he said these words. I don't know why--but for me his words, which I'm sure to some would seem a cliche and cold comfort, flipped a switch in my mind. Suddenly I began to see things from a different perspective. I realized that whatever I was going through, I could get through. This life was the journey, not the ultimate destination. J's words sparked the beginning of period of reinvention, growth, and joy in my life. Since then, this philosophy has not only provided me comfort in the face of struggle and mortality, but also joy in the journey.
It's been said that "Some people are so heavenly-minded they are no earthly good." I haven't found that to be true of those who are truly heavenly minded. Sure, there are church folk all bound up in the keeping of various rules and hewing to certain precise orthodoxies, but they don't strike me as particularly focused on heaven at all. I just don't know too many folks sitting around dreaming of heaven and doing nothing. I know people like James Appel, the folks that serve with Adventist Frontier Mission, people like Rich Mullins, my mother, my grandparents, my father in-law. People like J Carlos. If anything, it seems to me that the more heavenly-minded these people are, the more earthly good they do.
In short, what J gave me that day in the summer of 1992 was perspective, perspective that prevented the lows of life from defeating me and the highs of life from deceiving me. Anticipation for the next world has helped me live a joyful, full, and hopefully giving life here in this one.