Eugene Cho

steve jobs: reflections about birth, death, and the life in between

By now, you’ve heard the shocking news of Steve Jobs’ passing at the age of 56. Like many, I extend grace and prayers to the entire Jobs family.

Like some of my friends and readers, I do not personally have an “emotional” connection with Steve Jobs because I am not a Mac user for these reasons (although I occasionally use an iPad that was given to me as a gift). I’m sure many of you could write and write about your appreciation and admiration for Steve Jobs. And perhaps, how he changed the way you live your life.

But like others, I have much respect for him.

Needless to say, Steve Jobs was a brilliant man. For reasons that many of us already know, Steve Job rightfully deserves much praise for his legacy and oh, what a legacy! President Barack Obama conveyed it well in his recent statement:

Brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world & talented enough to do it.

While I am not the most qualified person to speak about all of Steve Jobs’ accomplishments, these things I know:

  • He was brilliant and charismatic.
  • He was wealthy.
  • He created a global icon and was an icon himself.
  • He was the epitome of innovation.
  • And the list goes on an on.

And yet, he died. None of those things could have saved him from death.

And he knew he was going to die. All the money and all the advanced treatments could not turn back the devastation of his pancreatic cancer.

Steve Jobs wasn’t naive about death; he shared this wisdom so beautifully and poignantly in his 2005 Stanford commencement speech:

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart…

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

There are no certainties in life.

The myth of the straight line from A -> B has been debunked and if you don’t know that, you’ll soon know and be humbled like so many of us have been humbled.

But…there is actually ONE certainly or rather, TWO certainties in life that unifies all of humanity:

Life and Death.

These two things, we share.

If you are reading this now…congratulations…because you are alive but also know this: you will one day face death as Steve Jobs faced death…as I will one day face death.

It’s not a statement of morbidity but simple truth.

Steve Jobs shared:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life

So. very. true.

But let me add couple more thoughts:

I’d like to strongly encourage that for us, as followers of Christ, to be reminded again that death is NOT the final song. It is not a statement of arrogance or condescension but rather a declaration of the hope and grace of the Gospel.

Death is NOT the final word.

Rather, it is only the beginning of eternity of communion and fellowship with God our Creator. But be warned: Rather than seeking eternity, we live in the present – in the HERE and NOW – with beauty, hope, and courage.

Lastly, while I certainly resonate with Steve Jobs’ encouragement not to waste it “living someone else’s life” – may we indeed live our lives but may it also

reflect the life of one person that is worthy to emulated: Christ.

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8 Responses

  1. Marguerite Hwang says:

    Thank you for this pastor Eugene. well said. amen!

  2. […] appreciate what Eugene Cho writes: Death is NOT the final word. Rather, it is only the beginning of eternity of communion and […]

  3. Tim says:

    Thanks for this perspective.

  4. gadberry says:

    The thoughts here are poignant and
    Wise. Death is a reality and if looked at honestly gives good and specific perspective.

    It is a pleasure knowing that Christ has overcome death for us and our eternity is secure and real.

    Let us live expressing the love of Christ so that ultimate life can be discovered by others.

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It appears I brought a little Seattle to the NYC. Drizzle fest. 24 hour gathering with a small group of leaders from around the country. Learning. Listening. Asking hard questions. Head exploding. Heart trying to have hope. As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it.

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