Pioneers, Africans and Soccer Moms

8 June 2005

Two things came to my attention today. The first was an article that appeared in USA Today last week. Titled Tyson: ‘My whole life has been a waste’, the article laments the legacy that Mike Tyson has built to date. The second item involved the car chase that occupied much of Los Angeles today.

At one point news people were lamenting the suspect’s wasted situation. Their view said he was to commit suicide, be killed by police or spend the rest of his life in prison. No possibility existed for his life to ever mean anything again.

About the Tyson story, my friend Dan Miller asked the following questions:

  • Is it possible to break this cycle of self-destruction?
  • Can a person really draw a line in the sand and create a new start?
  • Are some people predestined to lives of low self-esteem, and the accompanying self-defeating actions – or can we all make the choices each day that set the stage for a positive future?
  • Is it possible to have tremendous disadvantages and still rise to health, wealth and success?

I plan to ask Dan for better answers than he gave in his most recent newsletter. Until those answers come, I want to share some thoughts.

We need to better understand the meaning of “a wasted life.” It’s not what so many people believe. John Piper’s book titled Don’t Waste Your Life offers this tip on the back cover:

I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider this story from the February 1998 Reader’s Digest: A couple ‘took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells…’ Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy.

Making the rounds recently has been one of those emails you are to forward to everyone you know. It reads variously as Ten (or in several of the emails I got, fifteen) Things God Won’t Ask:

  1. God won’t ask what kind of car you drove. He’ll ask how many people you drove who didn’t have transportation.
  2. God won’t ask the square footage of your house, He’ll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.
  3. God won’t ask about the clothes you had in your closet, He’ll ask how many you helped to clothe.
  4. God won’t ask what your highest salary was. He’ll ask if you compromised your character to obtain it.
  5. God won’t ask what your job title was. He’ll ask if you performed your job to the best of our ability.
  6. God won’t ask how many friends you had. He’ll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.
  7. God won’t ask in what neighborhood you lived, He’ll ask how you treated your neighbors.
  8. God won’t ask about the color of your skin, He’ll ask about the content of your character.
  9. God won’t ask why it took you so long to seek Salvation. He’ll lovingly take you to your mansion in heaven, and not to the gates of Hell.
  10. God won’t have to ask how many people you forwarded this to, He already knows your decision.

When a pioneer family settled in the great unexplored West, they might go months without seeing others. Yet, they raised families. They grew. They lived. They loved. The African mother walking miles to get anything resembling fresh water for her children doesn’t know a life that is better than her’s. The soccer mom suffering from road rage and the fear that her son might not get to start in today’s game is certain no life is better (or more deserving) than her’s.

Piper concludes: “The wasted life is the life without a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.” It’s rather easy to see that our station in life should not be the litmus test for determining whether our lives are wasted or of supreme service.

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