Growing up, I was keenly aware that my life should mean something. Multiple sources encouraged me to avoid 'wasting time' and 'wasting money' etc. Days were busy - school, basketball, volleyball, concert band, stage band, piano lessons and practice, part-time jobs... I had a litany of activities to ensure my time and my resources weren't wasted.
As an adult, the acute desire to avoid wasting my life hasn't dwindled. But marital, career, and family responsibilities easily obfuscate (or at the very least, add complexity) to what it means to avoid 'wasting my life.' What makes a life meaningful? Whose definition of 'a meaningful life' should we follow to ensure that our life isn't wasted and holds value?
This train of thought and line of questioning came to the fore this week when our worship band decided to read a five day devotional together (online) called 'Don't Waste Your Life.' We were doing this together through The Bible App. Its formatted so you can read the devotion along with some scripture, and then comment together on it online.
To say I struggled with the prose in this set of devotions would be putting things mildly. The phrasing of the thoughts comes across very strong and decisive. I actually found when I finished reading a devotion, my own thoughts and feelings were in complete turmoil and upheaval. I frankly felt like I didn't measure up and my life wasn't good enough. The devotions had sentences like:
'The wasted life is the life without passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.'
'The opposite of wasting your life is to live by a single soul-satisfying passion for the supremacy of God in all things.'
'If our single, all-embracing passion is to make much of Christ in life and death, and if the life that magnifies him most is the life of costly love, then life is risk, and risk is right. To run from it is to waste your life.'
I believe the turmoil and upheaval I felt was not positive. If the author intentionally wrote this way to challenge believers to action (to avoid wasting their lives) he/she was quite successful. I would argue that the author took their 'writing license' too far. How can I live like this, in this day in age, in a 'secular' IT job the demands my attention and careful thought most of the day? Never mind the familial demands on my attention and time when I am done work for the day.
The author tried to speak to this in the last devotion, saying things like: 'Secular work is not a waste when we make much of Christ from 8-5' and 'Through his scattered saints he spreads a passion for his supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples.' I just couldn't get over everything else that was said, and the voice it was written in. So absolute, confident, and binding. I wouldn't be able to live up to this author's expectations without feeling condemned all the time.
|Photo by Molnár Bálint on Unsplash|
I'm tired of having to sift through devotions like this after trying to live my life for God. How does this author live? Does their life line up to these broad, sweeping, absolute, theological statements? Have they ever worked in a secular job? Does their spouse think the author's life aligns with what their writing? How do I know? If I don't feel joyful, do I have to manufacture or synthesize joy or risk living a wasted life for the day? Bottom line - I find it challenging (read irritating) to submit my heart to strong teaching like this when I can't see it lived out in front of me.
Of course I don't want to waste my life. I want to live for God, and seek him first. I want to 'do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly' with him, 'making it my ambition to live a simple life' and 'give thanks in all things, for this is God's will for me.' My understanding is that the fruits of the spirit (love, joy peace, patience, etc.) should be natural by-products of a healthy relationship with God, not a compulsion based on some strongly worded paragraphs. I don't want to be so heavenly minded that I'm no earthly good. I want to be able to act and communicate with people without them thinking I'm a weirdo.
Matthew 9:36 'When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.'
Matthew 11:28-30. 'Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.'