“Life is too short, so love the one you’ve got…” – Sublime
Driving down the road the other day, this old school jam came on the radio and as I listened and grooved to the familiar tune, I began to contemplate life under the sun in light of the gospel. Just by this one simple lyric, my brain began to swirl with thoughts of the fact that everything we need to be acceptable to God has been given to us in Christ. No matter what I do or do not do in this life, I am fully loved. I began thinking about my own life and how I’m at the edge of plunging into some new projects and life-changes. How because of the gospel- failure IS an option for me and it’s not something to fear. We can take life by the horns and run those risks, big ones- because there is something to be learned even in a failure.
For so long, fundamentalism kept me from trying anything with my life apart from laundry and child-rearing, because you know, I’m a woman and that’s really all we are called to do. As I have been more freed with the gospel, the thought has been occurring to me: Why wouldn’t I want to run hard in life and try everything available at my fingertips simply because I can? Really, man or woman, why wouldn’t any of us want to jump and see where we land instead of one day looking back and wondering what would have happened if we had ever taken chances and risked a little bit more? If I know that I am loved immeasurably by God, fully accepted and wanted, I can live without regret if I try something and fail at it. As far as I am concerned, the only regret to have in life is the regret of not stepping outside of my comfort zone and my own self-sufficiency in order to love this life to it’s fullest. Try and fail. Try and succeed. Love and get hurt. Love and be loved in return. I can stand and let the warm sunbeams kiss my cheeks while the wind tousles my hair around and drink in creation knowing that it was made by my Creator who sees me, knows me, and loves me so much that he gave his own son to call me his own.
Listening to this one catchy sentence gave me the freedom to want to take on the entire world. The freedom to try it all and do it all because it’s safe to do so when the fear of judgment for my failures has been removed. I don’t have to live perfectly and I don’t have to love perfectly. Jesus already did that for me.That one phrase gave me the freedom to love life, the people in it, and the drive to want to do more. Imagine that? Freedom to love life (and therefore the freedom to live it) gave me the desire to do more with my life.
In a stark and unfortunate contrast, the voice of John Piper began ringing through my mind. Something about wasting your life collecting shells. I understand the point he is making- as you enter retirement age, don’t stop living your life for the Lord- all of our lives are meant for ministry and bla bla. The problem is that you have a whole generation of young people who heard “don’t waste your life” and they freaked. the. eff. out. This gut wrenching phrase is all that rings in their minds- to the point where they can’t just enjoy a day at the beach, collecting beautiful shells because John Piper scared them senseless. What they heard from him is that if you are enjoying life, it’s a frivolous waste and you are disappointing God.
That’s a problem! It’s a problem because it’s not true, for one thing. God gave us this life to enjoy. He made beaches for us to play on. He made seashells knowing full well that we would love them and collect them. He is the creator of all things and it delights him when his creation enjoys what he has made.The other problem is that this kind of thinking actually slows down our productivity completely. It paralyzes us. We can no longer just live in the freedom of you know, living. We now have to be concerned about whether or not we are wasting every moment of our lives. We have to worry and fret over whether the decisions we are making every day are worthless or not. We have to analyze our every move to make sure we are doing things right. That usually leads to ulcers and/or being a closet alcoholic…. bottom line? We get nothing done because we are too worried about what we’re doing and if it’s what we are supposed to be doing.
While, “don’t waste your life” sounds like a good piece of advice meant to stir you out of some sort of slumber, catapulting you into productivity, it’s actually debilitating. You will not take a single step if you are plagued with the fear of judgment for making a mis-step.
Here’s another thought just for fun: at the end of our lives, who’s to say that the shell collector won’t have more accomplishments than John Piper? Maybe Mr. Shell Collector spent more time in his life loving people freely, and giving himself for those people because he loved them? Maybe Mr. Shell Collector, though retired from his full time job as a “Director of Missions for the homeless” spends the rest of his life listening to the pains and fears of fellow retirees and gives them the gospel over a nice cold one, while comparing shell collections? Maybe that’s all because he spent more time listening to rock bands that encouraged him to freely contemplate life instead of the kind of evangelists who would discourage him from freely living his life?
Friends, because of the gospel you don’t have to stress about whether you are wasting your life or not. When you have been told that you are fully loved you will want to go and love others- your life will not be a waste. Relax. Collect a few shells if you want to, God won’t be disappointed.
If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 1 Cor 13:3