A good friend of mine was recently turned down for a residential grant to an institute in France. I, as well as several others, wrote references for him in the process. His research interest and his general situation seemed to make him an ideal candidate for just such a residency. Sadly, the foundation turned him down. The grant would have been a nice addition to any resume. A six to nine month residency at a prestigious institute always seems to entice publishers and thrill personnel committees. Nevertheless, my friend, a talented author, businessman, musician, hockey goalie and practical polymath was not chosen. The irony is, he will continue to be a talented author, businessman, musician, poet, philosopher, hockey goalie and polymath.
Having received the notice of his non-selection, I sent him a quick email telling him of my continued support of his work and friendship. He then replied to let me know that he would no longer be seeking these types of grants - just too much emotional energy expended for little gain. It then struck me, as it often does, that whether or not my friend got this grant was not a measure of his person. He has accomplished far more than most human beings will ever accomplish. But he has never put much stock in accomplishments for the sake of accomplishments. They are what they are. They are markers on a greater journey, but cannot be the goal of the journey itself.
Nevertheless, you and I measure our lives by our accomplishments all the time. It is the hazard of living in a capitalist-consumer culture. Indeed, one of the first things any American male will ask another upon being introduced is, "What do you do for a living?" - The question is designed to help us understand and assess a persons accomplishment in a millisecond. In short order it answers the following questions: Did you graduate from college? Did you marry well? Did you obtain high paying employment with a prestigious company or firm? Did you attend graduate or professional school? Are you a physician, professor, lawyer or CEO? Do you drive the right car, own the right home, attend the right schools? Do you vacation in the Hamptons, Martha's Vineyard, Big Sur, the Rockies or Europe?
Sadly, all this serves to do is to 'measure' our own worth in comparison to the other person's accomplishments. Yet that whole approach is flawed. Does this really give us a measurement of a person's life? What does it do to assess a person's value by their financial and material accomplishments? Can this really tell us something about a person? Yes. It can tell us that somewhere down the line they have forgotten what it means to be human.
Please don't mistake what I am saying. To have and to do these things is not "bad" or "evil" in and of themselves. Yet, to make them the end or goal of our lives is.
Our lives will not ultimately be measured by the things we achieve or possess. Our lives will be measured by how we lived them and the character they produced. Life is about the journey. The questions we should be asking are: Have I loved deeply? Have I sacrificed anything of value for the sake of others? Is my yes "yes" and my no "no"? Am I a liar or does the truth control my life? Do my possessions control me? Can I be content in any situation? How can I be the cause of the greatest amount of joy and peace, and minimize being the cause of pain and suffering? How can I love my neighbor and benefit his or her life? How can I love my spouse today? How can I best influence my children today in order that he or she might become a person of integrity and character?
And for the Christian, most importantly, how does my life reflect the life of the one who loved me and gave himself for me? (Galatians 2:20)
How you and I answer these questions will determine our worth, eternally.
I am 46 years old. I have travelled, accomplished and done. I intend to do more. I will succeed and I will fail. But in the grand scheme of things, they are but markers on the road. God reminds me that these 'things' are tempered by time. They occurred yesterday. He reminds me that I must live now. God does not remind me of past accomplishments, He simply says, "Jay, I love you. Now what will we do together today?"
Let me challenge you. Life is not about stuff. Life is about today's walk with God. What will you do with God today? Who and how will you love?
“But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.
[Luke 12:31-32 NASB95]