I will admit that this has been a hard several weeks. I’m not saying that it has been a bad time. To the contrary, there have been significant highlights. I have had the recent privilege of watching God transform two lives as He filled them with His wonderful Spirit. Both events are special, not only because of what happened to them, but because of what God confirmed in my own mind while watching them speak in a heavenly language. I also watched as ten people from various parts of Europe trekked all around the Helsinki Metro with me because they wanted to pray for the people of Finland. They did not need to do this, but they chose to do it. The ages ranged from in the teens to the 60’s, yet no one looked for a cushy trip. It has been a wonderful several weeks.
“But wait!” you may say, “You just contradicted yourself!” Not really, life is full of paradoxes. It is these paradoxes in which we grow. You see, recently, two people referred to me as “elder.” This was emphasized by the knowledge that my 46th birthday was last week. I watched as our prayer group divided itself in halves during the evening hours – the younger still wanting to see more of the city and we, the “older” crowd, simply wanting to find a place to rest. Even recently, I would have pushed to go with the younger crowd. Sadly, this was no longer the case.
This realization has caused me to analyze my life once again, and it has been found lacking in some areas. Becoming an “elder” has forced me to make the assessment from a new angle. I am realizing that I have squandered so much of my life on the unimportant. No, I’m not referring to my “rebellious years” where I was not following God. I’m referring to the recent years where my efforts were focused on “doing the right thing.” My mother died at 91 and this year, measuring from her lifespan, I have reached the halfway point. Even if God blesses me with a longer life, I am still near the downhill side.
While I can’t change my past, I must look to capitalize on my remaining days. The second half of my life must be more profitable than the first. There can be no wavering, no slacking, and no waste.
What would I do different? To what do I wish I would have given more emphasis? A wise man once said, “No one’s last words are, ‘I wish I would have spent more time at work.’”. What priorities will I change? Please allow me to share four myths that I have been slow in earning.
Myth #1: We need quality time, not quantity time.
This statement was made with regards to child-rearing but has filtered into every facet of our lives. Sadly, there is only one way to find quality time… through quantity time. You cannot schedule quality time, it simply sporadically happens during the quantity time. Want a closer family? Spend more time with them. Want a better marriage? Spend more time with your spouse. Want a stronger relationship with God? Spend more time in prayer. Want to better understand His ways? Spend more time in His Word. These things are not important? Then spend your time at work, on the golf course, in the gym, at the bar, etc. But, if they are important, you must invest the time. Only then will the quality appear in the quantity.
Myth #2: If only… (Dissatisfaction)
“If only” is one of the most depressing statements an individual can make. “If only I had a better job, I could spend more time with my family.” “If only I had a better education, I could study the Bible better.” “If only my spouse were more affectionate, we would have a better relationship.” “If only I had a regular work schedule, I could be more consistent in my prayer time.” Then, there are the thoughts of the past that fall into this category. “If only I would have controlled my spending, I would not have had to work two jobs to pay the bills.” “If only I would have applied myself, I would have succeeded in reaching my goals.” “If only I would have been more accepting of others, I would have had more fulfilling relationships.” “If only I would have set the alarm a little earlier, I could have started my day with Jesus.”
“If only” statements get you nowhere. The only result is guilt. They bog you down. The only minor benefit that they can possibly offer is when coupled with an, “I will now… “ As in, “If only I would have set my alarm a little earlier, I could have started my day with Jesus. I will now begin my day 30 minutes earlier.” Never speak “if only” without am “I will now.” Learn to leave the past in the past.
Myth # 3: I’ll have time for that later.
“Later” never arrives. When we began preparing for our first missions trip, we discovered that we accomplished little until we made a list of goals. With the list, we became motivated to accomplish them. This has proven itself to be true in many aspects of our life. The converse is also true, for the things we put off for later are often forgotten. If you consider something to be important, do it. If it is not important, take it off your list and stop worrying about it. You will only accomplish that which you plan to accomplish.
Myth #4: “If I just try harder…”
I realize that I am going against a “motivational icon,” but trying harder is not always the answer. The example used is an old fashioned water pump. Now I readily admit that if you prime an old water pump and put in the effort of repeatedly pumping the handle, you will eventually get water. I lived in the country as a child and I remember this process – just about when you are ready to quit, the water begins to flow. The caveat – the pipe must reach below the water table. If the water is deeper than the well’s pipe, it does not matter how long or how vigorously you work the pump – there will be no water. One must understand that a single failing does not make a failure. Once you realize that what you are doing is not working, change! If the well is dry, move to another well! One definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Man cannot fly. It does not matter how many cliffs he finds to jump off.
I wish that I would have learned these lessons much earlier in life. If I am going to be productive, I must change that which is changeable and accept that which is not. God can do the miraculous. I can only be available for Him use. As I look back, I see many times when I thought I was being productive, yet when I look at what my efforts produced, I realized that my actions had made me unavailable for God’s use. Today, I sit in the heart of Helsinki. As I watch the many people going about life, I am acutely aware of my limitations. I cannot bring happiness to the sad and lonely – only Jesus can. I cannot remove the deserved punishment from a sinner’s destiny – only Jesus can. The only capacity I have is to be available and willing to follow His guidance.
I pray God’s blessings on your life today. May you find fulfillment in whatever the Savior has asked you to do for Him.