Friday, August 14, 2009

D.C. Reflections Part 2: "don't waste your life!"

A friend and colleague of mine said those words to me after describing a disturbing experience he'd just encountered. He watched someone commit suicide. He was innocently walking down the street just blocks from our office and then it happened. A man had jumped from a building, hitting the ground just yards from my friend. Needless to say, his mind has been reeling for the last week as he copes with the trauma of witnessing such an event. And as he put it, he has been asking some "tough questions." At the very least, he has come away with the right conclusion: "don't waste your life."

For those who work in the District, a wasted life seems to not be a common worry. Like I mentioned in my last post, most people here are highly motivated and seem to have a clear direction for their life -- or at least they tell a good story of their imagined future. I'd say 90% of the people I've met have a type A personality. This is no surprise given the opportunity this city offers to satisfy the ambitious. Yet, sometimes I wonder if it really is a wasted life that people fear.

I would posit that fundamentally a meaningless life is what many, if not all of us, truly fear most. We're afraid of staying in our "boring" towns, of getting stuck in a dead-end job, or ten thousand other uninteresting life stories. Instead, we seek fame, connections, wealth, or anything else that will prevent a wasted life, that will give us satisfaction and meaning. There is nothing wrong with seeking any of those things, but is there more?

Someone named John Piper would say there is. In fact, all those other things -- wealth, fame, relationships -- he would say are empty without God. They only have true purpose in glorifying God. We only have a true purpose in glorifying God. He explains this in his book, "don't waste your life." Yet perhaps that sounds narcissistic on God's part, but if you ponder for a moment that if He is the one who gave you life, who created you and all that you know, than perhaps credit--indeed glory--is His rightful due. But is a fulfilling life, one that is not wasted, only realized in a subservient, self-abasing lifestyle? No, far from that. Piper's mantra that,"God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him," clearly speaks of something else.

It is when we are seeking to glorify God in our attitudes, words, and actions that we find meaning and satisfaction. One of my favorite passages from Scripture says, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." If we first love and delight ourselves in the Lord, then all other pursuits follow. So be ambitious, driven, and set your goals high, but love God first.

My friend witnessed a wasted life come to an end. It scared him. It would scare me. But, he has no solution. Inside him he wonders if he is any different. What if his hopes fall short and his dreams die? What if success is empty? Relationships shallow? Life wasted? And even if these things do not happen, how do you know your life is not wasted? This is what I would ask those who have sought fulfillment here in D.C. or anywhere.

1 comment:

  1. This was a powerful post. It draws forth questions that most refuse to even acknowledge, let alone try to answer. This is where philosophy meets existentialism meets nihilism. This is where Nietzsche, Camus, and Sarte end. It is a scary, empty, literally God-forsaken place. Praise the Lord it is not reality!