I don’t usually make time to sweat the big stuff, never mind the small stuff, but an unexpected email recently had the effect of shoving the enormous existential question, ‘what am I doing here?!’, to the fore, and within a matter of hours I was reassessing and evaluating my life. Like a stone turned over, all sorts of things poured out. What am I doing with my life? Why are we in London? Where am I headed? How am I making a difference? What are my children learning from me? What do I want to accomplish? Why are we paying so much rent?
Compelled by a burning desire to read about someone who did something with their life, I went to the bookshelf and reached for the story of Brother Yun, The Heavenly Man, but instead pulled down the book beside it, Don’t Waste Your Life, by John Piper. It would seem that this is the book I was meant to read. Citing a story from an old edition of Reader’s Digest, Piper talks about what is known as the American Dream, but describes it as an American tragedy: a couple who retired early, moved to Florida, and lived out the remainder of their days cruising on their boat, playing softball and collecting shells. In Piper’s words, this is ‘fatal success’ and it is a waste of life.
There are many tragedies I will not be able to avoid, but I can avoid this kind of tragedy, the tragedy of living life for myself. For me, Piper’s words are fuel to a fire already begun, a fire in my belly to take more risk, make more change, to live more fully the Christian calling to love God and neighbour and serve them both. I care for people as a wife and mother, but am keenly aware that my care is largely for myself and my own. Without wanting to forsake that or diminish its importance, conscious that I am limited as we all are, I wonder what else could be done. There is a home for the elderly down the street—might I be able to care for them somehow? Change their linen, make their tea? King David said of God, ‘You stoop down to make me great.’ What will my life be about? Moving up? Or stooping down…
I don’t want to waste my life, so I’m thinking it through again, and I think that perhaps the greatest difference to my life and to me will come in the endeavour to make a difference to someone else’s.