Thursday, August 24, 2006

What would be worth five years?

Occasionally, I'll pick up just an idea for a blog entry, and paste it into a draft post, waiting to develop it into something. Usually, I also note where I got it from, so I can credit the idea where credit is due.

For some reason, I didn't do it with this one. But the idea has still galvanized me, so I invite you to ask the question with me: What would be worth five years of your life?

That is, what would you want, for yourself or someone else, that you'd be willing to give up five years of your life in order to receive it? If you could make a heavenly quid pro quo, a cosmic tit-for-tat, what would you ask for?

I wish I could say that solving world hunger and bringing the world to know Christ would be my first answer. But spiritually I'm a much smaller man than that, I'm afraid.

If I could know that my sister and brother-in law in Toledo would be healed of their physical ailments (MS and fibromyalgia for Sue, arthritis and back pain for Jeff), it would definitely be worth five years of my life. Especially to know that my sister, who spends every day in constant pain and is troubled by even the simplest mobility issues, would be made whole would make five years seem cheap at the price. I'd pay and never think twice.

I'd give five years of my life to know that my sister and brother-in-law in Findlay would find a saving faith in Christ. They put up with me and my faith - and they're glad that I have it - but for whatever reason, they haven't found a need for faith of their own, and they just can't hear it from me. Something about a prophet in his own country...anyway, I'd definitely give five years of my life to know that they had found faith in Christ. No question.

But there's another side to this question, a more practical and powerful one. The way I first read the question, it was in the manner of a point-in-time exchange - desirable-thing-A happens, and my lifespan is shortened. But perhaps the more important question is, what would be worth spending the next five years working toward?

Restoring my own health would be worth five years (although I'd much rather it were a thirty-day process, to be honest). Listening to Christian radio today, there was a story of a guy who was five inches shorter than I am , and weighed a hundred pounds more than me. But over 3 years, he lost 200 pounds, and fulfilled a dream to enter the Army. Bit by bit, inch by inch...

My friend Tim D. is living another dream of mine. Having graduated from seminary at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) here in Chicago with a Masters of Divinity degree, he is stepping away from the Roman tradition and is ordained in the American Catholic Church. The ACC holds to the same basic rites as the Roman church, but abandons the need for celibacy and closed communion. Several people here have suggested that a new church only needs the Word and a shepherd - degree or no degree. That is something that would be worth five - or even ten - years.

Back six months ago, I had this idea of going to the Old Town School of Folk Music to learn guitar. My impending departure to Toledo kind of puts the kibosh on that particular route - but I have a sneaking suspicion that there are guitar teachers available, even in Toledo. For forty years, I've envied guitar players like my cousin Bill, who introduced me to folk music as a wee lad.

In all these thoughts, I am reminded of a Supreme Court justice - perhaps Oliver Wendell Holmes - who was teaching himself Latin at eighty-plus years old. One of his clerks asked him why he was trying to learn such a language at his advanced age, and the response was something to the effect of, "Well, if not now, when?...."

In my original AA community in Toledo, there was a fellow named Ocee K. As I remember it, he came to AA for the first time on his 71st birthday - and he died several days after his 81st birthday, doing what he loved best: doing 12-step calls on people who wanted to get sober. I know that several people asked him, "Why bother getting sober so late in life?" And his response was always, "Because I wouldn't want to have missed these last years as a sober man."

God, help me see Your dreams for me - and help me find strength in You to pursue them... Amen.


Poor Mad Peter said...

Great post, Steve man. Bloom where you're planted, and bear fruit abundantly.

Michael said...

As you know, Steve, I recently opted out of a job because I decided it was not worth the next five years of my life. Justice Holmes asked, "If not now, when?" I decided that at 56 I don't have five years to waste doing something I find very unsatisfying and unrewarding and losing sleep over how to do a better job of something I don't want to do in the first place. So now I am starting a new kind of ministry -- without the support of my own faith tradition -- and just waiting to see how it develops. And so far, I'm sleeping fine.

dave paisley said...


six years ago I broowed a guitar and bought Guitar for Dummies. Within a couple of years I started a band at church and have since led music all over the place. It's been great fun, so I highly recommend figuring out a way to take a shot at it :)