Is it worth a lifetime?

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Have you ever asked yourself if you're spending your life on what is genuinely valuable? I recently heard a comment that caused me to begin questioning the merits of my vocation, interests and goals. It led me to examine my priorities to determine if I was making the best use of my time on earth.

During the California gold rush, many people sold homes, gathered up families and traveled by covered wagon to California to seek their fortune. Many were killed during the bickering and greed prevalent among the gold seekers.

One man, Rex, spent years searching for wealth. When he finally acquired his sack of gold, he buried it for safe-keeping. His whole life, then, became centered on keeping his treasure -- to the extent he failed to marry or contribute anything worthwhile to life.

Outlaws eventually heard of Rex's concealed gold and a great deal of blood was spilled as Rex attempted to retrieve his treasure. Finally, when the gold was safe in his hands, and bloody bodies were strewn on the ground, an onlooker ventured to ask, "Rex, was the sack of gold worth 20 years of your life?" Rex was so overcome by that realization and having been the cause of so much violence and death through hoarding the gold, he said, "No," and gave it away. He recognized 20 years of time and effort had already been wasted with nothing to show for it except a sack of gold. Rex would squander no more of his remaining time. Consequently, Rex changed his perspective on life's values.

I was given a piece of advice by an employer when I was young. He said one needs to plan for life rather than merely drifting along like a twig floating in a stream.

"A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways," (James 1:8). If someone constantly wavers back and forth in what he attempts he never accomplishes anything. When many people reach a certain stage in life they look back over their past expressing feelings of remorse. Remorse at goals they failed to reach, believing they would always have time to accomplish them. Some felt dismay because of how they had mistreated or ignored those weaker or less fortunate than themselves.

"I didn't want to feel regret when I reached middle age," my employer said. And he went on to reveal that at his present age of 50 he had achieved everything, within reason, he had desired for his life.

One must put his mind on one thing at a time to be stable and continue working toward what he feels God desires for him. Hopefully he will ask if whatever he is attempting is worth the effort he's putting into it. He should be able to look back someday and say, "I'm proud of what I've contributed to life, to people and most of all, to building God's kingdom."

I've tried to listen and act on my boss' advice. I often step back to inventory my actions and for what I am striving. I ask, "Am I doing this for myself or others? How much do my ambitions count toward serving God?" I'm often surprised by what I find. Sometimes I fool myself into believing my goals are aimed toward humanity when, in fact, I'm the one deriving the most joy and benefit from them.

Although we have more admiration for exceptional and noteworthy deeds than for ordinary actions, it's worth remembering that if it were not for the bottom rung of a ladder, no one could climb to the top.

Let us be able to feel that what we've accomplished in our lifetime is worth the time and effort we've spent on it.

Ellen Shuck is director of religious education at St. Mary's Cathedral Parish in Cape Girardeau.

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