Life in the Fast Lane

life in the fast laneThe first shall be last and the last shall be first.  This is what we are told.  It sounds like a message about socioeconomic justice or just a plain and simple fact that rich folks will not be found in heaven.  Maybe it means that those who bust their hump to make it to the top of the ladder will be yanked down to a foreboding place where the worms and moths eat every last thing of material worth.  I would be willing to say that there is something to this mindset, but that it isn’t the whole story.

Interpreting scripture texts to mean that some are “in” and some are “out” and that Jesus’ parables are some type of road map or guest book for heaven is, I think, an erroneous interpretation at best and intentionally malicious at worst.  Any time a person uses scripture (of any religion) for the purpose of exclusivity and legitimizing power, it is a recipe for disaster.  It is not only a detriment to those who are being marginalized, but also to those who are making up the rules as they go along.  In the end, you see, we don’t make the rules – the rules have preceded us since long ago.  It is our choice to play by the rules or not, but pretending they are not there will not make them go away.

A good portion of our lives is made up of decisions resulting from environmental influences such as the homes we grew up in, the education we received, and what the “norm” is perceived to be.  The rest of our lives is comprised of our own ambitions and desires and what we see as necessary in order to achieve our goals.  Put the two together and we have a “self.”  One can certainly argue whether nature or nurture exercises the biggest influence over our character development and the people we become, but in the end, we are the culmination of our choices.  This aspect is often lost in the industry of distraction and we tend to see ourselves as victims of circumstances beyond our control with nothing left to do but shrug our shoulders and say “Oh well.” 

Some may say the opposite of this complacent mindset is a “go-getter” attitude.  I certainly admire those who have clear goals and do what they have set out to do.  I do question sometimes, however, how wisely we make our choices of which goals are important and which ones are merely inconsequential.  For whose sake have I made my goals?  To what end have I created this life plan (assuming there is one)?  Am I living my life to please others or am I being true to who I really am?  These are all questions that we need to ask ourselves and be honest about when we answer.  How often do we sit in silence and ask ourselves these questions to make sure that we are truly authentic and not creating something ephemeral that could cave at any moment like a house of cards?  Are we building our own ethereal dream that will blow away like fog in the wind leaving us utterly and completely despairing when we realize that none of it was real? 

We were all made for something.  We have gifts, talents, abilities, passions, and so much more that are with us from the beginning and are an integral part of who we are.  Perhaps we should take the time to ask ourselves why those things exist within us.  If we are living lives trying to be people who we are not, then we are building skyscrapers on foundations of quicksand.  It may look nice on paper or in our imagination, but just when we think we have it all put together, it will collapse in a heap of dust. 

So, in case you didn’t catch it the first time – we are a product of our choices.  Regardless of where we come from, regardless of where we think we should be going, it is our choices that ultimately create our path.  We can choose to live life in the fast lane and chase after illusory things that never were ours to begin with, our we can take time to “rest on the seventh day” and sit in silence with ourselves.  Getting to know ourselves for our own sake and not for what we think others want us to be is incredibly healthy and liberating.  This is the true meaning of the first shall be last and the last shall be first.  Finding our true selves may mean that we have to give something up and that we won’t be incredibly rich or famous, but we will experience great peace in being honest with ourselves.  In this peace we will find ourselves and we will find God.  If life in the fast lane will “surely make you lose your mind” as the Eagles say, then who wants it anyway?  Sit.  Be.  Discover.  Then make the choices that lead to a life that is true to yourself.

3 Responses to “Life in the Fast Lane”

  1. John Lovestrand Says:

    As I shared with you after service this past Sunday, your sermon echoed many of the same points raised by author Matthew Kelly in his book “Rhythm of Life” which I just finished.

    You two could be soul brothers, your respective messages are so uncannily similar; as thoughtful as they are inspirational.

    He even quotes the “Be Still” lead-in to the beautiful and comforting song that is part of the Tri-C service every week, and when I read the manner in which he breaks it down, I thought of you and your preaching as you often encourage us to just “Be”:

    “Be still and know that I am God.
    Be still and know that I am.
    Be still and know.
    Be still.

    He also encourages prayer in those still moments, ideally to be gradually built up to what he refers to as the “Sacred Hour” in each day, and its end-of-the-week equivalent in the Sabbath. I had just read his section on how the Sabbath was created for us, and then in this sermon you made the same point yourself.

    Matthew Kelly also begins and end his “Rhythm” book with the same observation regarding our lives being about our choices. I was struck by the similarity of the message and wanted to share it as a Joy during Joys and Concerns but couldn’t formulate a coherent thought in time.

    I do not find this to be mere coincidence. I choose to believe that I am receiving these twin messages because I am open to them now, because I am putting it out there in an ethereal sense that I am receptive now.

    I have been puzzling about your / his prompting to examine the path, the journey that I am on now, and it raises in my mind a bit of a quandary. I have never felt that I was “called” to be an attorney. I made a pragmatic decision to pursue the law as a career, as I thought it would allow me to use my talents (decent mind, common sense, and personality) while attaining professional status and hopefully eventually earning a good living.

    It has worked out well, by those measures, and I am grateful for being able to provide for myself and my family — not an insignificant factor given my personal, familial background. As the first person in my family to graduate from college, going on to grad school was important, and I felt happy for my Mom as much as myself for that achievement. 25 years later, I am a good lawyer, and enjoy working for clients and working with other professionals in the real estate transactional realm. Practicing law has never been drudgery for me. I look forward to going to work every day, with good energy and good work ethic.

    But I have never deluded myself into thinking that I was born to be a lawyer, as I imagine others in the legal profession may. It is what I decided to become, chose to become, and became … vocationally … but I don’t identify with it as being me. It is what I do, not who I am.

    As Matthew Kelly writes, we are meant to be human beings, not human doings.

    Who might I become?

    I plan on spending this next year trying to figure this out… thinking, feeling, imagining, wondering, visualizing… all during prayer.

    With your encouragement this past Sunday to set aside just 5 minutes to pray each day, coupled with Matthew Kelly’s challenge to build up to a Sacred Hour each day … each of the last 3 days I have done just thatt, and have gone beyond my usual (several verse) mantra to expand my prayer moments to 5, 10 and 15 minutes.

    Body, heart, mind and soul.
    Physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.
    Exercise, love, read and pray.

    Timeless messages that remind of the Athenians of ancient Greece.

    Wonderful that people like you and Matthew Kelly have answered their callings in life to remind the rest of us to double-check ours….

    • I appreciate you telling me about Matthew Kelly. I read part of Rhythm of Life and did see a lot of beliefs similar to my own. It was good to see that there is interest in the message of improving one’s life by taking time for self-care. I have always been critical of self-help books and indeed there are a lot of weird ones, but I have been seeing more lately that actually resound with me.

      I think one sure sign that a particular vocation or project is our calling is that we have passion about it and we are good at it. Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think our calling necessarily has to be our vocation. We can work at one career that enables us to live out our calling on a part-time or volunteer basis. You definitely have a passionate heart and a keen mind. God has given you exceptional gifts and you have made good use of them. It will be exciting for both of us to see what the next step is. 🙂

      • John Lovestrand Says:

        Thank you brother. I appreciate that very much, coming from you, whose own exceptional gifts are a wonder and a blessing — not only to you and yours, but also to the rest of us in your presence. You’ve read my mind and seemed to have caught a glimpse into my heart and soul as well, as I too have been musing along that same note … e.g., the day job ain’t broke, so don’t fix it — but meanwhile this next chapter in my life should be more about me embracing a more meaningful path, and the non-vocational avenues are wide open. The chansonette plays over and over, to good effect, lyrically prompting me forward, and reminding me at every turn that God is Love. It will be my challenge to spread that Love into as many hearts and minds as I can over this next 1/2 century…. 🙂

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