Wise people build their lives around what is eternal and squeeze in what is temporary. Not the other way around.
This is our predicament. Over and over again, we lose sight of what is important and what isn’t.
We all want God, Anne Lamott writes, but left to our own devices, we seek all the worldly things—possessions, money, looks, and power—because we think they will bring us fulfillment. But this turns out to be a joke, because they are just props, and when we check out of this life, we have to give them all back to the great prop master in the sky. They’re just on loan. They’re not ours. They all go back in the box.
The object of life, according to Jesus, is breathtakingly simple: Be rich toward God. Don’t spend your life playing Master of the Board. It’s a sucker’s game. You can’t beat the house. But you can be rich toward God. Your life—with God’s help—can be a source of pleasure to the God of the universe.
Being rich toward God means:
Growing a soul that is increasingly healthy and good.
Loving and enjoying the people around you.
Learning about your gifts and passions and doing good work to help improve the world.
Becoming generous with your stuff.
Making that which is temporary become servant of that which is eternal.
Savoring every roll of the dice and every trip around the board.
One of the main reasons we are tempted to get more invested in our work than in our relationships is that in our vocations it’s easier to keep score.
Serving in self-giving love is the most God-like thing a human being can do.
Spend as much time caring for the inner you as you spend on the outer you. However much time you spend exercising, cleaning and dressing the outer you this week, spend at least that much time on the inner you.
Surrender to God is not passivity or abdication. It is saying yes to God and life each day.
Everyone should carry two pieces of paper with him and look at them every day:
“You are as dust and ashes.”
“For you the universe was created.”
Here the daily decisions that create your life: what will you feed your mind?; what thoughts will you dwell on?; whom will you have conversations with?; where will you direct your desires?; how will you take care of your body?; when will you choose to be interrupted, and when will you choose to stay on task?; what will you eat?; how will you spend your time?
When we give casually, we receive casual joy. When we give effortfully, thoughtfully, creatively, we get immense joy.
My eye, hand, and foot are not the problem. The problem is my heart. Integrity is much bigger than simply avoiding breaking the rules. It is becoming the kind of person who does the right thing. Integrity does not mean I get really good at not doing the things I really want to do. It is not using lots of willpower to override my desires. It means I become the kind of person who actually wants to do what is right.
I was part of a survey that asked thousands of people what kept them from knowing and loving God better. The number one answer was “I’m too busy”. It’s ironic that the early followers of Jesus could not be stopped by persecution, poverty, prison, or martyrdom. But we’re stunted by something as trivial as too much to do.
The danger is that you will lead a respectable, decent, non-scandalous, busy tired, human-powered life. That is unspeakably sad. We all want to pursue the kingdom of God. We just don’t have the time.
God never calls us to do something and fails to give us enough time to do it.
The great secret joy of life—the prize that we think getting richer will bring us—is the ecstasy of gratitude. Gratitude is how those rich toward God—rich in being, not just having—play the game.
Without gratitude, our lives degenerate into envy, dissatisfaction, and complaints, taking what we have for granted and always wanting more.
Just as we all have a mission—a way of contributing to God’s kingdom that we were designed and gifted for—we also have what might be called a shadow mission. My shadow mission is what I will do with my life if I drift on autopilot. It consists of the activities toward which I will gravitate if I allow my natural temptations and selfishness to take over. Everybody has a shadow mission.
Materialism is for most of us God’s main rival.
We are called to contentment. Contentment does not come when we acquire enough. It is a product of the way we think.