Did you have field day at your school? I loved field day…outside, popsicles, races and mostly no homework. These were the best of times!
I liked it until….until I was no longer winning the races. I like to think of myself as an athlete and I guess I held my own against other 8-10 year olds but eventually I started running in races I couldn’t win. Other boys were faster than me. All the sudden field day wasn’t so great anymore.
I know the “joy of competition”, “the thrill of a challenge” are their own rewards but… yeah I just liked winning and when I couldn’t do it as much it got less enjoyable.
No one likes to work hard at something knowing they can’t win or finish or accomplish their goal. If you knew there was no way to win and nothing to gain, you wouldn’t even start.
When a thing is impossible…its impossible.
If you watch people long enough you will see them run impossible races all the time. They run races where the only possible outcome is to lose. Why do we do it? That is a hard question and for another article.
The scary part is people run these races and with the quality of their lives riding on the outcome. The stakes are incredibly high; but the only results are failure.
Don’t run races destined for failure. There are countless varieties but they all trace back to three futile tracks.
1) Run with the Science – Several versions of this but at the core it is believing I can learn/know enough and when I do, then I will be satisfied and have a good life. I have nothing against the pursuit of knowledge, it is a good thing. Basing the quality of life on the amount of knowledge you gain is a loser bet.
You will never know enough and the worst part is you become susceptible to becoming a “know it all”. You know the worst thing about a “know it all”? The one thing they seem to not know is how little they actually know!
In recent days politicians on both sides use the phrase “follow the science” to either try to prove their position or point out their opponent’s position as hypocritical. The funny thing is, “the science” seems to always agree with them.
Many believe science will one day deliver true and complete knowledge…it won’t. In 1999 The Science Journal on Astronomy said “after a century of discovery that opened the cosmos up to our gaze, astronomers are now poised to uncover the universes most fundamental properties, its size, age, origin and destiny.” 25 years later we have learned there is much more we don’t know than previously thought!
Science and knowledge keep changing. Anyone with a shred of honest humility would admit there is more we don’t know than we do know.
Science and learning are good. They can be great tools to help us live well. They are miserable failures though when it comes to giving us meaning and satisfaction. Don’t pursue knowledge believing it will bring you life. The race is fixed, you can’t win.
2) It’s the Work that matters – Hard work is its own reward! This is true. It is rewarding to work hard to meet a challenge or accomplish a goal. You learn much, build character, and discover new talents. But it is not an identity. It can’t make your life consistently satisfying.
I am a pastor and I love my job. I am privileged to work with an incredible team of staff and volunteers who love God and love our neighbors. I often found myself feeling a profound gratitude that I get to be a part of this church and do life shoulder to shoulder with amazing people. It is rewarding, encouraging, and rich. Yet, it isn’t the thing that defines and brings meaning to my life. It is a gift, but it isn’t my life.
Jobs can be lost, work can be destroyed, efforts can be wasted. Even at the end of a long successful career the best of us, the most accomplished are still forgotten and their work can fade.
You can’t work your way to satisfaction. The work race always has another faster competitor.
3) Stacks and Stacks – few people would out an out say the only way they could be satisfied in life is to have crazy wealth. We don’t say it because intrinsically we know it isn’t true. However, that doesn’t stop us from racing for it.
We have become more sophisticated when it comes to money. We don’t have to have a big bank account just better things. Better trips, better house, better club teams for the kids, better cars, better restaurants, better experiences, better schools
We don’t have to have more money; we just need the money to get the better things so we can have a better life and then we will catch the illusive satisfaction.
I have had seasons in my life where I have had little to no money and where I have had more money than I ever thought I would have. None of these have changed the outcome of the race.
In the race to find satisfaction when you run with money in mind, you lose. Even rappers know this…mo’ money, mo’ problems!
Money can do many things. It has never been able to do the one thing so many would like it to do…make them happy.
Ruth Haley Barton wrote about the journey we go on to find satisfaction. In Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, she outlines what a healthy race for satisfaction looks like. The race has some distinct stages. Maybe the descriptions can help you see where you are and what is coming.
Preawareness - This is the time when we are not even aware that we are in bondage or that we need God to lead us into a satisfying life.
Awareness - Eventually something happens that heightens our awareness that our heart is longing for more. We realize we are not completely free, and begin to open up to the possibility of moving in a new direction. This could be a single event or an accumulation of events that we can no longer dismiss or ignore.
We usually slip into patterns of working and relating that are no longer life giving. It includes facing what is true in your life and taking responsibility for it. When the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing, we are ripe for making a move.
Once aware of how the pain of their past has twisted things we begin to envision what it would be like to face into the pain and come to a place of greater freedom on the other side. This is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. This is what puts us over the edge, after this nothing can be the same.
Times of Testing
Somewhere along this way, we are faced with our first real obstacle. It is usually quite unexpected, and we are not prepared.
Learning to Keep Still
It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer.
We learn to wait on God for our own life so when the only option for us is to wait on God, we believe it all the way down to the bottom of our being. Here life doesn’t become less complicated, but it does become more satisfying.
Don’t run races you will lose. Find satisfaction by following God into both the known and unknown. You will find life is a satisfying gift from God.
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