Don’t Waste Your Life
What kind of things come to mind when you hear, “Don’t Waste Your Life.”
Make something of yourself?
Get busy or die trying?
No down time?
Seriously though, what does come to mind? What conjures up inside you when you hear that you should not waste your life?
In our work in recent years, we have had the interesting experience of being with business leaders who refuse to waste any second of their lives. Every moment appears to be maximized, leveraged, and accounted for. And yet many indicate, in a safe setting, they are spiritually drowning and emotionally falling apart.
So, how do your perceive waste?
Our work at The SoulCare Project is an invitation into wasting. It’s in the time wasted that these business executives come alive and their souls recover.
“Waste” is largely assumed to be garbage. We know its easy for your mind to race to the things we do waste; the food we throw away, our clothes we hoard, our houses we occupy, the fuel our cars consume.
Merriam-Webster defines waste a couple different ways.
Waste: (1) refuse from places of human or animal habitation (2) damaged, defective, or superfluous material produced by a manufacturing process (3) a sparsely settled or barren region, uncultivated land, a broad and empty expanse.
It’s easy to talk about the all of the things we are wasting “out there”. Of course we waste, but the waste we’re concerned with isn’t the external things we have in excess, its the excess of demands and expectations we carry internally that are wasteful.
As an organization we exist to help people attend to their interior life; the sparsely settled or barren regions, uncultivated lands, broad and empty expanses of the soul.
“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” (Isaiah 30:15)
This sure looks like a lot of waste; rest and quietness. If this is waste, then, the invitation seems clear…waste your life.
You know what wasting time does not get you? Larger crowds. Bigger budgets. Impressive outcomes.
Do you know what wasting your life might get you? We propose a grounded life, a healthy soul and a whole heart.
One of the many voices we trust and celebrate is that of Parker Palmer, who helps us understand the counterintuitive message that waste is the means by which we flourish.
Parker describes in his book, “Let Your Life Speak” how his therapist pushed back on his belief that his depression was the enemy trying to crush him to the ground. His therapist turns that idea on its head saying, “What if you saw depression as the hand of a friend pressing you down to the ground on which it is safe to stand?”
Parker reflects further, “I started to understand that I had been living an ungrounded life, living at an altitude that was inherently unsafe. The problem with living at high altitude is simple: when we slip, as we always do, we have a long, long way to fall, and the landing may well kill us. The grace of being pressed down to the ground is also simple: when we slip and fall, it is usually not fatal and we can get back up.”
Altitude living is always launching and taking off, wanting to blast off, going to new heights, to new areas of improvement, new competencies, new abilities, and new strategies.
Grounded living, on the other hand, may require remaining, sitting still, not soaring, not taking off. It looks more like being rooted. And what do roots do? They remain. They stay put. They grow down, not up.
Wasting your life is living grounded.
Over the last few years we have had the opportunity to work with creatives of all kinds (musicians, painters, poets, cartoonists, actors, screenwriters, and film makers). In our experience, these are people who waste time, yet produce art that is shaping culture in what is good, true and beautiful. We are formed by their willingness and ability to waste their lives. They are able to find the holy in the mundane. How can you find the holy when you are always ascending? To find the holy you have to be down on the ground, in the dirt.
The dirt is where life is lived.
In our Christian culture, we grow up thinking we ought to know more, do more, be more. We even have books titled, “Don’t Waste Your Life.” But Eugene Peterson beautifully articulates his own Christian formation and background that led him to a more grounded life, into the mess where anger, fear and pain reside.
“Theologically I was brought up on Calvin and Luther and later on Barth. They’re all magnificent theologians, and not without imagination. They care about words, but I think of them as mountain climbers. They go to the heights. They see the whole thing. But five or ten years into being a pastor, I was introduced by a friend to Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. They are theologians of a very different kind. I think of them as theologians of the valley, where people live.” —Eugene Peterson
(A conversation with Lucy Shaw at Image Journal)
So, the next time you are in the inevitable situation of trying to make your life count, maximizing, leveraging, and scaling up every moment, make an attempt to hit the pause button giving yourself permission to be human by wasting your life in time well spent just being with God. And if we give ourselves this beautiful gift of humanness, our feet can remain on the ground, in the soil where the mess is, fighting our constant propensity to fly high, up in an altitude where we think we’ll make something of ourselves.
May God give us the humility to stay grounded even in the midst of the Christian-ese chatter that often says, “You better not waste your life,” or, “It’s time to make something of yourself.”
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
What is one simple thing in your day that you can do that is not maximizing, scaling or leveraging your time?
At the end of your day, name one thing that has grounded you.
What resistance is in you when you think of wasting your life?