May 04 2007
John Mayer often sings lyrics of incredible depth and insight.
“Stop this train
I wanna get off and go home again
I can’t take this speed, it’s moving in
I know I can’t
But honestly, won’t someone stop this train?”
I’m 27 now. Day by day, life moves on. What do I have to show for myself so far? Have my accomplishments been few or many? If I died today, what would my legacy be? I imagine myself as someone who, outwardly, has lived a fairly typical life. I’ve done my best adjusting to the blinding, uncontrollable speed of life. That is, I’ve done my best with the understanding of life I currently have. What if our understanding of life allowed us to put better filters in our minds so we could pick out the most important things as things speed on like a train? What if instead of stopping the train we focused on the most important things?
I remember being a little kid and traveling places with my mom and dad. I would look out the window of our full-size Ford station wagon, complete with wood trim. A glance out the window gave only a blur of trees, corn, and pavement. But I would occasionally focus on a particular object. I would track it by sliding my head and eyes to the side until it passed out of view.
Has the speed of life caused us to be passive spectators instead of players? What I mean is this. Mayer says, “So scared of getting older / I’m only good at being young.” When we’re little, we don’t have to worry about anything. We’re really just spectators in the course of life our parents are playing. How many of us are so lost right now because we’re scared to play? We don’t know how to play. How many of us haven’t learned how to be older? We’re scared to start a family so we forever educate ourselves with mountains of post-graduate degrees that add letters behind our name but relatively little enrichment to our lives. We’re scared to take risks because little kids aren’t supposed to do dangerous things.
In our most honest moments, we wonder how we can bring good to others, be happy, and leave a lasting mark on the world. But the train moves on. Everything is a blur and there’s no time to think about those things. We idly look out in a raw emotion of blah. We behold life – seeing everything, yet nothing – like I did when I’d look out the car window as a kid. Yes, the train moves on and on and on and we become hypnotized by the sea of colors until we, on occasion, snap out of our trance like a hallucinating man in a rare state of lucidness. Those moments may well be the most critical of any we ever have. It’s in those moments we dream. It’s in those moments people write songs about stopping the train.
These moments are so full of possibilities because we actual imagine the train stopping, or more, jumping off the train altogether. What we do during the moments of lucidness can alter the course of our life.
My friend, Matt, and I are at such a place. We are asking about every conceivable question a person can ask about life and seeking answers from books, lectures, and sermons. Some of the questions are foundational and theological, others are intensely practical. I imagine I will be sharing lots of these over the coming weeks. But I wanted to include 5 questions we have answered as a starting point.
Why are we looking for a new way to live? (This will help us focus when things may get difficult or we question why we’re doing it)
How am I spending my time? (To show us how we are/are not wasting time)
Why am I spending it that way? (What presuppositions are we currently living under?)
What does the Lord say is important about life? (Without knowing this, we will waste our lives and be unable to form good prioritites)
How will I spend my life (including 6-7 priorities)? (These answers will be predicated on 1) God’s mission and 2) our gifting
We have given initial, temporary answers to these questions so that we might be able to make room for a new understanding of life (i.e., reading, writing, and asking/answering questions). I hope they’re helpful to you.
The conclusion of John’s song is right. “Now I see I will never stop this train.” It’s not stopping. But we can choose to focus on the things we deem important. I would sometimes focus on objects in the car as we passed them. You can’t focus on everything, but you can do it on the things you find most beautiful and excellent. I’m finding it a far more enjoyable life. The train moves on but it isn’t as life-draining to me. The truth is that we have an option: let the blur drain our life (and so lose the opportunity to live life as we passively spectate) or labor to discover how we want to live and be a player.
I’m not a kid anymore. I don’t want to spectate in life. I want to play. I want to be a man. It’s long overdue. I’m 27 and my parents don’t have the station wagon anymore.