I wrote this recently and thought I’d post it publicly to share. Having three children at home and influencing the lives of others as the Lord allows, I wrote this list of eleven things that I hope to pass on before I pass on. Maybe they aren’t your eleven. Maybe your list isn’t even ‘eleven’. That’s okay! I wrote this list to help me live intentionally and so that if the Lord takes me sooner than later, they will have some record of the things I thought would matter most in their lives. While I didn’t take the time to look up all of the scripture references that were running through my mind as I compiled this list, every single one of them has multiple verses that goes along with it.
The ELEVEN Things
To: Kyndall, Paul (PJ), and Logan
These are eleven things that I have tried and will continue trying to teach you guys as long as I am able. This is obviously not everything I want to teach you in life, but these eleven things are so crucial to living a life that will be rewarding no matter what that life might look like, that I wrote them down… for both our sakes. These are eleven ways to live that I hope to pass on to you before I pass on from you. May God help me and you in these eleven things.
Work hard. Whether you are rewarded by other people or not, doing your absolute best and putting everything you’ve got into what you do really is its own reward. Do not allow yourself to be satisfied with doing less than your very best. You not only cheat others, but you also cheat yourself, when your approach to work is to do as little as possible and avoid it like a disease. Do not rob yourself of the joy and satisfaction of doing your absolute best no matter what you do.
Take an interest. Learn to love learning! Interested people are interesting people. Likewise, bored people are boring people. It is way better to be interested and interesting than to be bored and boring. Interesting people have lots to offer other people. Boring people don’t have much at all. No matter what you do, what you learn — and whether you want to do or learn those things or not — get interested and make your life (and the lives of everyone around you) a hundred times richer for it!
Gain a mastery. Find something you want to be good at, grab a hold of it and don’t let go until you have attained a mastery of it. It does not have to be something you are good at it or naturally gifted for. It could be something that is hard for you and that does not come easily. But if you are willing to work hard and take an interest, even if you never attain complete mastery over whatever it is you decide to throw yourself into, I promise you will appreciate it more than you would have ever thought you might and your life will be much richer for it.
Learn new things. Don’t be a one-trick pony. Gain a mastery in more than one thing. Do this by taking an interest in new things, and keep learning and growing until you gain a mastery in that, too. It could be something spiritual, a new discipline, a sport, a musical instrument, a language, a vocation, a hobby, a skill. And it doesn’t have to necessarily be something you are all that interested in at the start. Perhaps you have a friend or a loved one that is has an interest or has gained a mastery in something. Want to appreciate that person in ways you’ve never imagined? Take an interest in something they are interested in, and learn and grow together!
Be a truth teller. Some people pretend to be “truth tellers” when they make ugly remarks about others. They say, “Well, I’m just telling the truth.” But when it comes to admitting their own faults and shortcomings – that is, when it comes to sharing the ugly truths about themselves – they aren’t quite as honest. This world is full of people who manipulate “the truth” to make themselves look better, or who use “truth” as an excuse to make others look bad (usually with the same end goal in mind). Don’t do that. Don’t be that.
Have integrity. Look for the good in others, and don’t compromise or manipulate the truth when it suits you. A person of integrity will stick with the truth even when it hurts them. Someone who can admit that they were wrong or made a huge mistake even – no, especially – when it will cost them, has a character quality that money cannot buy and no one can ever take away. It is called integrity and there just aren’t that many people who have it. Be someone who does. If you have nothing in this life but integrity, I promise you, you have enough.
Make good use of your time. There are SO many ways to waste your time nowadays. But time is the one resource that you can never get back once you have lost it. There are only so many hours in a day and all of your days are numbered. Time is too precious to waste on vain and empty things. We live in a time and place where literally millions of people waste all the time they have doing things of no value. Living to be entertained is a total waste of time. Do something GREAT with the time and the life God has given you. That is what GREAT people do. Do not live to be mediocre. Do not exist to be status quo. Live to be GREAT and you will truly live. Live with purpose (and on purpose) and make your life matter.
Develop good habits. Whether it be what you feed your mind, feed your heart, feed your soul, or feed your body – make it count. Don’t fill your life with nonsense and malnourishment. How you spend your time matters. How you spend you money matters. How you shape your mind matters. How you invest in others matters. Don’t just follow the crowd as you move through life. Find what matters, find what is good, find what is useful, and what develops character, and pattern your life around that. Bad habits are so hard to break, and most if not all of them only promote decay and destruction. AVOID SUCH THINGS!
Be a cheerful giver. This world is full of selfish people… people who only do something to get something better in return, or who live to be entertained (aka, “boring people” – see above). Takers only want what others have, and they don’t want to part with what they already have. But givers are a blessing to everyone who receives from them. Yes, you can give away money and material things, sure. But you can also give away your time, your effort, your presence, and — get this — your interests! That’s right. When you share the knowledge you’ve acquired, a skill that you have mastered, or just something you have taken a true heart-felt interest in, you breathe fresh air into other peoples’ lives. Your interest and excitement over something that is near and dear to your heart can often catch a fire in other people’s lives.
Love others! The most miserable people I know are in the condition that they are in because they have never enlarged their hearts to really love someone else. Selfishness creates a vacuum that not only sucks the life out of other people, but even moreso the life of the one who suffers from it. The people that I have known in this world that felt the most alone were the ones who were the least willing to live beyond their own borders and truly give their hearts and lives away to other people. Yes, really loving people is risky. Yes, it makes you vulnerable. Yes, it can result in heartache. But to tuck your heart away to keep it safe is to bury your talent in the ground. Living to avoid hurt is not living at all. That is the wrong way to play it safe. If you really want to live dangerously, then love others!
Love the Lord! Of all the things that you can learn, know, and be interested in, knowing God in Jesus Christ (in my humble opinion) surpasses them all, and it brings them all together. You can do some, maybe even all of the other things on this list and not know (or love) the Lord. But I can’t. And to be honest, I’m not sure I would want to. Knowing and loving Jesus has not only enabled me to strive for and appreciate the other things I listed here, but it has made them (and everything else in my life) so much sweeter. If there is anyone worth loving, worth working hard for, worth taking an interest in, worth working toward mastery with (and being mastered by), worth being a truth teller and having integrity for, worth giving sacrificially for, and worth loving others for… it is Jesus. For me personally, He is the reason for all of those other things. Whatever else you may do or be in this life, I sincerely hope and pray that you will know the grace of God in Jesus Christ… walk with Him, talk with Him, learn from Him, and be led by Him. As much as I love you, He loves you so much more and so much better than I ever will. So don’t just know about Him. Know Him! And love HIM!!