This month’s guest post for the Live Like It Matters Challenge is by Roger Martin. I’ve known him and his wife for 35 years. They’re family because his brother married my sister. More than that, they’re precious friends. He published his first book called Partly Wrong: Admit It. Embrace It. Live It., which I highly recommend, and does a daily Facebook live on hot topics. He blogs at More Conversations That Matter.
His challenge to us is really what it’s all about.
Live Like It Matters….But What’s the It?
by Roger Martin
As a kid, I loved awards. There’s something about being noticed, recognized or affirmed. As a soccer player, I attended our high school’s athletic awards ceremony. With each announced award, I hoped my name would be called. This was comical because…well, because I sucked at soccer. Most improved player, perhaps? But that would’ve required actual improvement. Best ball boy? I had a running chance, but there was no such award–a colossal oversight.
However, there were occasions when I did receive awards, and I remember them all. An Optometrist Club prize for a speech I gave. First runner up for camper of the week (narrowly edged out by a blind piano player). Member of the top Bible Quiz team. I recall the trophy or certificate or plaque.
Perhaps it’s why I recently noticed a plaque on the wall of an old school building in town. It honored an educator who’d long since died but merited a memorial that would remind people of him years later. It moved me. One day, I’ll die too, and I thought about what might be on my plaque on some lonely brick wall. About what I’d be remembered for. About what I wanted to be remembered for. About what really mattered.
And here I am, writing a guest post for my friend, Marie, on her blog: Live Like It Matters. So, what’s the it that matters? Oversimplified, it’s God and people. Jesus said that the most important thing in all the world is to love God with all your heart and to love people like you do yourself. Do for others out of your love for God. Serve people. It’s why Jesus Himself came to our planet. To serve. In my best moments, I want my plaque to read: He served people.
In my lesser moments, I want the plaque to read: He was applauded…by lots of people. The persistent rival of serving is celebrity. I’ve felt this pull my entire life, the desire to be discovered by the masses. I once submitted one of my own messages to Christianity Today in hopes of having it chosen as their feature monthly message sent out to pastors nationwide. Ouch. Today, I still feel the pull that some book or blog or video of mine might do the viral or bestseller thing. Serving is about me noticing people; celebrity is about people noticing me, and I like that.
Mind you, wanting to be noticed, appreciated or affirmed isn’t unhealthy. God made us to enjoy “well done.” The desire for praise isn’t a bad thing unless it becomes THE thing. When celebrity is more important than serving. When the plaque is more important than the person. Which brings me to a fascinating thing the Bible says about plaques and people. The Apostle Paul writes to a small church he had helped to start years earlier:
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 1 Thess 2:19 (NIV)
A crown meant something to Paul’s listeners. In the ancient Olympic Games, the winner of an event was given a crown—an olive branch wreath placed on the head of the champion. The crown was the medal, the trophy, the plaque. Do you see what Paul is saying? His plaque was the transformed lives of people. People weren’t the means to his plaque. They were the plaque.
You may recall the movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus. [Spoiler Alert]. Glenn Holland had the dream of writing a symphonic masterpiece, an opus that would make him famous, but life had other plans. Young and desperate for income, he takes a temporary school position, teaching music, so he can eventually focus on his opus. One teaching year turns into 10 and then 30 and leads eventually to a forced retirement in the tiny town he never left. Walking into the school auditorium one final time, he’s shocked to find it full of students he’d taught over 40 years, who stand and cheer as he enters. Moments later, when the applause finally dies, the MC—a former student of his–acknowledges the obvious: Mr Holland never became famous outside of their little town, but then she implores Glenn to look around at all the people he has served as she tells him: “We are your symphony…the music of your life.”
The most precious “well done” we’ll ever hope to hear is from Jesus Himself, but the plaque of our lives is the people who’ve been touched by the grace of God through us. It’s the people we’ve nudged more toward Jesus, the people we’ve encouraged, taught, prayed for, fought for, visited, warned, supported, refreshed, fed, welcomed, befriended, forgiven, embraced, defended, stayed up all night with, and not given up on. Our joy isn’t from their applause. Our joy is in them and a God Who somehow managed to pour His grace into their lives through us. As we served.
So, live today like it matters.