What counts more- a lifetime full of great experiences or a lifetime of steady faithfulness? Think about that for a moment. What’s your gut reaction? I’m guessing that, like me, you’d be more inclined toward the abundance of great moments. Let me illustrate.
A few years ago, my wife gave me a great surprise birthday present- the chance to skydive! This is a gift you give someone that thinks jumping out of a perfectly good airplane seems like a lot of fun- and I, fortunately, am one of those people. So, after harnessing up, we (the pilot, my parachute-wearing partner Storm- yes, that’s right, Storm- I’m not making this up) ascended to 12,000 feet and the side door was opened. Storm instructed me to kneel next to the open door, which seemed like the only appropriate posture at that moment. As I looked down on 12,000 feet of empty air, heart pounding with adrenaline and fear, I distinctly remember thinking, “Am I ready to die? Cause if that parachute doesn’t open, I’ve got about 2 minutes left on this planet. Am I really ready to die?” I talked to Jesus: “I know you died for my sins, I trust you with my life, I love you!” And I thought- very rapidly- about my life. How fortunate I’ve been. An amazing wife and kids. Lots of joy, laughter, and memories. Getting to travel to many places in the world, leading trips that served and (hopefully) blessed others in the name of Jesus. So much to be thankful for- I’ve had a full life. So many- here it is- experiences. And then we jumped.
Everything went well- clearly, or someone else would be writing this post. And I get to add that one to the accumulation of moments I’ve been privileged to live. But it brings me back to the original question- what counts more- the stockpiling of experiences or the trail worn smooth with the footsteps of faithfulness?
I’ve been reading a book called The Trouble with Paris by Mark Sayers. In it, he describes our current reality: an “experience economy”, where what counts most isn’t your job title or bank balance, but the uniqueness and abundance of your experiences. It’s not about what you’ve accomplished, but what you did last weekend, last summer, or last night. Life is measured in moments that can be shared (Facebook), tweeted, or captured (and tagged) by your iPhone. This isn’t just a way we market vacation spots, it’s how we sell cars, clothes, even soda. The current tagline for Coke? “Open happiness.” It’s not a beverage, it’s an experience of joy.
So what’s wrong with that? Are experiences bad? Shouldn’t we live life to the fullest? Or am I advocating instead that we trudge along with our heads down and noses to the grindstone? No. Not at all.
But there is a danger in chasing experiences. Like a drug, we’ll find ourselves needing more, newer, and different—if that’s what we’re going after. And they’ll fail to satisfy, so we’ll keep looking for something more, which our culture is happy to churn out for our continued consumption.
Contrast that with a life of faithful devotion. Serving God. Serving your spouse. Your family. Your neighbors- locally and beyond. Following Jesus, step by step, day after day, month after month, year after year. It’s not sexy. Hard to capture in a post or a tweet or status update. Can you imagine- “Seeking to follow God today. Plan to do the same thing tomorrow. And the next day….” Who’s gonna follow or friend that person? Apparently, Jesus does. He’s told us that He’ll be doing His own evaluating of our lives when we stand before Him one day. And He uses 2 words to describe the kind of life He’s most pleased with. Good and Faithful. Good- not our own goodness, but the kind that He gives to us. And the other word? Faithful. Steady, plodding, consistent. One foot in front of the other. Following Him day after day.
Make no mistake- a life of faithful obedience will have no shortage of amazing experiences. Read the book of Acts- plenty of excitement there. But those folks weren’t chasing experiences, they were following Jesus. Most of them didn’t get their names mentioned or stories written- at least for our benefit. But they did join the ranks of the crowd in Hebrews 11-12- a “cloud of witnesses” marked by- there it is- faithful obedience. And they got to hear Jesus say those remarkable words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I hope that I’ll get to hear them, too.