It’s a fascinating thing to politely ask elderly people what they would have done differently if they were my age again. Their answers vary, but one that I’ve heard repeatedly is, “I wouldn’t have wasted so much time.”
The truth behind life, it seems, is that it goes by a lot quicker than we realize. In fact, you don’t realize how quickly it goes by until it’s nearly over, then you find yourself face to face with the questions, “…Did I give it my all? What did I live for?” That can be either a very joyful or very painful moment at the end of your life.
So here’s the advice. The reflection of our elders is that they wouldn’t have wasted so much time.
I would submit to you that by focusing on that which is most important, you will not be wasting time.
If you don’t have love, you have nothing at all. God, I want to live with intentionality. The question at the end of my life therefore will not be, “Have I arrived at a conclusion on every controversial topic?” or even, “Do I know my Bible from cover to cover?” No. In Retrospect, the questions will be, “have I grown proficient in love? Can I operate in love for a full 24 hours? Can I love God and love man? Can I love well?”
Running after everything else is making yourself out to be a marionette, a puppet on a string constantly on the move yet getting nowhere. What convinces the world that we are His disciples isn’t clever arguments… it’s love (John 13:35). Therefore, become skilled in practicing love in all situations.
This may seem like a cop-out answer to some, but it is only a cop out answer if your trying to puff yourself up and prove yourself by your knowledge (see 1 Corinthians 8:1).
Loving well irrespective of how others treat you is insurmountable. To love well is more important than quipping wittily or speaking elegantly. The last thing I want to become is a person with a huge amount of Bible knowledge but no capacity to love.
So this is how you don’t waste time: by realizing that showing love to the other person is more important than proving yourself right. Chew on that one for a while; you’ll have ample opportunities to practice it throughout life.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
~1 Corinthians 13~