Thursday, October 04, 2007

The 4th Quarter

We only had 30 minutes to spare. One of my friends was just a few hours away from getting married, and I needed to hurry back to my Mom's house in Columbus to quickly change into civilized clothing and pick up my wife, who by that time was getting dressed up in a quite autumnal silk dress. But I didn't mind the frantic rush. Any time with a mentor is worth the hurry, especially when you only get to see him every few months.

When we walked through the door to his home, we were greeted with warm hugs and the warmer aroma of fresh coffee, a special blend brewed both for taste and frugality, the store-brand stuff spiked with Starbucks. We moseyed back to his home office and plopped down in the three chairs available. Brad and the mentor in the comfy padded rockers faced me in the hard wooden desk chair, and we talked.

With time pressing, we were quick and to the point, but a familiar, rhythmic ease settled over the conversation as it has so many other times while talking with the mentor. At 60, he's old-fashioned, well-versed in cliches and overflowing with analogies and illustrations. I often joke that a person speaking English as a second language could never hope to decipher some of his cryptic idioms. Luckily, English is my native language, and one analogy hit me as we talked about marriage, missions and our respective walks with God.

The mentor spoke of a time of rest, a season in which God is allowing him to transition from ministry as an occupation to ministry as a passion and an overflow of what God is doing within him. God has made it clear to him that as he ages, this short respite is meant for preparation, not to get a taste of retirement.

"I feel like we're coming up on the fourth quarter, guys," he said. "For now, I'm gonna chill out, watch some commercials, visit the concession stand and listen to the cheerleaders. But as soon as I get the game plan, I'm gonna hit it hard until the final buzzer sounds."

When I heard that, I first thought of how odd his philosophy must sound to the rest of the world. The mentor has no pension and no idea what life will bring him next, but he's reached the happiest point of his life, where all things are starting to make sense, and the farthest thing from his mind is lazing his days away in a beach house on the island of insignificance.

Then I remembered this quotation from John Piper's "Don't Waste Your Life":

I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste
your life. Consider a story...which tells about a couple who “took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when
he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda,
Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball
and collect shells.” At first, when I read it I thought it might be
a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn’t. Tragically,
this was the dream: Come to the end of your life—your one and
only precious, God-given life—and let the last great work of your
life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing
softball and collecting shells. Picture them before Christ at the
great day of judgment: “Look, Lord. See my shells.” That is a
tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade
you to embrace that tragic dream. Over against that, I put
my protest: Don’t buy it. Don’t waste your life.
Thank God that he has given me mentors that, like my baseball coach used to say, are "mentally tough, physically tough, and respond when the game's on the line."

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