Finite Resources

I had occasion recently to speak to our soccer teams.  On my campus the women and men’s soccer teams do much together.  I actually think that is a good idea.  I believe it builds into their programs a brother-sister dynamic.  Each team has a cadre of others who support and uphold them through a long season.  Friendships develop that are healthy and, often, long-term friendships.

I appreciate my involvement in the life of so many athletes.  I was once an athlete and, I suppose, in my mind always will be an athlete.  No doubt, I inflate the stories about how good I was.  Maybe that is the privilege of old age!  I was very average in every sport I played.  But I was able to play and to play is to learn.  I learned so much during the growing up years when I played on teams.

So the coach asked me to come and share some wisdom with the players.  It is easy to agree to do this.  But then, it hits me that I am not sure I have any wisdom to share.  And if perchance I have some wisdom, I am not at all clear an eighteen or twenty-year old wants to sit and listen to me.  I recognize we are on the same college campus, but the world of an eighteen year old is very different than my world.

I thought and pondered for a little while.  An idea came to me.  For me it is a spiritual idea---a spiritual theme.  I am not sure it is for them.  And I did not couch it as a spiritual issue, but I would like to pursue it as a spiritual theme in this inspirational piece.  I decided to talk about what I labeled as a finite resource.  I did not spend time defining the word, finite.  Maybe I should because so often college students do not have a very good vocabulary.  They probably have a better chance of understanding the word, infinite, than the idea of finite.  But I forged ahead to talk about finite resource.

When I used that phrase, “finite resource,” they had no clue what I might mean.  So I told them: the finite resource is time.  We are all participating in using up that finite resource.  I have less of that finite resource left than they do.  In fact, they are still so young, they don’t even think about it as finite.  Maybe at eighteen, life does seem nearly infinite.   But it is not!

Time is our common word to describe this finite resource.  We note it, we measure it, we value it and, too often, waste it.  It is odd the way humans talk about this finite resource and how we “spend” it.  Sometimes we even “kill” it!  As I begin to think about it with the various ways we describe it, I get the sense that it is a spiritual issue.

In the first place it is spiritual because it is gift---a pure gift.  I did not cause myself to come into being.  I don’t create the gift of this day and the life I still have.  And I cannot create tomorrow, nor can I prevent tomorrow.  I can capture today on film or a snapshot, but I cannot stop time.  Because I recognize it as a gift---a gift of God the way I understand it---I can learn to say “thank you” for the gift.

I have been graced with this day and I say gracias---thanks.  My deal is just like the deal everyone on the planet gets with the resource of time.  My day lasts twenty-four hours.  The same is true for some guy in China and a woman in Egypt.  Knowing it is a finite resource leads me to want to treasure the gift I have been given and do something special with it.  I don’t want to waste the gift and squander the finite resource.

I figure if God is going to gift me with this day---with time---the second thing I can do is accept the gift and do something special with it.  When I say special, I don’t mean it has to be spectacular.  On most days I am not capable nor do I have the opportunity to be spectacular.  But I can make it special.  A couple ways I try to do this is through ministry and through service.

In my understanding everyone is capable of ministry.  We do not have to be ordained to minister to people.  Most of my ministry is very simple.  I am a good listener.  That is a ministry.  I am an encourager and supporter.  That is an effective form of ministry.  It does not have to be spectacular nor does it require a theological education.  Anyone can do it.  But it is a choice and needs to be executed---it needs to be an action.

The other way I try to live out the gift of my time is through service.  One way of thinking about service is to see it as an action of giving yourself away.  Through service you become a gift to someone else.  Paradoxically the gift of time that you were given turns into the gift of you giving someone else something special.  Again, it does not have to be spectacular.  Almost nothing in my service is spectacular.  In fact, it is remarkably non-spectacular.  It is made up of countless little actions.  But together they add up to a satisfying life.

And maybe that is the point as we deal with our finite resource---time.  Being alive means we inevitably are using up the resource.  The real question is whether we can do it in a meaningful and purposeful fashion.  Are we living a life worth living?  And one sure way to tell that is to ask ourselves whether our life is a satisfying life.  I am working on it.  That is my spiritual journey.

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