I don’t have any children yet, but I really want them. Given the circumstances of my life, I might never have any. I’m told that having the right woman agree to be the mother of your children is one of the prerequisites — and that part is beyond my control.
The closest things I’ve had to kids have been my nieces, Katherine and Anna, and my animals, too numerous to mention by name. (The picture above is about four years old. Anna’s the one on the left with the huge grin. The picture below is Anna with me at the Birmingham Zoo.) They live three hours from me, so I don’t see them as often as I’d like, but I love them very much and I’m proud of them. They’re wonderful girls.
Still, I’d like to have my own family. I bring this up partly because the subject of children and family keeps coming up in my life lately, but also because I was thinking about something related to it over the weekend.
Some people live almost purely for the material world and to experience the sensations the physical world offers. They’re mostly interested in wealth, status, power, ego and their material place in the world. Other people — although fewer than ever — live almost purely for a world of spirit or meaning or love. These people are mostly interested in experiencing God or understanding why they’re here or finding purpose through loving and serving others.
Most of us are somewhere in the middle, but it seems that even though the reality of our lives is some combination of the two, most people tend to identify with one world or the other — and they keep the two in separate “boxes” in their minds, as though the two are mutually exclusive. I’d like to suggest that it’s more reasonable to integrate the two words instead.
Most of what we talk about here is about ideas and principles and power and rights and money. Every one of those is a very important part of this physical world. For as long as we’re on this Earth, those things will matter. Even for those of us who are Christians (or believe in some other kind of afterlife), there’s no reasonable way to set aside the importance of many things in this world. To do so would go against the vast bulk of Christian and Jewish history. More than anything, it would be a very Gnostic thing to do.
But there are things ultimately more important than any of the material things of the world. I want money and I want freedom and I want a place to live and grow with other people. But more than anything, I want to love and be loved. I want to do things of lasting value that will be meaningful to other people after my death. And I want to live in a way consistent with my faith in God. He didn’t put me in just one world or the other. He made me a spiritual creature and a physical creature. I want to integrate those in ways that will cause God to one day say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I’d like to be able to accumulate money and power over time, but it’s not necessarily to live like a king or be better than anyone else. I want those things because they’re the tools that work in this world to build things that last over time. They don’t endure beyond this world, but if they’re used properly, they can make this world a better place for future generations. When I talk about freedom and a safe place to live, it’s not just for us. It’s for the generations that come after us, too.
When I die, I hope I’ll be able to know that I was the “good and faithful servant” who multiplied his earthly talents, because I want to leave the world a materially better place for others. But when that time comes, I don’t want to be surrounded by stacks of gold or nice essays or even books and films I might have written. By that point, those things won’t matter to me.
I’ll want to know that I’m loved by the people I’m leaving behind. I’ll want to know that I’ve loved — honestly loved — all that I’m capable of. I’ll want to know I’ve made the best of this world that I could and that I’ve been faithful to what I believe God has called me to be. If I do that, I can die a happy man.