When I was younger, I couldn’t wait for my birthday. My family didn’t have much, so I never received many gifts, I don’t even remember ever having a party, but I looked forward to being a year older. It was exciting. Each candle indicated I was becoming a man with new adventures on the horizon as I became independent. No dream was too big because I had youth on my side. I had all the time in the world to accomplish it. But not that I’ve grown older and have matured, each birthday candle makes me reflect on my life and I can’t help but think of how I’ve wasted my life in those years. The sad truth is most of us will waste our lives and not live it to the fullest, some not even remotely close. But what does it actually mean to waste your life and why does it haunt us?
I typically tend to reflect on my life while drinking coffee and I’d be lying if I said I’m not haunted by the idea that I’ve wasted or am wasting my life. Life is short and that shortness really begins to hit home each time we see a candle added to our cake. While we are counting the years up, death is counting down to the moment we don’t have any candles left and our time is up on this earth. It’s a sobering thought, but it’s reality. And it’s a terrifying one that we are reminded of with each passing year, especially if we feel as if we haven’t lived life to the fullest.
What does it mean to waste your life? Is a meaningful life measured by the amount of financial success we’ve had? How many children? How any trips we’ve taken,the amount of friends we have, or if we own a home or have a good career? While I understand that this is a question with subjective answers, I’d say that we can easily rule out material things as a measure of if we’ve wasted our life or not. Jesus said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but to lose his soul?” and “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Material things are a poor measure of a meaningful life lived to it’s fullest. Even the rich, powerful, happily married, etc. can feel they are wasting their lives, so what is it that causes us to feel this way?
Me personally, I ask myself a few specific questions to help me see if I’m wasting my life at the moment or not:
- Am I working towards a goal or am I doing nothing? When we do nothing, our mind lacks stimulation, but we’re creatures who crave it. Without it, we’re wasting time.
- Am I enjoying the journey towards fulfilling that dream or goal or am I apathetic towards it, or worse yet, hate it? Simply put, if you’re not happy, you’re wasting your time.
- Am I growing as a person mentally and spiritually and am I the same as I was the year before? This is important. Everything you do you should be growing. If you’re the same this year as you were the last, you’re wasting your life away.
- Am I helping others along the way? In your journey to reach your goals and dreams, are you helping others reach theirs? Is it making an impact on someone else? This could be as grand as sharing the gospel of Jesus or as seemingly small as learning to play three chords and on guitar to play a song for someone you love or even helping a homeless man with a meal on your dream vacation in Athens. It’s up to you.
Are you working towards a goal that makes you happy? Are you enjoying the journey towards fulfilling that dream? And are you growing as a person mentally and spiritually? And lastly, are you helping others along the way? It’s when are haunted by the thought that we are wasting our life that we need to reflect on our hopes, dream, goals, and priorities. I hope whatever you find on your reflection, that this time next year, you’ve grown in some way.