I know of a man who choose to spend twelve years of his life in prison. His offense? Preaching without a government issued license. All he had to do to get out was agree not to preach - something that very few people do regularly. Then he would have been free. But this man refused to stop, and so he sat in a jail cell for twelve long years.
When you look at his life, it's hard not to think "What a waste!". To be stuck in one room, cut off from all that is useful and living. All of that time when he could have been free, doing good, making an impact in his world! But there he sat. How sad! A wasted life.
At least, that's how it appears until you know the name of the man: John Bunyan. His book Pilgrim's Progress is counted as one of the greatest and most influential pieces of English literature, and it has never been out of print. I've been listening to an unabridged version on CD, and not only have I found myself being sucked in to the drama and humor of a very imaginative story, I've also been challenged and encouraged! Despite what it looked like at the time, despite what people must have said and thought and told him, his life was not a waste. John Bunyan has touched billions of people from over 200 different language groups, many of them, like me, living more than 300 years after his death!
I've been thinking about some of the things that our culture views as a waste. Putting God first in singleness. Being an excellent wife. Staying at home to train your children. All these things are looked down upon as a waste of time and talent.
Singleness, according to popular culture, is supposed to be a time of "freedom". Surely you'll want to earn lots of money to spend on fancy toys for yourself and enjoy these years of playing around, because you deserve it. Making the kingdom of God your priority in how you use your time, how you spend your money, and how you invest your talents and energy is seen as a waste. Yet if people are, as the Bible says, eternal beings, then any impact on just one of them is the chance to change not only the immediate future, but to change eternity.
You hear a lot encouraging woman to build careers, gain power and realize dreams, but not very much about being an outstanding helper to their husbands. Not surprisingly, our country is full of shattered marriages and broken homes. Yet investing in a lasting marriage brings better physical and mental health to the couple, as well as benefiting the community, nation, and, interestingly enough, the environment. Being a full time, stay-at-home mom is frowned upon at the same time as our nation experiences a record number of profoundly disturbed and hopeless youth. But what job could be more valuable than the shaping of an eternally immortal being?
Some things that are seen as a waste can actually lead to the most far reaching impact. Perhaps this has all been on my mind because it ties into the verse I've been memorizing this week.
"Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever looses his life, for My sake, he is the one who will find it." - Jesus in Luke 9:24
If God is calling us to something through His word, no matter what others say, you can be pretty sure it won't be a waste.