Three Big Questions

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Three Big Questions

It was a balmy Maryland afternoon in June. I was just one of many in the crowd who had come to watch and celebrate as 400 graduating seniors. It’s hard to say something profound in ten minutes, especially when your audience is already thinking far beyond the moment to the parties and gifts waiting for them. But now that I have been married to that Maryland girl for 31 years, I realize that when Darcy speaks, it’s a good idea to listen. She doesn’t waste words nor does she waste your time. What made the moment twice as nice was the fact that a great friend of hers, Paul Sullins, also a Christian, was the salutatorian. Between the two of them, they packed a proverbial wallop. They challenged their fellow graduates to find success in life by making good choices regarding the things that are most important. Paul provided three simple but profound questions. Darcy provided practical applications to support those three questions. After I heard what the questions were, and the combined advice they shared, I realized that all Christians must answer these same questions well if we want to hear our Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” on that final commencement day.marched up to the platform to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance. This class of 1970 had the distinction of being the first to graduate from Southern High School and, as such, had set the standard for every class since then. I was particularly interested in one of the gowned graduates. She had slipped into my life when I was 15 years old and she was just 13. Her older brother and I had come home from lifeguard duty one summer day for lunch. Not being the least bit interested in a friend of her older brother, this girl had fixed us lunch and completely ignored me. On the other hand, I felt that she was impossible to ignore and I told her brother that given a few years his sister might turn out to be something. My prediction was right and in a few years, through God’s divine direction, I had the privilege of praying with her as she accepted Christ as her Savior. This spiritual beginning had turned into a dating relationship and now I was back from college to cheer her on as she gave the Valedictory speech. What’s sad is most graduating high school seniors never ponder these three questions, let alone answer them well, and in the process miss out on the opportunity to grow into stellar adults. I’ve always been amazed at how uncomplicated daily life can be if you simply distill it down to its primary components and then handle those components well. With that in mind, here are those three life-defining questions:

1.What is your mission in life going to be?

Most people get confused when it comes to answering this question because they limit its scope. They either narrow their answers to a particular vocation (doctor, lawyer, Indian chief) or focus on superficial goals that are often merely pitiful ways to fill voids in their personalities. Their mission in life might be a way of compensating for their deep sense of insecurity, insignificance, or inadequacy. These vacuums in their lives are often the source of a lifelong mission to be rich, or famous, or powerful. If pursued long enough, these types of goals show themselves for what they are-counterfeits for a life that truly matters. Obviously, an important part of the answer to this first question has to do with how they maximize their gifts and skills into both a vocation they enjoy and one that benefits others. But it’s got to be bigger than even that. There are lots of people who succeed at well-chosen professions only to feel that their efforts didn’t add up to much at the end of their lives. Young people who answer this question well are those who not only spend their life doing things they enjoy, but also doing things that make an eternal difference. William James said, “The best use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it.” Our lives can have an impact that outlives us-regardless of the profession-if our lives are lived for God and for others. Self-sacrifice tends to age better in the long run than self-indulgence.

2. Who is your mate going to be?

There’s an old saying that says, “You’re either doubled or halved on your wedding day.” It’s true. But since so many young couples approach the altar with somewhat unclear or even questionable objectives, they soon find that what they signed up for is far more (or less) than what they bargained for. In a world fixated on buff and beauty, it’s difficult to get young people to look below the surface to the things that are deeper than skin and bigger than life. These are the things that ultimately determine whether someone has the internal tools to love for a lifetime-tools like integrity, courage, grace, endurance, faith, a strong work ethic, humility, an ‘others’ orientation, and a willingness to assume responsibility for their actions. These qualities don’t simply appear in a person’s life by accident. Usually, they are the determined efforts of parents who were paying attention. So for young people answering this second question, it pays to not only study the acorn, but also the tree from which it fell. It’s the willingness to look past surface beauty to the character in the heart that ultimately decides whether one’s marriage has a prayer.

3.Who is your master going to be?

The undeniable truth that all young people must clearly understand, when it comes to this question, is that they have no option as to whether or not they will be mastered. They only have the option of deciding by whom. No one is the captain of his or her ship or the master of his or her fate. That’s just one of the great poetic deceptions that has made its way through history. Everyone is going to submit to either the power of God or the sinister and seductive power of evil. The former is the creator of the universe, the latter is that snake that snookered Eve in the Garden of Eden and still effectively deludes people into thinking they can live their lives as solo acts-completely in charge of their destiny. It isn’t so, it never has been, and it never will be. I like the way Bob Dylan spoke to this lie in his song, “You Gotta Serve Somebody.” “You may be an ambassador to England or France. You might like to gamble; you might like to dance. You might be the heavyweight champion of the world. You might be a socialite with a long string of pearls, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody. Yeah, you’re gonna have to serve somebody. It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” One of the things that keeps parents from feeling like they can be of much help to their graduate as he or she responds to these questions is the fact that they did such a poor job of answering these three questions themselves. Parents may look at a series of careers that never got off the ground, a marriage that never panned out, or a hit and miss spiritual track record and assume they have lost a voice or a vote in the matter. Nothing could be further from the truth. Don’t sell yourself short when it comes to your ability to help your teenager answer these life questions. If anything, setbacks and mistakes put muscle on the role of mentor and love covers a multitude of mistakes. And just in case you don’t have a graduating senior this year, it’s never too early and it’s never too late to start praying for your children-everyday-that they would make three very good choices in life: what their mission will be, who their mate will be, and who their master will be. God has been faithful to Darcy and me as we have committed these three life-formatting areas to Him and He will be faithful to you and yours as well. ©copyright 2004 Tim kimmel

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