The saddest thing I think I ever see is an Olympic gymnastic gold medalist.
It’s not because I dislike the sport, on the contrary, it’s usually my favorite to watch out of all Olympic events.
It’s because I look at those prime athletes at the height of physical perfection and pinnacle of international success, and know they’ve hit their top. They’ve maxed out in their field of passion… yet they’re barely into double digits of years of life lived on this Earth.
What will they do? I think to myself, Now that they’ve got the rest of their life to live and it’s all downhill from here?
This is the foil to Henry David Thoreau:
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
What would you prefer, to sing your song too young and live the rest of your life waiting for the next high, or to have your song silenced by the endless eternity of waiting, what ifs, and caution?
It may be silly, to be so introspective, but this is the stuff I think of when I stare at my seven-year-old or analyze the eyelashes hooding my seven-month-old’s eyes.
If I can chart a course for them, what map points are included? Why? What shall I tell them is the point of this thing called life?
Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life settled the question for Christians – our life’s purpose is to glorify God. It’s a lovely big-picture goal but we all know the Devil is in the details.
As a parent, as the primary educator of my children, I want them to know that glory is in the life marathon, not the life sprint.
And I want them to win. I’m a highly competitive person – I can hardly pull up to a stop light without giving the car in the next lane a hard look-see to decide I could take them, if I wanted. I want my kids to be excellent. I want them to know the sweet taste of victory and have a grand sense of pluck, a knowledge that nothing thrown at them in this world has the ability to take them down and out.
But I also want them to lose. To know the sting of failure, and the abject horror of a humiliating loss. I don’t want these sad realities to be distant, hard to grasp, or something they think is reserved for others. They need to be tactile, real, and painful, so they know there are true, natural consequences.
Mostly, though, I want them to have hope that the best is still ahead of them. I want them to have the skill set needed to take an accurate assessment of circumstances and the ingenuity required to make the best of them. I pray they will lead inspiring lives, where words like integrity, compassion, humor, and vivacity come to mind when others hear their names.
Too big a job? Too grand a dream? Perhaps. But it’s not too much to admit I want the same big dreams for my own life, so that my song has been sung before I head to the grave myself.