My 1977 Bowling Team Photo–In case you are wondering, I am second from the left.
This is the second of my series of blog posts on the topic of purpose. Today I am again drawing from my work on my new book, Weak and Indispensable, A Life of Purpose for the Chronically Ill and Their Families, which I hope to complete in the fall of 2017.
I have been a high school math teacher for the past thirty years. It is a career that I am very grateful for, and hope to continue for another five to ten years. Due to my life-long interest in math, on those rare occasions when I am asked about the athletic accomplishments of my youth, most folks assume I was either on the chess team or a member of my school’s math club. Their assumptions are pretty close. I have one varsity sports letter to call my own—in the grand game of bowling. As a high school senior, I shocked everyone (including myself) by finishing seventh in the nine game tryouts. As a result I became seventh man on a seven man team.
Since bowling is a sport where only five players can participate at a time, player number seven is just a smartly dressed team representative among the crowd. As my varsity season began, it became very clear very quickly that I wasn’t ever going to be the “go-to” guy who had to strike to secure our team’s victory. No, usually during the matches my biggest decision was whether or not to go grab a cola before the third game began. When the season concluded, I think I may have bowled a total of seven games in competition. That’s seven out of over a hundred. But, I did get a shirt. I did go on a bunch of bus rides with the team. I did have a great seat watching my teammates compete.
At the end of season banquet I got my varsity letter, but whatever pride I felt at that moment was subdued by the reality of my competitive insignificance. They didn’t need me to win any matches. No one recalled a clutch performance by Michael Robble, because there wasn’t one. I only rolled my bowling ball if our opponent was hopelessly out-matched or if three of our starters were bedridden by an outbreak of the stomach flu.
Sadly today, folks who have a chronic illness or disability can often feel like I did on the bowling team. The confines of disease make it difficult to believe they still have a life of usefulness. Let’s face it—when we see healthy people living active lives, it is all too easy to think we are less important. So the key question of this month’s blog post is this: With all our medical limitations, is it REALLY true that our lives matter to God, our church, and our community?
Well, to find the answer to this question, we must look beyond the constraints of our medical reality. For if true meaningfulness is to be found in health and activity, then millions of people have become bench-warmers in the mission of life. The good news, however, based on the Bible, is that first and foremost, we can know our lives have significance in the Lord’s eyes. How? By getting to know Jesus.
His love for you and me is not based on our accomplishments. It is not based on our ability to do things. Rather, it is based on who He is. The scriptures tell us this: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
If you are feeling like your life has no real significance, make it your goal this month to get to know Jesus. I’d encourage you to read the Gospel of John, and prayerfully ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you. For living a life of purpose begins by knowing the personal love of Christ. He is the one who can transform your soul and bring to you forgiveness, hope and meaning.
Have a blessed holiday season!