Deciding How to Live

by | Jun 4, 1999 | Choices, Decision

There was once a young man who, in his youth, professed his desire to become a great writer. When asked to define “great” he said, “I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream, cry, howl in pain and anger!”

He now works for a software company, writing error messages.

Those beautiful dreams we have for the rest of our lives too often don’t materialize. And, again too often, we look back dissatisfied with the direction we took or the place we finally reached.

Frederick Buechner, in his book THE HUNGERING DARK (New York: Seabury Press,1968), talks about looking back at high school yearbooks. He plays a sad game, remembering what all his classmates hoped and dreamed of becoming. “In my class, as in any class, at any school,” he says, “there were students who had a real flair, a real talent, for something. Maybe it was for writing or acting or sports. Maybe it was an interest and a joy in working with people… Sometimes it was just their capacity for being so alive that made you more alive to be with them. Yet now, a good many years later, I have the feeling that more than just a few of them are spending their lives at work in which none of these gifts is being used. This is the sadness of the game….”

Matt Lamb could have been one of those people. Until 1987, Matt owned and ran his own funeral home in Chicago. But that year, a doctor told Matt that he had a fatal disease. So he closed up the funeral home and pursued his true passion, painting.

Soon, Matt’s art drew national attention. He became quite successful. Only after Matt had found success in his dream career did doctors discover that they had misdiagnosed him. He wasn’t going to die after all.

A misdiagnosis may have saved him from a life of meaninglessness. Not that owning one’s own small business is in any way unworthy, But it simply was not Matt’s true passion. In his heart, he wanted to paint, and he would never be truly happy until he pursued that dream, wherever it finally led him.

What does it take to move us to follow our passions? Must we face a crisis before we step off the safe, known path onto the unknown trail of adventure we’ve dreamed of following all our lives?

Singer Joan Baez reminds us: “You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live.” That decision is too important to put off another day.

© 2001 Steve Goodier

Thanks to Life Support


Deciding How to Live