Why is it some people that seemingly have it all together suddenly forget where they put it? Why do individuals who appear to “have it made” embark on a path of self-destruction, often taking down friends and family members in the process?
We see it all the time – on T.V., the Internet, newspapers and magazines (for those of us that still read them). Business executives and high-ranking politicians, despite their prominence, influence and huge salaries, experiencing colossal ethical and moral failures. Famed celebrities and professional athletes destroying their lives and careers with drug and alcohol abuse, financial recklessness, violence and boorish behavior.
But you don’t have to be among the rich and famous to experience such personal calamity: The “perfect couple” that ends in a bitter, acrimonious divorce. The pillar of the community who one day crashes and burns in the flames of indiscretion. The pastor whose walk proves unequal to his talk.
Years ago, songstress Peggy Lee had a hit tune with the haunting refrain, “Is that all there is?” Perhaps that’s why the rich and famous – along with the not-so-rich and not-so-famous – often seem so miserable. They’ve achieved lofty goals and realized cherished dreams, but it turns out those weren’t what they expected. Unfulfilled and disillusioned, they too start to wonder, “Is that all there is?”
Recently I saw a video of Francis Chan, a popular preacher and best-selling author (Crazy Love, Multiply) illustrating a key factor in this puzzling phenomenon. In the video, Chan showed his audience a rope that stretched the length of a long stage from which he spoke. He held the end piece of the rope, about three inches long, that had been painted red.
The rope’s entirety, he said, represented the timeline of one’s eternal existence. (In actuality, the rope would have had to be unending, but Chan was making a point.) The three-inch painted segment represented a person’s lifetime on earth. The problem, according to Chan, is we’re living for the wrong thing. “Some of you,” he said, “all you think about is this red part. You’re consumed with this.”
What about the rest, Chan asked? “Everyone lives for the red part. No one’s thinking about the millions of years afterward.”
I think he’s right. What if we viewed earthly life as just a warm-up, and death not as the finish line but as the starting line to a glorious, eternal existence for which this life has been mere preparation?
We see this described in 1 Corinthians 15:51-54, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed…. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed…. Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
That is a distinctive of the Christian faith, the earnest expectation and hope believers have for life after death. As Titus 2:13 states, “while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Most of the time, however, as in Chan’s example, we concentrate all of our attention and effort on the tip of the rope, ignoring the remainder that extends far beyond view. Is it any wonder that even the most accomplished, most esteemed, most successful among us are prone to one day look around themselves and wonder, “It that all there is?”
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.