The Psalms tells us that we are granted seventy years in this life, and some eighty (Psalms 90:10). We know that medical science has stretched that a little, and seventy, eighty, or even ninety years seems like a long time. However, as those seven to nine decades compare to eternity, it is like a drop compared to the ocean, or a millimeter compared to the distance it takes to travel to the farthest star. But the reality remains, we’ve got one shot at life; one chance to make a difference; one opportunity to do something eternally meaningful with this one and only life we have been given. I almost frittered mine away.
My first day of football practice before my senior year in high school, a new kid went out for the team. He seemed pretty cool and I am a fairly social person, so we struck up a relationship and it nearly destroyed my life. We’ll call his name Ron.
Ron wasn’t the devil, but I am certain ‘Old Slew Foot’ used him to lead me astray.
From the beginning of my relationship with Ron, my decisions began to become more and more careless. Ron emboldened me to do questionable things, destructive things, illegal things. His way with words seemed to plant seeds of rebellion in my heart. I found myself replacing compliant attitudes in my heart with defiant ones, using words and phrases Ron used to defy people and authority. When a teacher challenged me on something; I would use one of Ron’s cocky phrases to answer him. When I needed to make a wise choice about something, instead a choice Ron would make seemed to be what I would choose.
I had a mind of my own but I found myself feeling more confident in Ron’s mind than my own in many matters.
When I didn’t like something that my basketball coach was doing, I voiced it to Ron. To which he gave me his opinion, which I in turn took to the coach and then quit the team. When I needed to study, Ron always had a better offer. So my grades went south. When baseball season came around my grades were so poor I was unable to participate. When I graduated my grades were in the sewer and college was a virtual impossibility.
But that wasn’t all. Ron didn’t like my girlfriend, the only redeeming part of my life. He felt she took too much of my time…time he wanted to possess. So he was constantly making subtle comments to me that she wasn’t good for me. At a certain point, I believed him and broke up with her.
That was when my life almost self-destructed. I began to use substances regularly just to be accepted and so other students would think me cool; and because Ron was pushing me. I missed classes with regularity, and many times that I did attend, I went impaired. We would get up early, drink enough to get a serious buzz, and then go to class. My senior year of school was mostly a blur.
I recall once when I was with Ron and a few of his friends, they coaxed me to enter a bar that had just closed, through a window that had been left open to look for a friend that was missing. They thought the bar had closed with him in the restroom. Once inside, finding their friend wasn’t there, Ron and his friends began to prod me to break into the cash register. I think I would have done it if a few of the guys we were with hadn’t talked us out of it. When I exited the bar through the same window I entered, and my feet hit the ground, I looked up in time to see a police car cruise by.
Another night, after a late party with friends, the amount of alcohol in my blood had to have exceeded the livable limit, let alone the legal limit. I had my own car and Ron had his. He went home one way and I didn’t. I took a ride. With the utter foolishness in my mind from my drunkenness, I thought it might be fun to see how fast I could get my car going on a straight away. When I hit ninety-five MPH, I saw a flashing light behind me. The cop was corrupt or I would have been thrown in jail and stripped of every privilege I had. He told me I could give him a hundred bucks or have the books thrown at me. I chose the bribe. Later, when sober, I thought…what did I just do?
Was I a puppet? Certainly! However, Ron wasn’t my problem. I was my own problem.
There are a lot of “Ron’s” out there ready to mislead us if we are foolish enough to follow. If I hadn’t been bent toward rebellion, I wouldn’t have been influenced to allow these things to almost shipwreck my life.
What turned me around? Christ Jesus of course! When out of the clutches of Ron, I got back with my girlfriend. I started going to church and at a certain point the message of the Gospel of Christ penetrated my heart and I found His forgiveness. And believe me; His forgiveness is much more pleasant than His wrath which I was calling down upon myself by the way I was living. Three months later, God called me into the ministry. In time I tried to share my faith with my friend, but he laughed it off. Today, word is, he sits in a prison in the Southeast for some serious crime.
Certainly, destructive choices will destroy a life. I have come to discover, however, one doesn’t have to get into criminal activity to squander his or her life. There are voices out there that will capture our wayward-inclined hearts in an effort to lead us away from the truth of God’s Word and plan for our lives…if we will let them. This is clear in Proverbs 14:12: “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.”
Satan would have loved to have killed me, or seriously injured me, or placed me in a prison for enough of my life to make it a bust (John 10:10a). But he is just as pleased if we serve money, or possessions, or prestige, or popularity, or pride, or fame, or religiosity; and do nothing at all with our lives to make them count for Him.
There is an old quip that preachers used to quote with so much regularity it lost its impact. But it is true nonetheless. And I haven’t heard it in a while so maybe it will be fresh to you. “Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
It isn’t hard to squander a life.