I was looking at pictures from ten years ago. I wondered what I did with my life the last ten years. It went fast. I did many things. Did I live well or fritter my life? We might wonder what criteria we can use to know if we lived life well.
Someone might say, “The definition of a life well-lived is arbitrary. It depends on where and when a person lives. A life well-lived to a Nebraskan farmer in 1900 is different than a New Yorker in the financial district in 2017."
But, if we judge the fruitfulness of our life by the opinions of the day we cannot really be sure if we lived life well. I think we can know what a life well lived looks like because we know what God says it looks like, and because we have Jesus to look at.
There are timeless and universal characteristics of a life-well lived, like honesty and generosity. Christians say a life well-lived includes the classic virtues, but also particular ones about faith in God. Christians say exuding virtues, no matter the quantity, need infused with faith in Jesus, because we cannot live life well enough on our own.
Here are some characteristics of a life well-lived.
1) Identify those you judge. Maybe it’s people on welfare or farmers, Democrats or Republicans. Expose yourself to them. Think more highly of them. This will lower your blood pressure and fulfill Jesus’ command.
2) When you throw or kick something make it innate objects.
3) Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
4) Remember people did not choose their parents. People are largely products of circumstances they did not choose. Be merciful.
5) Be faithful to your job, hobby, spouse, friends, family and the person in front of you.
6) Be open with your struggles. Empathize with others. Sympathize with those who have struggles vastly different than yours.
7) Help those who ask for help. Give to those who ask to borrow.
8) Appreciate little things like the sky and trees in your neighborhood, not just the big things like the Grand Canyon. Then go see the Grand Canyon.
9) Read the scriptures for encouragement. Read them because you are hungry not because you are devout. Read them not because you are smart but because you are not.
10) Treat the janitor like the CEO, not because you think you should but because you believe they are equally important.
11) Be of single mind. "Purity of heart is to will one thing." (Soren Kierkegaard)
12) Take an interest in the interests of others. We have a lot to learn. Everyone is a teacher.
13) Wrestle with God. Endeavor to understand God. Be willing to let Him shock us. Find God disagreeable. If we do not that is a sign we created God in our image. We don’t need a God like us. We need a God unlike us.
14) Identify what you envy and your jealousies. Work on them not dictating how you live. Identify your bitterness, call it what it is. See a counselor or spiritual director.
15) Be motivated by the fact that God already loved us, accepted us and justified us, rather than trying to earn love, acceptance and justification. Remember that grace is undeserved.
16) Sing to God. Be thankful you know who and how to praise. Sing silent songs too.
17) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…and Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31)
18) Acknowledge our advantages and use them to help those who do not have them.
19) Be humble. Don’t act tougher than you are. Go to God in your weakness and neediness. Ask God to enter your angst. Admit your fickleness. Remember your smallness and God’s bigness. Ask God to remember that too.
20) Be a peacemaker.
21) Believe in the one God sent.
Note the latitude those characteristics allow. We can live life well as an attorney or homeless person. God does not stake the fruitfulness of our lives on income, career, skin color and social standing.
Imagine your pile of exertion. Picture all the ways you live. Like our Maker we are makers. We want to look back at the life we made and see that is was very good. God help us.
*Painting is "Evening Swell" by George Bellows.