Live Like You Were Dying (a confession)

My church (FSBC Lawrence, KS) is beginning a new spiritual campaign. Building off the popular song by Tim McGraw, we’re asking ourselves “What would we do if we learned we had only 30 days to live?”
I have found myself inspired by this question. For 2 months I’ve prepared for the campaign and in my review of the studies, I recognized how often I take this life for granted. Days pass and weeks, where I put off the things that matter most, in the name of working harder. It seems valiant sometimes for ministers to sacrifice for the sake of their churches. Some churches have even come to expect it, having become accustomed to pastors who have given more than should be expected. But this blog isn’t about churches expectations on pastors. It’s about pastors unrealistic expectations on themselves. Or, to be more specific, this pastor of worship’s unrealistic expectations on himself.

I’ll say upfront that I’m much better than I used to be. There was a time when I felt guilty when taking a vacation. If I sat down to read a fiction novel I would get a pain in my gut because I wasn’t using my time to study. It was difficult for me to enjoy my time with my kids, though I loved them very much. During this time I poured myself into my job and wrongfully looked for approval from the church I served only to be disappointed over and over again.

I hid my disappointments from my wife and glued a fake smile on my face for my kids. This robbed Mel of the calling God had given her – supporting a husband in ministry. Being robbed of the opportunity to fulfill one of her callings was discouraging to her and made our marriage strain. My kids, I’m sure saw me more as worship pastor than as dad, and that is a mistake I can never undo.

My upside-down paradigm of leadership (work harder, longer – neglect family and self) also lead to professional frustration. I’m sure that most of my failings came not from lack of work, but rather from a lack of balance. It is not possible to be successful in ministry following a set of rules that are out of balance with God’s grace.

No one on their death bed ever says “I wish I would have made more money.” or “I wish I would have spent more hours at work and less with family.” On the contrary, more regret spending so little time with family or regret the selfishness of their lives. Ty Cobb, who achieved wealth and fame said this at the end of his life; “I wish I had more friends.” only 3 baseball players attended his funeral in 1961.

God has, more than once, brought it to my attention that, most of the time, I’m not the father, husband or Christ follower that I should be. Jesus died so that my life would be more than this. Why have I allowed status quo? Why have I bought into the “do more/try harder” nomenclature?

Father, help me stand secure in your grace. It is enough. My pride and insecurity lead me down a path of guilt. I feel guilty when I don’t produce the result I think I should, but you have simply called me to be faithful. I trust you for results that fit your plans. I will be faithful. I become defensive when I look to satisfy my insecurity with achievement or adulation from others. Help me to find all the security I need at the foot of your cross. It is enough. Help me to be humble enough to forgive others and courageous enough to seek forgiveness.

What does it mean to you do “Live Like You Were Dying?” In what ways do you want to see more of Jesus in the way you live? Please leave comments below.

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4 responses to “Live Like You Were Dying (a confession)

  • David Manner

    Alden, Great comments! You are right on point with this. I am glad you got this before your kids were gone because you can't ever get that time back. If we ever get God, family, and then ministry out of order we will fail. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Alden Schoeneberg

    Thanks David. I'm learning slowly too. I know that a lot of men and women in ministry are way to hard on themselves. And some churches play right into that tendensy. It's silly to think that God would bless my work while I live in disobedience by stealing time from my family. I'm afraid it just isn't a very Biblical strategy for leadership.

  • Geoff

    Hey Alden, powerful stuff. It really does make you think of what's really "important" in life; not to mention how we choose to prioritize it all. God has put Melanie and your beautiful children in your life so that they can not only enjoy you in their lives, but them in yours. God gave us this beautiful "Gift" of life" and he wants us to live it to the fullest and enjoy all His treasures he's given us. I love how God is using you in your life right now and look forward to where he'll take you.

  • Alden Schoeneberg

    Geoff, there are so many treasures God has given. Most of them we find when we give our lives away – serving God, serving our family, serving others and keeping it all in balance. I've witnessed this in your lives too. This is what "Live Like You Were Dying" is all about. *Speak Sweeter*Love Deeper*Give Forgiveness*Embrace Eternity

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