So, I turned 43 today.
If you are a recent visitor to my FAULKERSON FOCUS blog, you're probably saying, "And?".
I don't blame you for begging the question. Many of you don't know me from Adam. But to all those individuals who wished me a Happy Birthday this weekend, I say thank you. Your birthday wishes are welcomed and appreciated.
I thank God every day for what he has allowed me to accomplish in the 43 years I've been on this planet. I tend to think I exceeded my parents' expectations by first graduating from high school and college to put myself in a position to make money through legitimate means. And I have been blessed to marry the love of my life. This love affair with my special lady has been going strong for almost 18 years, withstanding the occasional storms that plague every relationship. Moreover, I have been blessed with the privilege of being a father to our seven-year-old son.
Please know, however, that I wasn't always comfortable with embracing the numeric. If anything, it scared the living daylights out of me. With 75 being the average life expectancy for human beings, I found myself fearing that day when my physical body would be buried six feet under with my ancestors. I also harbored a preoccupation with my inability to transform my dreams into reality.
As a writer, I have yet to publish a book, article or essay that captures a major award. And, as a former collegiate long jumper, I never claimed the SEC, NCAA and Olympic titles that I coveted. There was a time when the full weight of this reality hit me like a ton of bricks. But no more. I am now able to recognize that the bricks are created by me, and, consequently, I have the power to order them rather than subject myself to further abuse.
The dream to be an award-winning writer of fiction and nonfiction continues to be alive and well. But I have since learned that you can't stop living your life while pursuing the dream. You also cannot base your success as a man (or woman) on a singular dream. In the final analysis, we human beings are going to be judged by the love in our hearts, and what this same love motivates us to do in obedience to God and in service to others.
Don't get me wrong; I haven't cornered the market on obedience and service. I continue to be one of the most selfish men on the planet, just ask my wife and son. They know the real Jeffery, the man who at times can get so caught up in his thoughts and emotions that he is oblivious to the turmoil and strife around him. Much of this behavior has everything to do with past and present experiences. But it also has something to do with my quest to find a purpose for my existence.
Like many of you, I want to make a difference in the world. I don't want to reach my 100th year only to be deflated emotionally by the fact that I didn't say or do anything to positively impact other people's lives. The Holy Bible reminds us that human beings exist to provide support and companionship to those around us.
That is why I feel sad when I hear about the disadvantaged children who are being left behind in the American public educational system, the wars being waged in foreign lands, and the families that are being torn apart because the parties involved choose selfishness over selflessness. We human beings will undoubtedly have our differences of opinion, but we should be bonded together by the fact that we only have one life to live, one world to share.
There are some who think the world is going to Hell in a hand basket. At times, I agree. But is our destination predicated on a prophecy, or are too few of us exercising the common sense that cultivates a desire to be philanthropic?
I believe the desire to be philanthropic is part of our genetic makeup. The problem seems to be that so many of us shun our philanthropic natures, seemingly blinded by personal ambition. The world - its norms, values and mores - has convinced us that we must get ours while the getting is good. But shouldn't our lives be less about the getting, more about the giving?
I'm a fan of Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston Texas. During a recent sermon that I listened to on my iPod, he reminded his listeners that "God takes pleasure in the prosperity of his people." He continues, declaring that we Christians should wear our blessings well, not allow the naysayers to beat us down because we're prospering under the veil of God's favor.
Wearing our blessings well is a must for born-again Christians in this day and age. But we also must guard our hearts. There was a reason Jesus told the rich man that he must give up his possessions if he wanted to be saved. Christ knew that the love of money (or time, talent and/or treasure) is the root of all evil. If we don't guard our hearts, then we will be tempted to believe our blessings result solely from our own efforts and not because God presented us with opportunities to take hold of them.
When I reach my 100th year, I want the people I leave behind to know that I woke up each day trying to pour the essence of my Christian character into my wife and son, and those persons willing to accept my brand of philanthropy. That doesn't mean I have to emulate multimillionaires Bob Johnson, Warren Buffet or Bill Gates. It just means I must be willing to tell others how to strengthen their relational ties with Jesus Christ. Yes, there will be times when we will be afraid, at a loss for words, but please know that God will provide the confidence and courage we need to speak truth into other people's lives. He will also give us the foresight and wisdom we need when pouring a portion of our time, talent and treasure into these same lives.
What do you think? In your quest to embrace the numeric, have you learned how to lose what you have gained?
I look forward to reading your responses.