(This week is the sixth installment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates a parable about seeing things as they really are. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)
You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration.
(Nineteenth-century British inspirational and self-help writer)
Lunch period was just about over, and the students were gradually collecting in my classroom. Jack, Oscar, and Finley were hunched over a smartphone in rapt attention. Oohs and ahhs erupted from them every few seconds, along with a little jumping up and down.
“What game are you boys playing?” I asked.
“It’s called Fortnite, Mr. Lee. It’s soooo awesome! You should try it.”
This was my ninth-grade health/religion class. One of the most amusing things about students at this age is their ability to morph between children and adults. They’re not really either. One moment they will talk to you like mature, responsible adults; the next they are on the floor, playing with little cars or punching little imaginary buttons on a small piece of metal and glass (aka a smartphone) and giggling like toddlers.
Since the class was about to begin, it gave me a beautiful segue into an impromptu lesson—a Mr. Lee mini homily.
“Oscar, if you were to get run over on the way home from school today, with your brains splattered all over the road (boys love that kind of imagery), would you be glad you spent your last few minutes in this world playing a video game?”
I was sort of afraid of the answer but figured I could run with it either way.
“Yeah, you bet I would!”
Of course, Oscar was so wrapped up in his video game he wasn’t thinking about his life. Addressing everyone, I said, “God gives us time. Time is the great equalizer in life. Everyone gets twenty-four hours in each day. You get to decide how you use your time. That determines your outcomes in life—what and who you become. Life is about becoming. It’s not about what you get—how much material wealth you acquire. Life is really about what you give. We become what we give. If you give love, you will become loving. If you give justice, you will become just. Likely, the most important question in your life is ‘How do I use my time?’”
“Oh yes!” It was Jack’s voice.
I smiled and turned to look at him, only to discover it was a response to his video game success, not to my speech.
“Class has started. Put away your phone,” I bellowed. Recomposing myself, I carried on.
“So decide what and who you want to become in this life. Then you’ll know how to use your time. Activities that take you toward your goals—toward becoming the person you want to be—are important, even crucial. Everything else is unimportant, even trivial. Do more of the crucial and less of the trivial. Most of you waste half your lives on trivialities—on things that cannot change your lives in any meaningful way.
“For example, the average teenager spends enough time in front of a screen every week (about thirty hours, according to the research) to do amazing things. If you used that time differently, you could learn a musical instrument and join the band, and get the best marks in your class because you’d always do your homework, and take up a new sport, and improve your overall cognitive functioning (that is, get smarter). You are giving up all of this because of the time you waste on your phone, tablet, or in front of the TV or computer. You are wasting your precious, limited time on trivialities. This gift that God gives you, you throw it away.
“The spirit is crucial—the material is trivial. Not that you should ignore material things completely. After all, we live in a material body in a material world. We have to take care of these things. But most of us have our priorities backward—we put material things first, while spiritual things are an afterthought. It should be the other way around.
“Some of the things I think are crucial and we need to do more of include: meaningful work (including schoolwork), learning about almost anything useful, sunshine and fresh air in nature, preparing and eating healthy food, meaningful interactions with others (face-to-face and not through some electronic medium), physical exercise, pursuing worthwhile goals, helping others, and making our community a better place. These things do have the capacity to change our life.
“God gives us time. Let’s use it wisely. If we use our time for the important things in life, the life we create will be rewarding and meaningful.”
Think about the opening quote. What is your dominant aspiration? As you prepare to take a new step on your spiritual journey, you’ll need to answer this question. Where are you going? What do you want to become?
Will you spend more time on things that propel you toward your goals or dominant aspirations? Will you spend less time on everything else—particularly on time-wasting and distracting “pass-times”? Don’t “pass the time”—use the time.
I’ve heard that the most common regret of dying people is that they never figured out what their spiritual mission was. Each of us is here on this earth for a specific purpose. Now is the time to figure that out. It’s not easy—but God is gently calling to us. We listen to God in meditation. He speaks quietly to our hearts. Listen, then follow your heart.
Bilbo Baggins would have remained an inconsequential old hobbit had he stayed home in his little rut called Bag End. Instead, he set out on an adventure and became a hero. The whole story is about what he became. Your whole story is about what you become. What will it be? God has put the desire in your heart and has given you the time you need to do it.
Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website: www.ComingHomeSpirit.com, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon.