I go to a men’s group on Tuesday nights. It’s not a secret society. Any guy could just walk right in and sit down for the conversation. No brotherhood handshake. No hoods. The official title of the group is “Iron Sharpens Iron.” Which is a tip of the hat toward the wisdom of Solomon. The idea being that we bounce stuff off each other with the intent that it will help us become better men. Better at living this life.
It can get to be pretty wild at times. The age spread is usually 20 something to 80 something. Which means that the points of view can be miles apart. The backgrounds present at the table are all over the place. Academic, legal, military, construction, law enforcement, manufacturing, farming, ministry, education and retail. Most of these guys have been riding this Merry Go Round we call life for a while.
When you are talking about things that are personal and you find yourself across the table from someone who is polar opposite in their view, it’s a lesson in patience and tolerance. One night I pounded my fist on the table out of frustration.
“You cannot possibly believe that to be true!” Or something like that. It was not one of my finer moments.
The beauty of this exercise is that we all remain friends. No matter how intense the conversation, or how knuckle headed we get during that brief 90 minutes, we always leave with an appreciation for each other. We go home motivated to be better.
The question the other night was this. What really matters? What is most significant to you? What legacy will you leave behind? What will others remember about you as they huddle in quiet groups in the hallway at the funeral home?
Let me just say, “Whoa!” This is heady stuff. It makes my head hurt just to try and come up with an honest answer to all that.
Deep down I know that this is a question that everyone thinks about. We might not say it out loud. But while some guy is busting his greasy knuckles on the underside of a Ford, talking to himself about that one bolt he couldn’t reach if he had three elbows, he’s thinking, “What am I doing with my life?”
And that’s not a question about finding a better job. It’s a question about living with intent. Everyone wants to have a sense of purpose and value. We all want to matter to someone and we want to do things that matter beyond the day to day grind of life.
So, what matters to you?
I think the reason, at least one reason, this question is a little bit haunting is that there is no one right answer. Just like the ten guys around that table, we all see things differently.
City Slickers. You know the movie. A few middle-aged buddies from the big city decide to go rediscover themselves on a real live cattle drive. Mitch is in the dumps. The job stinks. The kids are driving him nuts. He’s afraid his marriage is growing cold. He looks in the mirror and sees an empty man. A life full of things that suddenly don’t matter.
On the cattle drive he meets Curly, the trail boss. The city slickers are afraid of him. He is stoic. He grunts and spits a lot. But he seems to the only one on the cattle drive that has an idea of who he is and what his life is all about.
Mitch takes a chance. “What’s the secret to life?”
Curly holds up his index finger and smiles. And for the rest of the movie Mitch drives himself nuts trying to figure out what that one thing is.
You might be thinking that I have an answer for you. That I have it figured out. I wish you could hear the chuckle in my head right now. I can barely open a child proof bottle cap. How am I supposed to explain the secret to what matters in life?
The best I can possibly do is to point out what I have seen in others whom I respect. I’m guessing that the final answer takes a lifetime to fine tune. I don’t know. I haven’t got to the end yet. But the jest of a starting point is this . . . .
It’s not how much money you have, but it’s what you do with the money you do have.
It’s not the size of the house you live in, but it’s the love that surrounds the place you call home.
It’s not the awards you win for your achievements, but it’s the reward you get for supporting others in their endeavors.
It’s not the applause of men in your ear, but the still small voice of God in your heart.
It’s not in making a name for yourself, but in knowing the name of the kid next door who needs your help.
It’s not in chasing some elusive success, but in finding contentment along the journey wherever life takes you.
Even though I think about these things, I assure you, I don’t have them all figured out yet. Maybe never will completely. I only know that those guys on Tuesday nights don’t pull any punches.
It’s my sentiment that a man who does not know what matters lives with a quiet misery in his soul. He can fake it for a while, but one day he will wake up and his life’s work will be over. Some young kid will have his job. The TV news will drive him nuts. He will attend the funerals of his buddies. And the plaques on the wall at home will collect dust. He will wonder about it all.
But if he knows what matters, what really matters most, then none of those things will hardly matter at all.