Here’s an item from my friend Michael’s church web site. He calls these “pastor post-its.” It’s related to the recent discussion here about a great soul. Which, as you recall, was motivated by Michael’s questions.
So, What’s the Difference Between Making a Living and Making a Life?
A Conversation in the Soul Café
The person on the other side of the table was distraught. He had lost his job. The economy was to blame. What do I say? I could feel my stomach tightening up as the waitress filled my coffee cup.
“I just don’t know what we’re going to do. The bills are stacking up faster than my resumes are going out,” he said. He looked me in the eyes, “I wish I could do something to change things.”
I debated about whether I should say something. He was clearly hurting. But what should I say? Knots were forming in the pit of my belly. I thought of some glib clichés but a better part of my nature was awakening.
“Well, are you open to hearing another point of view?” I asked the question with more than a little anxiety.
I’m never sure how a person will respond to a teaching moment, especially if he is hurting. I felt an impulse to take another sip of coffee and let him speak but the quizzical look on his face beckoned me to go on. I took a deep breath and kept going.
“The most important thing you are facing right now is not making a living but making a life.”
I let the words hang above the wooden tabletop like a slow curve ball over home plate. Would he take a swing?
“So what’s that got to do with making the mortgage payment?”
Yep, he swung. I looked down and watched the waving clouds rise from my coffee cup. Thoughts were forming once again in my dull mind.
“You might as well focus on a constructive approach to this thing since it isn’t changing very quickly,” I said. “You’re in a good place to address this issue.”
He stared at me through squinted eyes, growing my nervousness. Why hadn’t I kept my mouth shut when I had the chance?
I went on, “Your life is more than paying bills. It’s about building your personal equity, soul wealth.”
There. I said it. I did my job. I gave him a glimpse of a new way of seeing his life. Now it was his turn to pitch.
“What in the world is ‘soul wealth’?”
He said ‘soul wealth’ like it was the name of some exotic disease he had just learned about on the Discovery Channel. I wasn’t going to get to enjoy my coffee after all.
“Soul wealth is a way of describing the importance and desirability to flourish as a human being. It’s about being what you were created to become. Someone put it this way, ‘a basic element of the life in God is the joyful sharing in the goodness of the world and in the richness of what man has been able to discover and to dream.’ Soul wealth has to do with the living of a full and free life.”
“If I don’t get a job soon I’ll be living a fully debt-filled life!”
Somewhere in this exchange he replaced his squinting with a coy look of playfulness. I caught the beginning of a grin on his face as he asked, “So how do I make a deposit in my soul wealth account?”
He was actually smiling now. Maybe my coffee time would work out after all.
“It starts with your answer to this question, ‘Is my earning a good living more important to me than my achievement of living a good life?’ If the answer is ‘no,’ then the next step is to slow down and wonder. Take a load off your shoulders and make time to wonder about life’s little treasures. Simply follow where this leads you.”
“That’s it?” He asked this with an amusing ‘what’s-the-catch’ expression on his face.
“That’s as good a start as any. A full and free life is achieved through the lifetime development of intellectual and spiritual qualities.” I paused there to let it sink in. Then I continued, “What if we spent as much time building a worthy life as we do making a living? What would our lives become if we actually read more, walked more, and listened more? What kind of persons could we become in the next five years if we invested in ourselves in this way?”
I could see in his eyes and on his face that something inside of him was at work. A slightly open mouth accompanied His thousand-yard stare, as if he was about to say something. But nothing came out as the wheels in his head continued to turn.
The waitress refilled my cup with steaming hot coffee. I breathed in the freshly brewed aroma, raised the cup to my lips and sipped. My stomach began to relax.
That’s another episode in the life of my soul cafe.