by Kenneth Justice
~Yesterday at the café a young man sat down at my table who I hadn’t seen in years, “Where have you been?” I asked
“Ruining my life” he said
The last time I had seen him, he had fallen in love with a girl he met at college and the two of them were in the midst of ‘young love’ and were pretty much inseparable….but that was four years ago.
“Two months ago my girlfriend dumped me and my life has been such a mess” he said.
It turns out that after he started dating the girlfriend he not only quit hanging out at the café….he also quit hanging out with all of his friends; the girlfriend became his entire life. Every moment that they weren’t working were spent together; morning, noon, and night their entire lives were so intertwined that they made no room to have any kind of life outside of their relationship.
“So I called a bunch of my friends after we broke up and none of them even answered the phone…..its like they don’t give a s**t about me….but I can’t blame them; I totally blew them off when I started dating her” he said
Sadly, this young man is not some kind of anomaly but rather I see this kind of thing all the time; people who find some person or thing that they really like and end up pursuing it with all their passion that they ignore their friends and family.
—) For some people it is religion; they find a new church that they fall head-over-heels for and they spend all their time going to meetings and services and don’t have any time for their friends and family
—) For some people it is a new job that becomes such a major focus of their lives that they slowly exchange the time they used to spend hanging out with their loved ones for time spent with their co-workers or going out with clients
—) For some people it is a new spouse or boyfriend that becomes such a focus of their lives that they push away the people who truly care for them
When I was younger a really good friend of mine started attending a new church and ‘suddenly’ he no longer was interested in hanging out with our group of friends. He blew us off for people at his church that he’d only known for a couple months……it often made me wonder how ‘healthy’ the church was if it resulted in someone ignoring their friends?
Shouldn’t church and religion be a positive force in our lives? Shouldn’t going to church encourage us to better love our relatives and friends….and not to ditch them for people we hardly know and endless meetings?
It’s easy to lose focus regarding the things that matter most. We’re weeks away from Christmas day and one can’t go to the mall and help but wonder how many of us lose focus behind the real meanings of holidays like Christmas. Yesterday the news ran a story of a man in China who threw himself to his death off an upper floor at the mall because his girlfriend wanted to keep shopping……talk about losing focus!
Whether we are a Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or whatever……it seems to me that holidays are about regaining focus; they are an opportunity for us to take a break from the hustle and bustle of our daily toil and reevaluate what the hell we are doing with our lives. They are an opportunity for us to hang out with relatives and friends we haven’t seen in a while and to reconnect with those people who truly love us……
Work is not everything. I don’t care if you are the President of the United States or the Prime Minister of Canada….at the end of the day you are a person; you are a human that is hardwired with the need for community and connection…..as the song says, “no man is an island“.
Ministry is not everything. Too many men and women I know who are preachers believe that the most important thing in their life is preaching sermons and homilies…..but its not. At the end of the day they are people too….and they need to be connected to friends and loved ones….they need to be connected to the realities of life.
Teaching isn’t everything. I have a lot of friends who are teachers and professors….many of them have become burned out because they didn’t spend enough time staying connected to people outside of their schools and universities. Teaching can burn you out if its 100% of how you spend your time….you need time with people who love you…people who challenge you….people who you can have fun with.
“So what are you going to do now?” I asked the young man sitting with me.
“I don’t know man, I feel like all my friends are gone…and even my parents are annoyed with me for being non-existent the last couple years. I spent every holiday at the girlfriend’s parents house…..I feel like my life is a mess” he said.
So the young man said he was going to drive back home to New York and spend the Christmas holiday with his parents…..”it’s a start” I told him. Sometimes we simply have to take that little baby step forward toward regaining our focus on life…..
For now I simply need to refill my coffee cup,