As 2017 comes to an end this week, and we look forward to the New Year it is a time to reflect on how the year went and what changes need to be made. Some outcomes this year we had direct control over, other situations we had no control at all. As with all of life, we can choose to sit passively by and allow life to happen to us, or we can be actively engaged and shape the life that we desire. Either way, life will continue, and we cannot afford to be just a spectator.
While our life seems to be full most days, I have to admit there are some days when I wish it were a bit slower. I can’t help but feel like a slower pace would allow me to check out and not have to deal with what appears to be competing demands. I remind myself, though, that most of these activities are of my own choosing, and that if I had to do it all over again, I would probably make the same choices.
But, that does not stop the desire to step back and become a spectator in life instead of being so actively involved. However, I know “life is not a spectator sport” and to fulfill my destiny in life I must be actively involved. This applies to you and those around you as well. For some people, this will be on a large, grand scale impacting thousands, but for others, it will be on a small intimate scale, impacting a few. Both are equally important.
Although I am very much an optimist, I am also very much a realist. I understand fully that it’s not always easy to get through this thing we call life. If we allow it, day after day we are bombarded with constant negative images. We are told we are too fat, too lazy, too dumb, too old, too ugly, too far behind the rest of the world, and so on. And sadly, there are people in this world who derive pleasure from keeping others down.
For those who allow it, the world can be a scary, cold, and unwelcoming place. The world can be a place where we are afraid to take on challenges, try new things, express who we really are, or act like ourselves. As a result, it is important, imperative even, that each of us takes an active role in determining how our life is going to play out, and specifically, what role we are going to play in it – a starring role, a supporting role, or that of a spectator. The first two are equally admirable; however, the third role is one that requires us to have a change of mindset.
Growing up, one of the highlights of our weeks that were otherwise filled with work and school was our Sunday nights when we would all sit around the TV, eat popcorn, and watch The Wonderful World of Disney. We rarely missed it.
That memory got me thinking of another Disney story – The Hunchback of Notre Dame and its main character Quasimodo. We learn that he views life from the cathedral bell tower high above the village square too afraid to be a participant in the festivities and everyday happenings going on below and all around him.
His conscious decision to be a “spectator,” due to his various insecurities (most resulting from the abusive behavior of the reprehensible Judge Frollo) and a major deformity. That decision means he is missing out on even the most trivial joys that may be found “out there.”
That is until Laverne, one of “Quasi’s” trusted gargoyle confidantes, gives him a boot in the pants by imparting these words of wisdom, “Take it from an old spectator, life’s not a spectator sport. If watchin’ is all you’re gonna do, then you’re gonna watch life go by without ya!” And with this simple message, Quasimodo begins to realize that it is his choice whether to be a participant or “spectator” to take an active role in his life or a passive one, to give someone else power over him or not, is all up to him. It is his choice!
Just like in the case of Quasimodo, how our lives turn out and how much we participate, simply put, is our choice!
If you aren’t growing, you are dying. This isn’t philosophy. It is logic, really. The only time we cease to grow is upon death. Till then, in some measure, we grow.
Reading the logic, conversely, it simply says that if we have ceased to proactively grow, we have begun to proactively die or at least kill a part of us.
So therein lies an answer to life. Making an impact on others by pouring our lives into them is the only way to lasting satisfaction in life. Satisfaction, joy, and peace come when you are making positive progress in your own life and enhancing the lives of others.
Stagnation occurs when you are waiting for things to change without being a force for change. If you are of this mindset, you will assume a victim mindset – one that is full of blame, pity, and excuses. You will end up wallowing in the pigsty of self-doubt and misery.
The famous baseball player Jackie Robinson said it this way, “Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion, you’re wasting your life.”
Like it or not, life is in progress. It’s not waiting. You may be a spectator. That doesn’t mean that the game isn’t on. It simply means that you are so scared to lose, you rather just watch.
There are no guarantees in life, no sure trail that we will be on. None of us can know for sure that we will wake up for tomorrow’s trek. Everything else except for the present moment is uncertain. Wouldn’t it be wiser to live fully, to make a difference today?
Don’t wait for conditions to be right to start helping others. Don’t blame others for your life situation. Don’t pity yourself that you are not actively participating. We have limited moments in this lifetime, and they are quickly passing by.
Don’t be a spectator, watching the lives of others advance. Regardless of your physical or financial situation, you can actively participate in life and in the lives of others. Wouldn’t it be wiser to live fully and to make a difference today?
If you are a Christ follower, as I am, don’t hide behind your faith as an excuse for not participating in the lives of others. Show your faith by actively participating in life. Follow the instructions found in the letter James wrote to the believers in Chapter 2 verses 14 through 17, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.”
In 2018 commit yourself to live a life that is full and abundant. Actively participate in life each day. Don’t be a spectator, be a participant. It’s a wonderful life.