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Press the Pause Button

January 29, 2020
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Like you and most of the world, I was stunned to learn of the tragic accident that took the life of basketball icon, Kobe Bryant, and the other 8 people who were with him on the helicopter that crashed, one of which was his 13-yr. old daughter. Heartbreaking losses. Because of his fame and stature in the world of basketball and the entertainment industry, the focus has been almost entirely on him since the event. Although Kobe was an Alpha-type, and supremely self-confident, I believe he would be saddened and embarrassed that the other families grieving their devastating losses are being nearly lost in the background.

Sports radio and TV have done many dozens of memorializations of Kobe’s life and career. This is fitting. Probably fewer than half-a-dozen NBA players have done as much as Kobe did to shape the sport and inspire young players. His accomplishments and their significance in the world of competitive sport deserve this kind of focus.

His infamous work ethic, the Momba ethic, is worthy of emulation by young players. He was tireless in his pursuit of perfecting his game. They say he worked harder than anybody on the team during the season and in the off-season. Even in his retirement he held to a spartan regimen of conditioning. Most of us could take a cue from him in our own approach to growing more proficient in our careers and pursuits. His focus was phenomenal. It was heavily responsible for his 5 NBA Championship rings. Nearly all of us could do with a little more focus. Anyway, I sure could.

I don’t know much about Kobe’s faith. I know he was a practicing Catholic, who’s bishop (who bumped into him early on the Sunday morning Kobe died, as he was leaving the prayer chapel of his church) called him a “man of faith.” Since his retirement from the NBA, he focused on his young family and his once-unhealthy marriage, and engaged deeply with both. From all accounts, both his marriage and his family had begun to flourish. These are noble and honorable things. Significant beyond 5 Championship rings and dozens of trophies. No doubt more and more about this aspect of his life will come to light as time passes.

But in addition to these things, I know he was also a man with failings in his past. Just like me. Our particular failings may have been different, but there is much in my life’s story that goes squarely in the “failings” bucket.

My purpose with this post isn’t to eulogize Kobe Bryant. It’s to let his death ring our doorbell and cue us to press the pause button for two messages that we can’t afford to miss.

Message one: you do not know when the end of your life will come. You may live another 90 years, or only another 90 minutes, or even only another 90 seconds. Believe me, I know that first hand. I thought January 10, 2011 was going to be much different that it turned out to be. I’m pretty sure Kobe had plans for next week and next month and probably next year.

It’s unrealistic for me to say that we should live every day as if it were our last. I don’t think that would produce a more effective life. It might even produce a less effective one. But the motive behind this imperfect idea is valid. If I live every day in the context of the reality that it just might be my last day, it would change a lot of what I put into that day. I’d say “I love you” a ton more. I’d kiss Debbie, my wife, more, and more sloppily. I’d hug her more. I’d drink in her beauty more. I’d call my daughters and grand kids more to tell them that they’re awesome, and to ask what I can pray for them. I’d look through my pictures of them on my electronic devices more. I’d complain less about things that don’t meet my standards and preferences, and celebrate the things that actually matter. Like noble character, generosity, excellence, growth.

You have your own list of things you’d do differently. It would be a smart exercise to write it out somewhere and remind yourself of it often. Like every morning.

Message two: you’re leaving a legacy. At the time of his death, Kobe’s net worth was $600,000,000. That was his estate, but it wasn’t his legacy.

There’s an old story about two old men standing at the fresh grave of a contemporary. One asked the other, “How much did he leave behind?” The other responded, “All of it.”

I’m so thankful that my net worth is not my legacy. It would be disheartening and sad if it were. However much or little there will be in my net worth, I’ll be leaving it all behind. Gratefully, my legacy is linked not to my net worth, not in how well-padded my bank account is, or how well my investments did, but to how I gave my life and influence away. It’s in how I stewarded the grace God has given me. Which amounts to nearly every choice I make.

You and I are writing our legacy right now. It’s in how we reflect the nature of Christ in us. It’s in how we infect every environment we find ourselves in with the grace of Christ. It’s in how we express the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, what Paul called the Fruit of the Spirit.

The odds are heavily stacked against us having the global platform Kobe Bryant had. Nobody will ever buy a Steve Thomas jersey. Google will never have hits trending for my name and story. My life isn’t dramatic like Kobe’s was. I’m reconciled to this.

It’s probably not going to be the huge, dramatic, Sizemic events of my lie that will make my legacy, because I have none, really. It will be in the small, sometimes seemingly insignificant things. In the simple kindnesses. In the little things. In hugs and kisses and words of encouragement. In the verbal and nonverbal messages that say, “I believe in you.” Not the one or two times these accidentally happen, but in the consistent choices I make to do these things so often that they become second nature to me.

So pay attention, friends. Press the Pause Button. Reflect on your life and write your legacy with intention.

From → Marriage

One Comment
  1. Thank you for this post I needed it

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