I just listened to an audio podcast by Pastor John Piper regarding his famous “seashells sermon” in Memphis. The podcast instantly reminded me of when Hanley and other youth counselors gave me Piper’s book, “Don’t Waste Your Life” at the conclusion of my high school career and before I started my college career.
Piper’s book has become a staple graduation gift handed out to tens of thousands of high school and college graduates, and I suppose I should count myself among those graduates as well.
In the book, Piper recounts how an old man said, “I’ve wasted it. I’ve wasted it,” after sitting on the front pew in his father’s evangelistic crusade after he had pled with him to receive Christ. The account brought to the forefront of my mind the rather pressing question about whether or not I was living my life in the direction that would bring it meaning, purpose, and fulfillment.
Then Piper brought up the verse from Galatians 6:14, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” He exegeted the verse to mean that the cross is the foundation and the central glory of grace and every moment of our lives. In other words, it is because of the cross that believers are entitled to God’s blessings through both the good and the bad in their lives. We have no legal standing with God without the cross.
The famous seashell illustration that Piper draws for his audience has to do with defining what a tragic life is.
“What is a tragedy? I’ll tell you what a tragedy is. Two healthy fifty-somethings wasting their lives collecting shells. That’s a tragedy.” That’s a sentence that everybody remembers — shell collecting. “Look, Jesus, here’s my shell collection that I gathered for you in the last twenty years of my God-given life not to be wasted on your account.”
When I first encountered that passage as a high school graduate, the message resonated hard with me. I felt disillusioned with the American dream, mainly because I felt it fails to deliver on the promises it claims to keep. I did not want to spend my life pursuing comfort for the sake of comfort, but I wanted to pursue something that would bring meaning and fulfillment to my life at the time, even if that pursuit came at some amount of risk and hardship.
The conclusion I came to at the time was that if Christ purchased my life with His blood, then it is only suitable that I should live my life for His glory, walking in the same Calvary path as He walked, and loving others even at great cost to myself just as He did Himself.
Now some 6 years later, I am finished with my college career and am about to start my 3rd year of osteopathic medical school. It has been a long and arduous road, and I still remain committed to my desire to live a fulfilling life for Christ’s sake, and avoid wasting my life, as much as I possibly can.
Medicine is a profession that involves a lot of sacrifice. You have to sacrifice a lot of free time, energy, and sleep to dedicate yourself to a craft that seeks to bring healing to others. You miss out on a lot of fun hobbies that others may pursue, and also may miss out on opportunities to celebrate weddings, birthdays, promotions with friends and families as you pursue your career. The fear of missing out occasionally becomes an ever-present temptation to hold at bay.
Even so I do not regret my decision. I chose medicine as a manifestation of my loyalty to King Jesus. It would be great to have others who shared the same passion as I do, as medicine can feel like a lonely road at times unless you have someone who shares the same values as you. Even so, just as God told Joshua to be strong and courageous because He was with him, I know I can count on God in Christ Jesus to do the same for me. I want to live my life well, and I will strive to see that goal through to the very end.