I am a book-a-holic. Books are my high and you will regularly see me stumbling out of another book store clutching a bag of fresh verbiage. Recently I came across a volume with an intriguing title.
Since I would like to die happy I decided to check it out. Authors Tim and Michael Burke outlined the concept of the book at their website called, oddly enough, Die Happy. (Warning…there is offensive content at this site)
It’s pretty simple. You only have so many years, days or minutes left as a non-married, free-to-do-whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-do guy. Yes, someday you will get hitched. You will buy a house. You will spend Saturdays mowing your lawn, coaching pee wee soccer and shopping for little girly clothes at Old Navy.
Oh well. It is too late for me to die happy according to the Burkes. They did have some very funny reasons why you need to pause the video game and live a little before marriage. Here are some of those reasons why you should enjoy life now.
SOMEDAY YOU WILL:
- Spend Friday night shopping at Target.
- Kill a Saturday at the petting zoo.
- Have a discussion about diaper changing techniques.
- Deliberate over what kind of comforter cover you’d like for your bed.
- Referee an 8-year old girls soccer game.
- Drive a minivan because you “find it very practical.”
- Hang out with guys who also drive minivans.
- Look at the guys on SportsCenter and not know who they are.
- Turn on Nickelodeon and know exactly who everybody is.
Isn’t it interesting that the prevailing mindset of many young men is that marriage and family pretty much end your chance to die happy? You must store up these memories now so you can live off them the rest of your life. That is a bit depressing. I am not going to throw down the grumpy old man gauntlet here. I still remember (distantly) my pre-marriage years and thought processes. I stored up some fun memories and probably finished only about 497 items short of accomplishing the checklist in their book.
But having logged three decades as a “married, not free-to-do-whatever-the-hell–I-want–to-do-guy” I decided to review what I have learned about how to die happy. My comments are directed at my species…the American male.
- When you do decide to “get hitched” take that very seriously. View it as a life time appointment. Joni and I could have been marital casualties had we not made a total commitment to our vows. I wrote an article about the oxymoron known as “the good divorce”. I am not here to heap guilt on those who have made the choice to get divorced. But for those considering marriage or remarriage remember this simple principle. You will repeat wedding “vows” and not wedding “intentions”. A vow is defined as a solemn promise or pledge. Can you make that commitment to this person? If not, wait till you can
- Love your wife. I have heard so many couples (many now divorced) describe marriage as a 50–50 proposition. You give and take. If I do this I can reasonably expect you will give me something in return. The marriages that we admire probably don’t use that philosophy. The kind of love that endures allows me to give without expecting return. That kind of love does not come naturally or quickly to a relationship. But it is so worth the effort. Bonus observation…the single most important thing you can do as a father to produce healthy and happy children is to love their Mom.
- Value friendship and community. I worked too much. I regret that. But I cannot alter those years. Now the Lord is graciously allowing me to redeem some of those mistakes. I have made an effort to adjust my schedule and goals to include time for friends and fellowship. I cannot imagine going through this cancer trial without the support of our friends. We were created to be together in community. The Bible never tells us to go solo in this journey. Jesus, Paul, John, James, and Peter all mention the “one-anothers”. Love one another. Be kind to one another. Accept one another. There are dozens of such commands. Those require community to accomplish.
- Your career does not define who you are. I love my career. But my job is not who I am. My job is television sports director. Who I am is a follower of Jesus Christ, husband of Joni, father of Matt, Scott, and Brett, and faithful friend (hopefully) to many. I am committed to doing my job to the best of my ability but, at the end of the day, that is not my identity.
- Treasure those mundane family moments. When I quizzed my sons about their favorite memories with me I expected it would be awesome vacations or cool gifts. What they remembered was throwing the football in the front yard or practicing pitching or coaching their teams. Vacations and gifts showed interest. Time invested showed commitment. They can see the difference. Mary Crowley once said that if she had it to do over again she would respond to her kids on the first tug. An old coot used to tell me that your kids will be gone before you know. The old coot was right.
- Embrace the uniqueness of your child’s gifts. Like most Dads who love sports I dreamed of siring an All-State quarterback or All-American basketball star. Now I look back and wonder where I thought those genes would come from? Instead I was blessed with fair to good athletes who became great men. Allow them to be the person God created them to be. Trying to clone yourself results in two unhappy people.
- Learn to serve. When you no longer believe the world revolves around you then you are well on the way to joy. There is no greater joy than serving others. When I think about the people I know who are loved and respected by everyone they are always giving and serving people. Coincidence?
- Never stop learning. I am energized by learning. When I stop reading and thirsting for knowledge I will either need medication or a very small real estate lot to rest in.
- Find significance. I believe that you have to find something larger than yourself to not live a life of narcissism and emptiness. For me that is Jesus. Most who read these humble ramblings are followers of Christ. If you are not then I encourage you to make a decision about who Jesus is. I pray that you will take the time to research and see who Jesus is and what His life means to you. I fear that too many people reject Christ because of Christians and that breaks my heart. Examine Jesus. Then decide. Please do not dismiss Him as a great teacher or rabbi or prophet. In fact, you cannot do that. He claimed He was the Son of God. He claimed He was the way. He did not say He was one of many ways. He claimed that He had risen from the dead and was returning to God the Father to prepare a place for us. He claimed he would send the Holy Spirit to comfort and direct our lives. If none that is true then Jesus was a liar and dangerous and should be dismissed. If it is true it is the most important message ever proclaimed. There is not an option to waffle on what Jesus claimed. I can not and would not attempt to force you to follow Jesus. Yet I believe I would be selfish and uncaring if I did not tell you what a difference He has made in my life, my marriage, and my family. So I do. I believe that Jesus is all of those things He claimed. You may decide otherwise but you still must decide. I hope you choose Jesus.
So there you have my 9 things that I have learned in my stumbling journey. I may not have a lot of raucous stories to regale a crowd. Those who know me well would testify that I really enjoy this life. But I can tell you that this list worked for me. If this post is the last thing that I accomplish on this planet I can assure that I will die happy. Loved by a wonderful wife and sons. Blessed with friends that are real. And secure in the loving arms of Jesus. I would encourage you to make the same preparations…while you still can.