My Seventeen Magazine Tells Me…

by MitchellRichards

Scanning around social media the other day, I came across someone’s posting of a picture of the Seventeen Magazine they had just purchased.  It was your stereotypical magazine-geared-toward-teenage-girls cover: a couple of young attractive girls, neon colors, way too many headlines promising tips for perfect hair and “825 ways to look pretty.”  Of course, I have no problem with any of this; it’s the social norm.  However, plastered at the bottom of the cover, the main headline reads in all caps: Get everything you want this year (and in smaller print right under that) great body, tons of $$$, amazing clothes + mega confidence.


I’m so glad the Bible isn’t made up like a preteen girls magazine, but I often feel as though we treat it that way.


Usually at some point in the calendar year, I really sit down and wonder what I want from my current chapter of life.  Years ago, these self-reflections involved finding jobs that paid me more money and finding a wife.  These goal-setting sessions often used terms like “settling down” and “I want [this] to happen.”  Life for me was once all about acquiring.  Life was about wanting and the pursuit of acquiring those wants.  Life was about getting what I thought I wanted. Now they are handled quite differently.


Apparently, a year a half ago that mentality changed. On a whim, I decided to coach little kids soccer and it has been such a blessing.  It’s not easy though.  If you would have asked me two years ago, in all seriousness, what my thoughts on young children were I would have told you I wanted nothing to do with them.  Kids freak me out. I always just imagine young kids with spaghetti all over their mouths, defiant to everyone around them, and still wetting the bed.  So when I volunteered to coach 6 and 7 year olds, I wasn’t really sure why I even wanted to.


Now, after multiple seasons with a lot of the same kids, everything has changed.  The change has nothing to do with soccer though and everything to do with the acquiring mentality…


Life was not meant to be acquired…life was meant to be given away.


Since starting coaching, I’ve realized my life is actually worth something, I’ve realized that I have something to offer to the rest of the world, and that something is NOT soccer.  I used to sit in my apartment and do nothing all day.  I wasn’t in school; I just worked and did nothing else.  My life had nothing to offer because I was busy trying to acquire. Now, it is worth something because I’m giving it away.


Since coaching, life has not become any easier; in fact I’ve made it a lot more difficult. I started school again and I’m a full time student.  I work two jobs.  And soccer season is just about to start up again and so is school and my finances and time will be stretched to the limit.  But one thing I won’t do is stop coaching these kids.


Since coaching, I’ve also become an uncle again two times over.  My brother and his wife adopted their son Rance from Ukraine and they just recently had another son, Carden.  Meeting them all for the first time, and this time with the outlook that life is to be given, not taken, changes my entire outlook of what it means to be in a family and to be an uncle.  I got to hang out with Rance a month or so ago at a camp and all I could think about was how much I wanted to be a better man for this kid. He’s 8 years old, and conscious of what I do, as opposed to say a baby who doesn’t even look at me or know my name. This idea that I have something in my life to offer to the world applies greatly to my nephews and the rest of my family.  If I want them to know me in one way it is that I am their uncle who would lay down his life for them because that’s what life is all about, that is what love is all about.  They would never get that vibe from me if I were sitting in my apartment all day experiencing boredom firsthand.  They’d think that their uncle was just a quiet crazy man who only came around on holidays.


But I’m not that person, and the only reason I know this is because I have something to give…my life.  When your life becomes about acquiring and taking, when it becomes “what can I get from life” that means you’re doing it all wrong.  I’ve learned in the last year and a half that you can have nothing and laugh more than you ever have in your life.  I’ve learned what it means to be broke and what it means to have everything.  I’ve learned that my life is not only to be shared with everyone around me, but also given to them.  The more I hold back for myself, the less I have to give to the people I love.  The difference between villains and heroes in movies and comics and stories is that the villain wants to acquire, the hero wants to give.


The last 6 months of my life were some of the hardest and busiest months I’ve ever had, but nowhere in the Bible does it say anything about life being easy.  The Bible doesn’t have neon headlines telling that you can get everything you want in life and from God if you follow these simple steps.  It doesn’t tell you that if you look hard enough at the red words you’ll find the hidden meaning to life and the way to stop sinning.  The difference now is that I understand that this busyness is a good busyness because it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the people around me.  Life isn’t easy right now, but I don’t care because it is good.  I’m living the best years of my life right now, and nothing has chanced from 2 years ago when I was depressed and angry at life, nothing except my outlook on acquiring and giving.


The Bible, however, does say that you shouldn’t worry about the acquiring mentality, but instead to worry about Jesus and to follow his example, his example that only says one thing: give yourself away.