Don’t Waste Your Life – An exposition of the obvious

If great thinkers are people who have the ability to expound on the obvious with a mastery and ingenuity that helps fellow men to ‘look’ at the obvious and really ‘see’ it for the first time and thereby have a paradigm shift in how life is perceived, then I guess John Piper has to be counted among the great thinkers. The axiom “Don’t waste your life”, is something that is too obvious to all of us, not just because it is most frequent warning that we get to hear from our parents and teachers but because somewhere in the our fundamental human nature it is ingrained into our sense of consciousness that our life and time is not be wasted but be used to some worthy end.

It is this aspect of human nature, that says that a life spent for the worthy cause isn’t a wasted life, which causes men to barge into a battle field and willingly risking the thrust of the cold blade into their breast or the sensation of quick bullet barreling through their body or, on the other hand, sitting all day and watch TV or getting lost hours together in the virtual world of social networking – the former being the nobler virtues of ‘sacrificial living’ the latter being the banal activities of ‘enjoying life’, both of them being driven by the principle of not wasting life, though from very different perspectives.

John Piper’s brilliance in this book is that he takes this ‘Don’t waste your life’ idea that is too obvious and then another idea of ‘magnifying God’, which again is too obvious to Christians, and then in his ingenious theological exposition of how these two ideas interlace with each other he makes a compelling case for how ‘sacrificial living’ is truly ‘enjoying life’. He finds a monolithic unity to seemingly disparate aspects of sacrifice and enjoyment in life – the ‘blazing centre’ of that unity being the ‘severe mercy’ the Cross of Christ.

I have been reading this book for the past few weeks to keep pace with the book club. I have spent much time assimilating his view points. I just completed reading the book. Looking back at the big picture that he has drawn, I think his work has a lot to do with the Des Cartesian quest for certainty from chaos.

He starts off the book explaining his youth life of confused existence when he was looking, in the midst of chaos, for some certainty that he could commit himself to. He ends the book with a great degree of certainty about how Christians should approach their leisure life, work life, mission life and vision life. Pivotal to the paradigm shift is his realization that the act of enjoying God/life and magnifying God are the same and that the act of self-abandonment and magnifying God are the same. So the act of enjoying God/life and self-abandonment for a worthy cause become the same. This is a simple A = B, B = C so A = C logic.  

It is this principle behind this paradigm shift that helps one to ‘look’ at the obvious and really ‘see’ it for first time. It is precisely this principle that the modern humanist to whom self-preservation is the means to enjoying life, fails to understand. To the extent to which the modern Christian fails to understand the relationship between magnifying God, enjoying life and abandoning self, the modern Christian will have wasted his/her life.

Reflecting on all of this, I am reminded of two words of advice my mother used to tell me when I was a kid, “Heaven has not place for lazy boys”, “you cannot got to heaven in a rocking chair”. This book, I think, is primal to any Christian who wishes to live a life such that he/she does not have to look back and be exasperated, “I have wasted my life, how on earth did I fail to ‘see’ the obvious”. 

A Date with Piper

On a Friday evening eager to unwind from work-life and get back to real-life, I was on time for the date with Piper. Before the start of the book club meet on John Piper’s, “Don’t waste your life”, it was whispered that we were waiting on Kristi’s cookies, she came in just as we started and boy the wait was worth it. I would say that even if the date with Piper wasn’t worth the date per se, it was worth the cookies. So finally, with the taste of the cookie lingering in the taste buds, the video started rolling.

That was the first time I saw John Piper and I instantly was struck by the tenderness, sensitivity and strength in his demeanor. As he spoke sometimes in a quivering voice, as though in search for words but actually, I think, in a trembling cognition of the sublime Truths being uttered, he was ravishingly compelling. I just couldn’t help sitting upright in the cozy corner of the couch being riveted to his exposition of Truth.

I cannot forget the way he expounded on Lewis’ idea of ‘quiddity’ or the ‘thisness of life’ not just because of the profundity of the idea being conveyed but because of the way his whole being was involved in the exposition. It is permanently ingrained in my memory how when he expounded on the ‘thisness’, he held up the bony back of his hands, all ten fingers spread out between him and the camera and said, “the thisness Lewis spoke of helped me appreciate the realness of life”.

Later he, rightly calls Lewis as the ‘romantic rationalist’. I would like to call Piper the ‘romantic realist’. The first time I ever came to know of Piper was about three years ago when, in a book store, I read a captivating title of a book, “Desiring God”, and thought to myself, ‘Oh, boy, who is that guy who has written a book titled so’ and there was the author John Piper. Then I thought to myself that I had to know more about this guy. My first guess was that this guy ought to have been a monk like Antony Bloom or Thomas Merton or Henri Neuman to be so ‘romantic’ about God but then I did not know that he was a guy living a ‘real’ life as anyone else.

I had to wait three years to have my first date with Piper. Though it was an e-date, I have been so impressed with him that I can’t wait to have my second date with him at the Book club at St. John the Divine Church’s Single Fusion club.