The Best Place on Earth

It’s funny how hindsight works — when a season of life comes to an end and the lesson about that season becomes so obvious that we wonder how we could have ever missed the point earlier.  What’s cool is that we don’t have to live as if we’re the first person to make the journey. Countless others have travelled the road before us and reported on the conditions ahead. That’s probably the definition of wisdom: Applying the tried and true principles of a life well-lived now — instead of recognizing the truth later.

This is certainly the case when it comes to how we manage our relationships.  For those of you who are familiar with The Joy Model:  A Step-by-Step Guide to Peace, Purpose, and Balance, you’ll recognize that “Relationships” is one of the key elements of experiencing more joy in our lives.  As a life coach who has helped hundreds of people toward more joy, I’ve seen the wise focus their energy on the following elements of The M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan.

MMargin: Creating space in our lives to mindfully manage the rhythm of life to be in synch with our values

A = Abide: Using a portion of that extra space in our calendar to spend more time with God and His Word so that our thinking becomes intuitively aligned with His thinking.

S = Self-Awareness: Being honest with ourselves about our strengths, weaknesses, dreams, motivations, fears, and brokenness.

TTreasure: Managing our money with a biblical perspective of how money flows, how God provides it, and how it’s all His anyway; and Temple: Caring for our bodies so that we can be healthy enough to distribute God’s love to the rest of the world. (see my wife Michelle’s ministry for more about this)

EEngage: Engaging in our Calling by applying our talents to the issues and causes we are passionate about.

RRelationships: Being wise about managing relationships with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and our fellow man.

The correlation between strong relationships — and the impact it has on our joy —has become incredibly evident to me in the four days since my dad has been in hospice.

As a high school teacher and football coach, my dad was mindful of his time with my mom, with me and my two brothers, with his lifelong friends, and with his students. As my brother said: “Dad had a knack for remembering names not because he was good at it, but because people were important to him.” He wanted to make them feel known and comfortable and appreciated.

Jesus said “By this all men will know that you are my disciples:  That you love one another.” (John 13:35)  Joe Spadafora has lived this truth.

If I were forced to guess at the top three reasons why people don’t adhere to this truth, here’s what I would say:

  • The False Hope of Consumerism: We focus too much time trying to make money to buy things thinking the things will bring us more joy than solid relationships will;
  • The False Hope of Financial Independence: We think hitting some inflated, Wall Street-dictated number will bring us greater security than God’s provision
  • Seeking the Approval of People Instead of God: Too much time and negative energy is spent trying to prove to people that we are worthy, smart, beautiful, capable, successful, etc. — instead of simply focusing on what is pleasing to God.

I’ve seen the fruit of resisting these lies played out in spades in my father’s life. We have spent the last 4 weeks reading him text after text, email after email, and letter after letter from friends, students and athletes expressing the difference he made in their lives. No one mentioned how brilliant he was at biology.  No one mentioned his career Win-Loss record. No one talked about his cars, his house or his W2’s.

The real fruit of focusing on relationships came to a head yesterday: In a moment of lucidity, he opened his eyes and saw his wife, 3 sons, 5 grandchildren, and several friends standing around his bed smiling down at him. He smiled that big Joe Spadafora smile in return.  Scanned the room once.  Scanned the room twice. And said “This has to be the greatest place on earth.”

Chalk it up as one way to live on earth as it is in heaven.

Jeff Spadafora