Inspired by Bob Russell’s thought-provoking book After 50 Years of Ministry: 7 Things I’d Do Differently & 7 Things I’d Do the Same, I spent the last two weeks listing things I would do differently in my life, if I could. Now it is time to list a few things I would do the same.
1/I worked at physical labor about 30 years. Sometimes it was work that I did not really like, other times work that I enjoyed. On the whole it was probably a good thing that I worked at physical labor so long. I didn’t earn a lot, but I earned enough to live comfortably and to save and invest. One can be a physical laborer and still be interested in books and ideas. Why not? There is no logical reason one would not be able to read and think, just because one works with one’s hands for one’s living. That said, I am glad that the last 20 plus years my work has been less physical–a clerk in a retail establishment. The older I get the less ability I have to do physical labor. So it is great that I was able to do less physically challenging work in recent decades. I have considered alternative careers I might have done. I might have been an accountant. I might have become a lawyer–I have theories about how I might have earned a living at that to the potential benefit not only of myself but also of others. Those would not have necessarily been bad choices. But I am content that I worked at physical labor so long. It had certain advantages, psychologically.
2/I said at #3 of May 17 that I would read more. Here I would say that there are two things I like about the way I did my reading. A/I would continue to reread books I loved. Yes, if I had not read Pride and Prejudice 22 times, I would have more time to read other things. But it was for the good of my soul that I read P & P 22 times. I needed multiple readings. If I keep living, I will continue to reread lots of books that have meant a great deal to me. B/I am glad I had a catholic taste in my reading–that is, a wide range of interests. Yes, this might have kept me from doing concentrated reading on one particular topic, but only because I didn’t often budget my time to do concentrated reading on a topic. Over one stretch of three plus years, I did concentrated reading on a topic, and still had enough time to do other reading. So my wide-ranging reading was not a problem even if I had to do reading on something particular. It was all a matter of budgeting time wisely. The benefits of reading outside a narrow range have been immense. It’s a big world out there.
3/If I had it to over again, I would gladly manage my money the same way. I knew by my early twenties that I would never make the big bucks, so it behooved me to plan carefully what I did with the money I earned. I lived pretty simply, without ever being in want the slightest bit. Early on as a Christian I came to the conclusion that tithing was required of me. As other people have told me, the tithe is a “blessing.” Correct. The tithe is more central to Christianity than most people realize. Christians average giving about 2.5% of their increase to the church–one-quarter of what God requires. (See the website emptytomb.) If we cannot do better than one-quarter of what we are supposed to be doing in the easiest category of all, giving, is it any surprise that we Christians as a whole are so disobedient in the weightier provisions of the law? (Matthew 23:23) Granted, tithing is relatively easy for me, since apparently I have the gift of giving. (Romans 12:8) It comes naturally for me, whereas for other people it no doubt is more of a struggle if they don’t have the gift of giving. But giving is something that can be cultivated and improved. The church as a whole is missing a blessing by being unwilling to tithe. I’m glad I budgeted my money carefully and glad that I tithed, and glad that I have kept a written record of my income and outgo for many decades.
4/If I had it to do over again, I would continue to not try to be a computer guru. I am not mechanical. I am not good with computers. This of course sometimes causes problems for me. Frequently I am able to survive my computer woes only because of the help of friends. One beloved Christian friend, addressing my lack of computer competence, told me, “Carl, you’ve published a dozen books . . . and I don’t know how.” Well, partly through his help, of course. Yes, it might have made my life easier if I had been more mechanical, but I don’t have a gift for it. It doesn’t disappoint me as much as it should. Maybe my conscience is seared on the topic.
5/I would continue to view high school sports a lot in person. As I noted in regard to things I would do differently, I would cut back on television sports and magazine sports. But I would not cut back on attending high school games in person. It got me out of the house, at the worst. I have always enjoyed sports, from my earliest days. I wouldn’t change the part of my life that got me to lots of high school sports events.
6/Once again I would keep a written record of my reading. I started doing that in the early 1970s. My only regret is that I did not start earlier. I wish I had started with the first book I read when I was a child. Probably I would revise the way I recorded my reading slightly. I would record magazine reading I had done. But keeping a written record of books read has been a fun exercise for me.
7/Once again I would keep a written record of my sleeping. I started that in December of 1986. My only regret is that I did not start earlier in my life.
8/If I had it to do over, I would once again read the Bible a lot, continuing to keep a written record of my reading. I would continue to record every complete reading of the Bible which I have done. I believe one can be a good Christian without a lot of Bible knowledge. But I think that the more we read the Bible the more we begin to understand the nature of God, and to understand what He requires and wants from us. As much a reader as I am by nature, Bible reading does not come easily for me. It is still work, still a duty, still something I have to discipline myself to do rather than something I do with great pleasure. This could be because I am a rotten Christian, or maybe it could be because the Bible really is a challenging book for most of us to read. It challenges us intellectually and morally. Reading the Bible is work for me, but the work is repaid in benefits to me. Multiple readings of the Bible eventually taught me that God deals with us covenantally, and also corporately. I think I have learned a lot about what is good, what is evil, and how the world is put together by God. And though Bible reading is difficult for me, it also has allowed me to get to know a lot of interesting people, such as Jonah the grumpy prophet/evangelist. I would definitely read the Bible over and over, as I have since my conversion. If I had been converted at an earlier age, I would have started serious Bible reading at an earlier age as well.
There we have it–a few things about my life that I would do basically the same if I had it all to do over again. Lots of things I would change (see May 17, 2018, and May 24, 2018), but a few things I would keep on doing.