I Did It My Way is a very familiar song that many of us have heard Frank Sinatra sing many times.
Reading through the lyrics you get the sense that the person speaking is reflecting on their legacy now that time is running out. Of course, the main point is that through it all, he did it his way.
In a certain sense it seems to glorify independence and the individual, which are values that our culture certainly upholds. Many of us have had many beautiful experiences in life and have been blessed to travel and to see the world. These days I am counting those blessings more and more, especially now that travel is so much more difficult, even non-existent.
While personal freedom and flavor is part of every experience and story, I think there is just something that tells us inside “there is more.” There is more to life than living for myself. I think we know that doing this – living for ourselves – to an extreme degree does not actually lead to happiness, but to isolation. How many people are going to want to be around someone who is all about themselves?
There are those relationships where two people who are all about themselves mutually use each other for personal gain, but there is no real intimacy there. I propose that doing things my way, while it might be tempting and fun for a time, will not bring me the ultimate peace that I am seeking, nor will it allow me to flourish into the being that I sense I am drawn to be, and that God wants me to be.
In the first reading from this weekend, the Lord reminds us very beautifully that He doesn’t think like we think, nor does He do things the way we do them. He states “Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:6-9).
I know that we have discussed taking on the mind of Christ before, as well as about being transformed by the renewal of our minds (See Romans 12:1-2). I think that often we fall into the trap of believing that God thinks exactly how we think, or that we always think the way that God thinks. At least many of us would never want to admit that we do not think exactly like God, because that would be admitting that we are wrong. Instead of that, we simply replace God with our own way of thinking. It’s a lot easier that way, we get to do things our way, and basically become God. We get to make God in our own image, instead of the other way around.
Yet how many of us, placing ourselves in God’s place would choose to do what God did for our sake? How many of us would have come up with sacrificing ourselves out of love on a cross, or how many of us would be willing to forgive like Christ forgave us? How many of us can say that we would do things better that the way God has done it? God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. And you know, I thank God for that, because without Him teaching me His ways and without Him showing me the way He thinks, I know I would be a much bigger mess.
In the Gospel this weekend the Lord gives us an example of His generosity that goes so far beyond what we would expect. To some His generosity seems a bit unfair, but just listen to what He says. He tells His disciples a parable about a landowner who goes out to hire workers for His land. “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard’” (Matthew 20:1-7). Stopping here for just a moment, what the Lord shows in this portion of the parable is that it is never too late to begin doing things His way.
He seeks after workers for the vineyard of His kingdom even up to the very end of a person’s life. Some would not even try to hire those that were standing idly all day, which represents someone who has perhaps wasted most of their life doing things their own way. But the story continues; “When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:8-16). Those who have been working for the Lord for their whole lives receive the same reward as those who squeak in at the very end. How many of us would do that? God’s ways are not our ways. Honestly, I am so thankful for that because I know that there is so much more room for the kingdom of God to grow. We need a lot more people to start working for this good and generous God. In God’s eyes it does not matter how much time has been wasted. He is merciful and good and can make of us what He intended us to be. We have meditated a lot on what He intends for us. We have spoken a lot about the reward of heaven; a share in God’s own divine life. When we get there, we are not going to care how long we worked for God verses another.
We will be happy and thankful to God for His mercy that brought us there. We will see how much more we could have become, and how much more we could have been fulfilled if we had given Him everything. What I have personally noticed is that by choosing to do things God’s way, I am not stifling myself, my independence and my individuality, but rather watching God give me a freedom I never thought possible. He has been helping me along the way to become even more who I have been made to be, and the more I grow the more I know it is true. I would much rather do things God’s way, and leave behind me, not so much a legacy for people to glorify, but rather a kingdom; God’s kingdom for people to flourish in. Let’s do it God’s way.