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Confessions of a Dead Workaholic
by Matthew Eldridge
9/02/2009 / Career
I hesitantly knocked on Frankie's door. After all, he was pretty much a stranger. We lived next door to each other in an apartment building and casually exchanged head nods and "hellos" with each passing. He seemed to be a nice man, always commenting on how precious he thought my baby daughter was.
Fifty-something year old Frankie answered the door with his strong Puerto-Rican accent. "Yes?"
"Um, I have a favor to ask. My car broke down and I was wondering if you could please give me a ride to the mechanic's?" I asked timidly.
"Sure. Let me grab a few things," he responded, before quickly shutting the door.
On the short, 10-minute drive, Frankie proceeded to tell me the story of his life. "I worked hard my entire life, 80 hours a week, so that I could retire early and spend the rest of my life with my wife just enjoying everything around me I sacrificed time with family and vacation, but it was worth it. I'm only 55, I've been retired for two years, and I have the next 20 or so years to enjoy traveling and doing other things. If you work hard too, you can retire early," he bragged while escorting me in his convertible BMW.
I had no idea why Frankie offered this unsolicited testimony. For the next few days I thought and prayed about it. Maybe God was telling me something? Maybe I should do the same? I wasn't a natural born workaholic, but perhaps God wanted me to put more effort into it. I was struggling financially to support my family, and perhaps this push is what I needed. I didn't want to end up like the 70-year-old bag boys down at the local grocery store.
A couple days had passed and I could hear screaming and wailing coming through Frankie's wall. Seconds later a small hand pounded fast with desperation on my door. I opened it to find Frankie's wife standing in front of me. Her face was covered in mascara as tears saturated her skin. She couldn't get the words out, "Help me! My husband I think he's dead!"
I quickly ran over to their apartment to find Frankie partially dressed lying halfway in the bathtub. His face was purple and covered with water. "Please, get him out of there," his wife pleaded.
He was cold to touch. I pulled on his arms but his lifeless body made the 250-pound mass feel like 500. I struggled and pulled again, trying not to focus my attention on his purple face, or the stiffness of his flesh.
It took several paramedics to get Frankie out of that tub. I returned next door to my own apartment and welcomed the comfort of my wife's arms. I replayed Frankie's last words in my head over and over again. And then I reminded myself of my own last thoughts of our conversation: "Is God speaking to me?"
Yes, God was speaking to me. But he wasn't saying what I thought he was saying. Frankie slaved his entire life to enjoy his future. Little did he know that his future freedom would only last two years.
In Luke 12:16b-21, we read: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'
Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."'
But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God." (NIV version)
This was a big wake up call. Our life is but a vapor here on earth. We don't know what day or time we'll take our last breath. Nobody dies and goes to Heaven saying, "Man, I wish I would've spent more time at work!" God isn't standing up there tallying how much money we made on earth, or rewarding us for how many days we worked overtime.
If we could interview those who have crossed over to another life, I'm sure they would tell us, "I wish I would've spent more time with family. I wish I would've focused more on my relationship with Jesus, and doing things that had eternal value, telling people how wonderful he is and about his love for us." I don't think anyone will be saying, "I wish I had more toys on earth!"
I was a new dad. I had bills. My future wasn't secure. But as one of my college professors once said when I told him I was planning on going for my master's degree while working full time, "You have a new baby - don't miss out on her early years because you are going to school every night and working every day. You have the rest of your life to get your master's. Focus on what's important. You need to be there for your family."
This was good advice. In my heart, this was God's advice to me. I may never get ahead financially. I may never take extravagant vacations or freely blow my money on fancy dinners, or even drive a nice, new car. It doesn't matter. I've decided to trade my road to financial success for a road more casually traveled. A road that included spending more time with my beautiful wife and adorable children. I want to savor every moment with them. If I have all the money in the world, but sacrifice precious time with my children at its expense, what have I gained?
Our children, spouses, and families don't want our "things." They want "us." They want quality time with us. Our father God wants quality time with us too. Of course we will continue to pay our tithes, go to church and do ministry for His kingdom. However, none of that can substitute for the intimacy He wants with us.
Matthew Eldridge is a husband, father, pastor, musician, and writer.
This article has been published by Relevant Magazine and is available FREE for reprint by permission of the author.
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