Question #4

Who am I? What do I want? What am I willing to give to get what I want?

            I don’t know how many of us stop and ask ourselves these fundamental life questions with any regularity. I have a friend who suggests that these questions are the essential building blocks of life and should be engaged on a regular basis by every person. And to a point I agree with him. But I think there is one absolutely critical question missing from this list. So let me ask: if you were amending this list of questions, what would you add?

            This week we have seen – very clearly in one case and much less clearly in the other – the heart- and life-breaking results of leaving out the next question in the series. Like many of you I was absolutely dumbfounded to watch parts of Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey as he confessed to multiple and repeated uses of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) during his professional cycling career. Every single one of his Tour de France victories, he said, were drug-enhanced. Not a clean one in the group.

            And what was even more chilling to me was his admission that when he did it, he had no sense at all that he was doing anything wrong. Drugging – he said – was so widespread in the world of professional cycling that his drugging only succeeded in putting him on a level playing field.

            It was a shocking interview. I was one of the millions of people who believed his repeated and fierce denials of drug use. Heck, Lance even SUED PEOPLE who accused him of taking PEDs. “You don’t take people to court and sue them,” I said to myself, “… if you really are taking drugs. You might get tested and lose the case!”

            Lance’s answer to Question #1 (Who Am I?) would probably have been: A professional cyclist. Question #2 (What do you want?) I want to win the Tour de France. Many, many times. Question #3: (What are you willing to give to get it?) ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING, including my health, my reputation, my friendships, my money… everything.

            And so it is easy to see that if we stop with those three questions, we can end up with one of the most devastating chronicles of cheating in modern sports history and (though he probably doesn’t see it yet) a thoroughly ruined life.

            What if we added one more question to the list? What if each of us also made a regular practice of asking ourselves, in decisions large and small, “What does God require of me?” Of course the answer we get from the book of Micah is rock-solid: “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).

But what would it mean for each of us to try to regularly work on crafting an answer to that question that was shaped by the circumstances and decisions facing us at this exact moment? What if we asked, “What does God require of me as I consider how to correct my son’s defiant behavior?” “What does God require of me as I create next week’s lesson plan for my class?” “What does God require of me as I contemplate this critical business decision?” Except for the very most mundane subjects, I cannot imagine a single part of life that would not be helped by asking this simple, critical “extra” question.

How might that one additional question have altered Lance Armstrong’s future? Well, he probably would not have won seven Tour de Frances. He might not have become the world’s most revered athlete. He might not have raised millions of dollars for cancer research through his Livestrong Foundation either. But then again, who knows?

One thing is certain: had Lance ever stopped and asked the question, “What does God require of me?” he would also likely not be trying today to figure out how to put the pieces of a shattered life back together either.

Each one of us can – and should – ask ourselves Question #4 every day.

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