My wife and I, along with some friends, had the opportunity to see “Frost/Nixon” this past weekend. I’d highly recommend it. It seems as if, at least according to movie scripts and directors, that one of the biggest difficulties that Nixon faced was the knowing of when he was “done”. Getting back into “the game” was something that apparently consumed him. In the end, an interview concluded that he was, in fact, “done”. A certain quarterback used to play in front of cheese heads, retired, and then came back to play in front of a more dignified crowd. Getting back in the game was something that apparently consumed him. He couldn’t rest with the idea that he was “done”. In the end, an injury concluded that he was.
Sitting here in Starbucks this morning, I’m confronted with all of the holiday merchandise that someone has concluded is “done”. Mark downs and red tags make this painfully clear. The gods of holiday merchandising have seen fit to put a different value on those who weren’t chosen during the season. Someone has said, quoting a movie line, “You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting”. “Your time has come and the best we can hope for is to get pennies on the dollar for you.” “You now must change shelves”. When I’m tired, there’s a small part of me that envies them. They had a predetermined time established by their colors, their designs, their imprints. It’s not that easy for the rest of us. Most of us don’t come with seasonal markings. I know that I have a predetermined time, according to my creator. It’s just not that readily apparent. But when I’m tired, I can long for a chance just to know.
Some of the favorite bands of my growing up years are on the clearance shelf. That clearance is known here in the Northwest as the “casino circuit”. You’ll know them as the bands who only play what they used to be known for. Unlike the Eagles, The Stones, and Bruce Springsteen of the same era, they choose not to venture into anything new. They have kept their seasonal labels which insure a trip to the clearance rack. Even though you can see them at sometimes clearance prices, which should appeal to me because I’m cheap, I can’t bring myself to do it. I don’t want to face the possibility that, if they are on the shelf, I might be close behind. Of course, my shelf isn’t nearly as high as theirs, but you have to admit, there is one for all of us if we choose it. At what point is my life going to be consumed with getting just one more “atta boy”? How will I know when I’m done? Being a teaching pastor in my community o’ faith, I have often thought that I would be “done” when I had two weeks in a row of sermons that I had self acknowledged to be found “wanting”. It is too high a calling to allow more. I’ve only recently realized that this causes me to focus on the clearance and not the season that I’m in right now. My efforts will always be found wanting if left to my own devices. I have better than that available in my corner. It’s not my role to “do”. It is, however, my role to show up.
I’ve always felt that Neal Young had it right when he sang “It’s better to burn out, rust never sleeps”. That’s my goal. Some weeks I’m closer to burning than others and some can appear more rusty than I’m comfortable with. I still control the attitude though, at least in my own corner of existence. I get to walk out of here, away from the clearance, and make a difference in a life. I can pet a dog, buy a coffee, offer a smile or a generous tip and, at least for one more day, be a full priced person who contributes more than he consumes. No clearance yet for me.