Do you ever feel like a cultural dinosaur? Do you sometimes feel obsolete, out-of-date, and passé? Do you no longer feel fashionable, useful, or valuable—like you have passed the peak of your effectiveness or popularity?
As time passes, most of us wrestle with feeling like a has-been. The sharp-looking guy who was a heartthrob in high school returns to his class reunion years later overweight and out of shape. The woman whose beauty turned heads when she was young doesn’t like the wrinkles she now beholds in the mirror. The powerful CEO looks forward to his long-awaited retirement, then slumps into depression, feeling bored and insignificant now that he’s no longer in charge. The well-known minister used to be the talk of the town, but now the church is moving on with younger leaders calling the shots. The professional athlete’s team considers him unable to contribute anymore, leaving the proud old pro with aching limbs and a bruised ego.
Along with all the rest of his suffering, the patriarch Job felt like a has-been. Recalling a time when others listened to his advice and respected his accomplishments, he looked back wistfully and moaned, “Oh, for the days when I was in my prime” (Job 29:4). “But now they mock me, men younger than I,” he complained (30:1).
I believe the has-been syndrome springs from our fear of death. We hate to admit that our time is short and our influence is waning. Is there a remedy, or is feeling like a has-been an inevitable part of the aging process?
What if we start by embracing the biblical truth that life’s value cannot be measured merely by what we possess or achieve? “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36). “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).
A Better Sacrifice
The ancient Hebrews found their hope renewed every year on the Day of Atonement. A priest would solemnly place his hands on the head of the scapegoat (“escape goat”), confess the sins of the nation, and send the goat into the wilderness so it could never return. This mysterious annual ritual reminded the people of God’s promise, “On this day atonement will be made for you” (Leviticus 16:30). However, the blood of sheep and goats couldn’t provide lasting forgiveness; only the blood of Christ could do that once and for all. Only the sinless Christ could “free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15).
It hasn’t been an easy struggle, but I am learning to rejoice in being a has-been. Because of the death and resurrection of Christ:
- My soul has been redeemed.
- My sin has been forgiven.
- My hope has been restored.
- My fear of death has been reduced.
- Every stage of my life has been infused with significance as the focus shifts from “make me look good” to “give God the glory.”
If we don’t like the thought of being a has-been, there’s a clear solution. Let’s anchor our lives in God who always has been and always will be.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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