Are You Taking In Life or Taken In By Life?

Here’s a question for you: are you taking in life or are you taken in by life? Everyone does a little of both, but you probably lean toward one more than the other. Though they sound similar, there’s a subtle difference between the two that can change the way you live. What’s the difference?

A person who takes in life is a person who likes to drive life. They analyzes what they see. They want to be productive and protective of their time, efforts, and energies. They try to get the most out of life and fit in as much in as possible.

I’ve become this person. In fact, I’ve become a person who takes in life so much I have trouble relaxing.

This hit me while on vacation. Three days into my vacation I found myself mentally planning out the structure of each day. It sounded something like this: “If I get up early, I can get a walk in and maybe get some reading done before my wife gets up. I wonder if she’s going to want to go shopping or go to the beach when she gets up? If she wants to go shopping, I need to go ahead and get my shower so I’ll be ready to go. But if she wants to go to the beach, I don’t need to take a shower. Maybe I need to check the weather forecast to see if it’s going to rain. That would help me plan out the rest of the week.” It was sad, it was exhausting, and it was only day three of the vacation!

I used to be a free-spirited, go-with-the-flow kind of guy. What happened? Maybe it’s my age. (I think of the old Cosby Show episode where Cliff’s parents didn’t think they could go on a cruise because the cruise line might not have their brand of cereal.) Maybe it comes from years of working at a place where planning and organization is an absolute must. Maybe after all these years of marriage, I’ve taken on more of the characteristics of my spouse, who is much more proficient at planning and scheduling than I am. (Not that I’m blaming her.)

I’m not saying that taking in life is bad. It actually helps me be more effective and efficient at work. But away from work, I need to shift from being a person who takes in life to being a person who is taken in by life.

A person who is taken in by life is a person who can let life drive. They can go with the flow. They can shift gears easily when they need to. They have the ability to really see and seize the moment in front of them, even when it’s not what they planned. 

My younger daughter is a person who is taken in by life. She knows how to let life drive. I remember a time when she was in college. I was going to travel to a town not too far from her campus to look for a guitar. She told me she was familiar with the town and could get me where I wanted to go. (This was before either of us had a GPS or smart phone.)

I picked her up, but when we got to the town it quickly became apparent that she didn’t really know where to go. We wondered up one street and down another and I was getting more and more frustrated. I had an agenda. I was on a schedule I wanted to get back home in time for dinner. But when I looked over at my daughter, she was serene and smiling. She had the window down, taking in the scenery and enjoying the beautiful spring day.

Finally, my frustration got the best of me. I turned to her and said, “You don’t have a clue where this place is, do you?” She looked at me with her hair blowing in the wind and said, “No. But I’ve found that if I just start out, I’ll eventually get to where I want to go, and in the process I see things I’ve never seen before.” In that moment, I was busted. She was teaching me a lesson about being taken in by life, and though I don’t practice it as much as I should, I’ve never forgot that lesson. Here’s what she taught me…

  • Take your time. I was in such a hurry to get there and to get home that I was missing the life that was happening right in front of me.
  • Drink in the view. There I was on a beautiful spring day. The sun was shining, the windows were down, the temperature was just right, and I couldn’t see any of it.
  • Enjoy people more than projects. Both of my daughters are bright and funny and a blast to be with. But on that day, I couldn’t enjoy it.
  • The trip is as important as the destination. We finally found the guitar store, but they didn’t have what I was looking for. Still, I didn’t go home empty-handed. I got a life lesson out of it. Turns out I needed the trip more than I needed the guitar.

So I’m working on being more of a person who is taken in by life, but I know I’ve got a long way to go. How do I know this? I’m writing this while on vacation! Does this tell you anything?

On another level…

Jesus once said, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10 NLT.) I think we all want to be taken in by this kind of life. If that’s true, perhaps we should try starting with Him.

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Copyright © 2015 Bret Legg