Being a Midwesterner through and through, I always look for the best deal on a menu. Even if I am not paying for dinner, I want to find a deal. Of course I could just order the first thing I see, and it will probably be fine, but what if I missed something better?
Each of us has been given one life to live: perhaps you are young and just looking over the menu, getting ready to order, or perhaps you are halfway through your chicken dinner and wondering whether you should have gotten a hamburger, or perhaps you are just deciding on dessert at the end of a full meal. Regardless, we all live with existential fear: am I getting the best deal? Am I missing out on something? Who am I? Who should I be?
Then St. Paul comes along and says something absolutely bonkers: “I consider life of no importance to me.” He does not merely mean that he is ready to die. He is speaking of “imprisonment and hardships” ahead. Something we can forget is that St. Paul did not know that he was St. Paul. He did not know that 2000 years later people in Rochester, Minnesota would be discussing this speech. More importantly, he did not care. Paul did not preach the Gospel for money or fame. He preached because the Lord Jesus told him to.
Life, as the world sees it, exists in the past and the future. What have I done? What will I do? This is where all the fear comes from. Have I done enough? Can I still do something great? Living in the present means waking up in the morning, looking around, and living as a person in our situation should. It means giving up ideas of what we ought to have, and also forgetting our failures except inasmuch as the consequences are part of our situation. There is nothing unfair, because there is nothing fair. There is just whatever is.
Imagine if you woke up each morning in a completely different life. One morning you are a rock star; the next morning you are a stay-at-home parent with 12 children. A Saint could live that way, just doing whatever is right in each situation. We kind of do live that way. Each morning we wake up, and our life is what it is. What our life is does not matter, so long as we follow Jesus Christ.