Monday, April 29, 2013

On the Run

If you were to Google Frank Abagnale's name, you'd come up with over 475,000 results.  In spite of that, many people who are not involved in finance or banking may not be too familiar with his name.  Frank Abagnale was one of the world's greatest forgers.  He would cash checks at banks across the country and be out of town with the money before the checks were returned unpaid.

He was quite the adventurous teenager.  Abagnale left home at the age of sixteen.  His parent had gotten divorced and he was down on funds.  But the reason he started forging checks and conning people wasn't for the money.  It was for the challenge.  Abagnale wanted to see what he could get away with.  And he got away with a lot.  Forging checks was only part of the adventure.  Within a short time, he passed himself off as a Pan Am pilot, posed as a resident director of a hospital, and even became an assistant to the Attorney General in Atlanta.

The man was brilliant.

Frank Abagnale wrote about what it took for him to play the con in his book, Catch Me If You Can.  He would work on honing his abilities of observation, along with changing his personality and delving into research.  He mocked those individuals who had high IQ's but feared getting caught.  Much of his teenage years were spent dodging the FBI and authorities.  Towards the end of his running, Abagnale sought a safe haven in Montpelier, France.  It was there that the French police caught him.  Eventually he was thrown into Perpignan Prison.  His cell was five feet wide, five feet high and five feet long.  Not much room for a man who spent years hopping Pan Am flights from one end of the United States to another.  He developed double phenomena  and lost weight dramatically.  His running was over and he was living in misery in a dark, dank prison cell.

I admire Abagnale's brilliance.  But it was too bad that he used that brilliance for his own selfish needs.  Everything he did was done for the con. Working in a hospital, practicing law, playing the role of a pilot. Once he left home, Abagnale never saw his father again; his father died while Frank was in prison.

Fleeting relationships and always on the run.  That's not life.  That may be fun, but that's not what life is about.  That doesn't bring the kind of peace and love that we were made for. When it comes down to it, we all have the choice of whether or not to use our abilities, our talents and our gifts for good or bad, for right or wrong.

Jesus was teaching about fearing God and not living for oneself.  He spoke this parable:

"The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.  And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?'  So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for may years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.'  But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'

"So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

Frank Abagnale manufactured his own meaning and generated his own motivation.  But he left out ethics, the knowledge of good and bad, and the counsel of conscience.  It can happen to all of us.  And in the process, we leave out God.  The way one is rich towards God is to love God and love one's neighbor as oneself.  That's pretty different from living for oneself.  In fact, that's pretty different from the life a lot of us live.  But God's promise is true:  there is joy for those who love others.

In prison, Abagnale faced up to the consequences of his criminal ways.  One judge commented that Frank was a bright young man, but instead of making a worthwhile contribution to society he had chosen a different course.  After serving in prison and being extradited to America, Frank ended up turning his life around.  He now runs a successful company that assists banks in protecting themselves against fraud.  Talk about irony!

What do you live your life for?  Is it for fun?  Is it for adventure?  What about success?  God wants to fill your heart with His love so that you're able to live a life of love for Him and those around you.  The only way to do that is through Jesus.  Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.  This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for one's friends."

That's a love worth knowing.  It's a life worth living.

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