Saturday, May 27, 2006

Life is too short... dwell on the frustrations and disappointments. I hit the dial button for Burt Ford, to make a service appointment for my truck. On the line came my friend Craig out in California. I thought I had lost his cell number, but had mislabeled it. He shared with me that my dear friend Kathi's mother had died. Oh she was 87 and ready to go be with Jesus, and had told her doctor just half an hour before that when Jesus came to get her to just let her go, but it is still an ache in the heart. Perhaps in the case where the loved one has been in a nursing home for a while, has lost the ability to walk, and whose life has narrowed to her small room and the people who visit her, who has lost her husband and who has seen her great-great grandchildren, perhaps then the loss is tempered, lessened somehow. I think of my grandma (Kathi's mom is also her grandmother, who adopted her and her siblings). My grandma was 93, had outlived her husband by over 30 years, her younger sister by at least 10 years, outlived all her friends, and had slowly lost her memory of the people around her, until she could only just barely, with a great struggle recognize her two daughters. Still, when she died, even though she hadn't known me for a while, I grieved. I loved her. There were so many things I still longed for from her, and so many ways I longed to know her.

Anyway, today, for the moment at least, I have put away the petty. Yesterday I decided that the first thing I would do is ask Steve what I could do to help him. So, for the second day in a row, I drove to north Denver to pick up material for Steve. Spending several hours on the road freed him up to do other things. And it was my choice. This is the problem. I often choose to focus on me. Oh it's not a conscious choice. I don't get up thinking "today is all about me". But, nevertheless, that is what I do when I don't choose to focus on others. Because, basically, I'm a selfish, self-centered person. Aren't we all?

Some of us learn early on how to cover that up, and some, through practice, actually become less so. Perhaps some are actually not as self-centered as most, but recognizing this as a fact allows me to choose to do something about it. Just as recognizing my propensity for falsehood allows me to focus my energy on honesty. When we are conscious of our flaws, our propensity for various sins, we can make a plan of attack, a game plan for overcoming our weaknesses.

An in-law once told me that I was the most honest person he knew. I had to laugh, because there is that in me that wishes to lie all the time. I wish to cover up, dissemble, prevaricate--okay, LIE--but I cannot allow myself to do so. I want to, but if I allow myself to lie, or to allow a lie once told to go without confessing it, my heart hardens and soon, I believe that I will succumb to the point that even I won't know what the truth is anymore. I certainly don't want that, so I, by force of habit, by force of conscience and because of the fear of what I will become, tell the truth.

The selfish, self-centered thing is harder to conquer (for me at least). It took a long time before I recognized the ugliness within, and so I have far less practice at fighting this within myself. Selfishness has woven itself into the very fabric of my being, my thoughts, my habits, my reactions. My unconscious and my conscious thoughts are of me first, but I keep finding new shapes and forms I had not previously recognized within me. So I must deliberately and with forethought plan to put others first. I must plan to help Steve. I must plan to find ways I can take care of him and ease things for him. I have to practice self-sacrifice. I don't mean martyrdom or doormat, I mean consciously choosing to do things to make someone else's life better.

Isn't that what life is about? Aren't we in the end, the sum of our choices? I don't really mean career choices, necessarily, I mean how we treat others, how we control our inner demons, our besetting sins, the attitudes we choose to face the day. Isn't it choosing to believe or not believe in God? Choosing to faithfully follow your marriage vows? Choosing to stay with your kids? Choosing to right the wrongs you have done? Choosing to face your fears rather than give in? In our choices there are the big ones and then the daily choices to continue on that path. There are the commitments and then the daily choices to stand by that, to remain that person, to continue to adhere to those marriage vows, to your faith, to your family, to your service, whatever.

You decided to plant a garden, but you don't just spend a day buying fertilizer, seed, shovels, rakes, a wheelbarrow, running a tiller, putting the seed in the ground, watering it and when the day is done, sit back and never look at or think about the garden again. What good would that do? No, you, having made the choice--the commitment--tend carefully to the garden, weeding, watering, pruning, insect control, rushing to cover it with tarps prior to a threatening hail storm, tying up drooping plants, supporting the limbs heavy with fruit, fertilizing where needed, and enjoying both the labors and the fruits. It is a series of choices that determines your yield. Mere planting is not enough. You must choose to devote the time and energy day after day, else the initial determination and effort is in vain.

And so it is with our lives. We make initial commitments, but that is not enough. We must follow through. We must make the determination to weed, water and hoe, to protect from insects and hail damage whatever our commitment is. When it is our kids, we must rush in with the tarps when life threatens to beat them to shreds. When they threaten to wander and produce nothing, we must not allow them to do so, but must ruthlessly prune, tie, water, fertilize--whatever it takes. In our marriages we must resist our own selfishness. We cannot be the garden waiting to be tended. We must be the gardener. If our commitment is to our churches, we must water, plant, sow, hoe, grow, protect, nurture. We don't turn and run at the first sign of trouble. Now there are spots of ground which, despite our best efforts will not produce. When you are in a church, which for whatever reason will not grow, will not produce and resists seasons of prayer, working, nurturing, loving, feeding, protecting, etc., I don't believe it is a horrible thing to determine that you will put your efforts into a church that responds. What I am saying is that we don't run at the first sign of trouble, whether it is with our kids, our spouse, our church, our work, our career, whatever. Are there times when a marriage must end? Sadly, yes. But most marriages don't have to end, and wouldn't if both people determined that they would tend it each day, and they would glory in what their spouse produces. Most kids would not be abandoned if their parents chose every day to put every effort into that kid, loving and disciplining--perhaps having them arrested, or hospitalized should that be necessary, but not giving up until the season is done.

Most churches would not be abandoned if people were to tend them. But many people act as if churches are there for their own entertainment, their own solace, their own feeding trough, their own enjoyment. They do not devote themselves to each other. They do not devote themselves to caring for and nurturing the pastor. They do not devote themselves to seeking ways to feed the flock and caring for them. They do not encourage, they complain. And, when things do not go their own way, they bolt. Someone doesn't personally invite them to a ladies function, or someone rejects their idea for the new building, they aren't thanked properly for their generous donation, whatever. It's time to move on.

So today, I am determining, again, to put other's first. I won't always make it. Sometimes I let the ugliness out. Please remind me if you see it. As with many bad habits, sometimes I don't see it. Sometimes I don't recognize it. Sometimes I simply do not choose to set my own wants aside for the good of others. But for today...

No comments: