This video fascinated me yesterday. The washer kept going and going and going. I kept waiting for it to quit, thinking it might just fall apart, expecting it to explode but it simply held up under extreme hardship and duress.
I think this video captured my attention, in part, because I haven’t felt good the last couple of weeks. However, life doesn’t stop because I’m not at my best. It just keeps churning. I’m not sure which I identified with more; the washer or the piece of metal thrown into it.
Life has a way of testing us, pushing us to our limits, seeing how much pressure, stress, anxiety and chaos we can handle before we quit. We like to think we’re similar to the washer’s motor which, even after everything else crumbled, kept spinning, never surrendering.
Truth is however, no matter how much inner fortitude, grit, resolve and will we have sooner or later the plug will be pulled and our energy supply ceases. The washer motor was willing but without the power to make it go it was only another piece of metal.
Making sure we can keep going isn’t about toughness and stick-to-it-ness, it’s making sure what powers us can’t be disconnected.
This morning a raging thunderstorm passed through the area bringing high winds, torrential rains and lots of lightning! Even though the sky was a bright shade of grey the flashes lit it up. Several times my eyes grew wide with wonder at the power and ferocity which was being displayed. In the midst of the downpour I was sitting at a traffic signal when another visual burst attracted my eye. It surprised me and as I whipped my head around I noticed it was only a strobe light on the top of a work truck.
The strobe light, though it startled me, didn’t invoke in me the awe the lightning had conjured within. It wasn’t nearly as bright, the predictable, rhythmic flashing wasn’t as inspiring and frightening as the streaks of energy and chaos which seemed to appear out of nowhere without advanced notice.
I reflected upon the two lights and the unpredictability of life. We like to think that a controlled, managed, structured existence is best. Certainly we wouldn’t allow pain, heartache, difficulties to strike without warning. We’d never be surprised by disappointment, disease and death. There would be a steady, fixed, consistent way of being but what would we lose?
Wisdom tells us it is in the unforeseeable, uncertain, unplanned parts of life when our eyes, heart and spirits are open to awe and wonder. It is in these times and seasons when we are inspired, strengthened and consider possibilities of which we’ve never dreamed.
It is the unexpectedness of life which lights up the soul. Don’t settle for a dim imitation.
I stuck my foot in my mouth yesterday, not just the toes but the arch, all the way up to the heel!
It all started so innocently. I spotted someone I hadn’t seen in a while and stopped to speak with them for a few moments. Truth be known I was running late for an appointment and my mind was on where I needed to be not where I was and who I was talking with presently. I was only giving cursory attention to this one who is going through an incredibly difficult time.
After a few pleasantries I made a comment about a change this individual was making to a room. When the reason was given as to why, I missed the “key phrase” which, if I had been mindful of the person and the present, I would have understood what was and was NOT being said. I then could have steered the conversation in another, more pleasant direction.
However, it sailed right over my head and I then made another comment which, in most situations would’ve been benign, but was painful in the current setting. Immediately, after it had left my big mouth, I realized what this person was saying and not saying, why they were doing what they were doing, and wished I could do the whole thing over.
There is a spiritual discipline called contemplative listening. At the core of this practice is the instruction to be fully engaged with ear, mind, heart and spirit, open to fully receive the other person. It is the belief that every moment is holy and to only be partially available is to cheapen and risk missing a divine encounter.
Sometimes lessons are indeed learned the hard way.
I’ve been thinking about my friend who I wrote an article on last week. The cute little varmint who’s been tearing up my lawn with his sharp claws and pointy snout. I haven’t seen him in a few days but if my dog’s constant sniffing is any indication he’s been in the area excavating for more grubs.
As I reflect upon the armadillo and his keen awareness of what he’s searching for I wonder if we can be so invested in what we want that we miss other things? Can we be so completely focused on what we’re doing, fully invested in the need of the moment, that we are left vulnerable?
The day I spied the prehistoric bug and worm eater I made several noises to try to get him to stop digging but he never heard me. I honked my truck horn and slammed the door several times before he became antsy and eventually sauntered away. Could I have snuck up on him? Could I have hurt or captured him if so desired? Was he so engrossed in the task he was oblivious to all else?
What is the difference in being mindful, fully in the present and being so focused on what we’re doing that we become unmindful?
Perhaps the difference is all the difference. When our attention is our appetite, needs and wants, what we believe is required to be happy, content, satisfied, we are only capable of scratching the surface.
It is when we dig deeper, past the exterior and into the seldom explored interior that we feed body, mind and spirit. When these three are nurtured all we do, each moment, will be infused with greater significance and we become mindfully aware of all that surrounds us.
“I need to know my next step.” he said to me. “There are no steps, only be still.” I replied. “I just feel I’m missing something.” he stated longingly. “Stop seeking. You already have everything you need.” was the wisdom I once received and now passed on to my friend.
These are snippets of a beautiful, holy moment I had in a church classroom this morning with a fellow sojourner.
Too often our approach to life is; “What’s next? How do I acquire what I need or feel I lack?” Give me a task, a purpose, a goal to achieve and when I have accomplished them all I will have arrived at my understanding of perfection.
To let go of the illusion of who we should be and accept who we are presently is difficult. To believe that we are loved perfectly, even with all our flaws, is hard to grasp.
God doesn’t know the illusory person we work so hard on trying to become. This ideal self we’ve concocted of who and what we’re supposed to be doesn’t and never will exist.
To walk with God isn’t about getting somewhere, it’s about being with Someone.
I met someone I didn’t like this week…maybe that’s too strong. I crossed paths with a person who came off as unfriendly, arrogant, boisterous and a bully. OK, that’s not any better.
Should I try one more time? No, wisdom tells me; “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”
Ever encountered someone you instantly couldn’t stand? A moment when two lives intersected and for one or a myriad of reasons you developed a quick distaste for what they said, the way they acted, who they were as a person? This happened to me and it’s bothersome.
The reason I struggle with an immediate aversion towards another human being is the realization I don’t know this person. I had a glimpse of a tiny sliver of the tapestry that is his life. I’ve no idea about his past or his present struggles, difficulties, tragedies and obstacles he’s overcome. He may have an amazing life’s story and all I’ve read is this fraction of a sentence.
The truth is that too often our acceptance or rejection of a person is based on our prejudices and partialities. We sum up and slap a sticker on someone as; “my type” or “not my type” and never pause to question our reasons for doing so.
So, I stop to breathe, settle my thoughts and accept my weakness and flawed judgement. Who am I to decide a person’s worth? I will let go of my shortsightedness, look for goodness in every person I meet and hope, the next time someone doesn’t like me, they’ll do the same.
This morning I will give a presentation to give to a group of foster parents about the importance of fathers and primary male role models in the lives of children. The location of the session is downtown Nashville and traffic in this ever burgeoning city, like life, is always unpredictable.
I left extra early and to my relief everything ran smoothly. I arrived quite a bit ahead of schedule and so asked Google where the closest McDonald’s was located. When I got to the fast food joint I discovered where all the traffic was…in the drive thru line! It was backed up out of the parking lot and into the street. After finally being able to park I went inside and stood in line to order my coffee and biscuit.
As I waited two women, having a lively conversation, walked through the door and without hesitation made their way to the next available cashier. I thought about speaking up, considered telling them there was a line and to proceed to the back. Instead, I smiled, listened as they placed their order and continued their dialogue with each other. My turn came and all was well. I found a seat, sipped my house blend and ate my “not really good for me but very tasty” sausage biscuit. I did a little reading, tried meditating while the smoothie machine blared in the back ground and was thankful for a moment to center myself before a hectic day.
I think back to the “absorbed in their own world” women who just assumed it was their turn to order and the choice of reactions I had before me. Too often we choose to express or demand our rights, declare outrage at the perceived injustices, refuse to take second place, a position of servant-hood and put others before us.
Allowing irritations, inconveniences, negative situational possibilities to not materialize takes patience, kindness, a refusal to be consumed by ego\self and a willingness to accept that more often than not life doesn’t go as planned.