Change Myself –
The older I get the less knowledge and wisdom I think I possess. They say the beginning of wisdom and knowledge is two-fold; fearing God and knowing you know nothing. As each year passes the second part seems to get easier.
There was a time when I believed I knew much. Not just about myself but also about others. I could perceive motives both inward and outward, judge with impunity, and thought myself better and more able to live a life pleasing to God and myself than most other people. Then, I began to grow up.
The word growing brings with it a sense of serenity but growing is painful. It is bursting through old barriers, going places that are uncomfortable and unknown, daring to die in order to live, braving the challenges and elements that surround you.
With growth comes the realization you cannot force others to change. You do not have that power. You cannot stop the world from spinning out of control. You don’t have that ability. You can’t even get past your own hurts, habits, and hangups most days. You, I, am a perfect example of imperfection.
Wisdom and knowledge. They are as different as night and day but compliment each other when embraced and allowed to exist mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact, please you.”
There are three kinds of problems; those we can live with, those we can do something about and those we must separate ourselves from.
It’s the last one which gives us the most trouble. Living with something aggravating and, at least in the present moment, is unchangeable can be a challenge. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we can tolerate a lot. This approach can create more hassles if something needs to be changed and we lack the direction, motivation or passion to do something.
Taking control, bending problems to our will, throwing our shoulder into a problem is an attitude we find easy. There’s nothing like grabbing a difficulty by the throat and forcibly doing away with it, changing it to our liking. The risk here is we can make a situation worse if we are too hasty, too stubborn or not wise enough in our decision-making.
Leaving it, for most of us, takes the greatest strength. To be faced with a problem and not change it but change ourselves, how we approach it, takes courage and trust. When we put up with it we are sullen and prone to negative thoughts and spirits. When we take hold of it and wrestle with it, we feel we are in control. When we decide to let go, step back, allow the problem to exist and find contentment at the same time, we have reached a place of genuine spiritual and intellectual maturity.
Your Last Moment –
Last night me, Beth and some friends gathered around a fire and roasted wieners, shared how are weeks were going and then rushed inside when it started raining. There wasn’t anything earth-shattering about the evening but that’s what made it special.
Too often, while living in the present moment, our minds are busy thinking about the moments to come or the moments that have gone by. We are rarely present mentally, emotionally, spiritually, in the present moment.
To treat each moment as if it is our last is a difficult discipline but it starts with the understanding that the present moment is truly the only one available to us. The moments which have come and gone are no longer accessible to us. We cannot relive or change them. The moments which are ahead are unpredictable and not within our power to get to until they become the present moment.
This is why the present moment is so special and powerful. It is in this moment where life and all its possibilities and wonder exist. We miss it so often but if we can embrace it, cherish it, drain each ounce of precious promise out of it our lives will be enriched beyond our wildest dreams.
Perfection or Progression –
A difficult discipline to master is self-awareness. It is when you are aware of the good and the not so good, the skills you possess and the ones which need work. The biases, skewed vision, different experiences, which make you the uniquely flawed individual like the rest of humanity.
Some of the men I work with have begun to develop this discipline and it is hard for them to see themselves as they truly are, with no excuses. It is especially for those who thought of themselves as good partners and fathers only to discover they have a lot of work to do. If we’re not careful these revelations can do more harm than good because the road seems terribly long. They may even ask; “Why try?”
Along with self-awareness, another discipline I try to teach is the truth of progression, not perfection. Oftentimes when we see ourselves, perhaps for the first time, we also envision the amount of hard work inside of ourselves out outside. We have this perfect view of what we want to be and what we think our family, friends, and others want us to be. We throw all of our efforts into becoming this perfect version of ourselves, which doesn’t exist and isn’t attainable, and never come close. We fail miserably.
This is why the path to peace and acceptance is progression, not perfection. We are never going to be the idealized version of what we think we want and should be. We will only wear ourselves out and down. To pursue progression doesn’t mean there isn’t hard work to be done but we recognize the realization of our true selves is found on the journey and not at the end of it.
Perfection or progression, the difference makes all the difference.
Last night I sat in the classroom at a local county jail with a man who is close to being released. We talked about many things but mostly of our conversation was centered around the plan he has for getting his life in order, re-establishing his relationship with his children and how to live one day, one good choice at a time.
He was hopeful, a rare mindset for those incarcerated. He had his plan memorized and as he laid out the path he wants to follow I sensed in him genuine excitement at what his future holds. Part of mentoring men who are in jail is helping them not only formulate a post-incarceration strategy but also a second and a third option. After all, life has a way of not working out the way we anticipate. As we conversed the different possibilities his hope wasn’t dissipated and his determination, motivation was inspiring. I was careful not to dampen his enthusiasm too much while assisting him in making adjustments to his proposals. When our time was up he was not deterred. He believed in his plans, his ability to choose well and that he wouldn’t squander his regained freedom and sense of purpose.
Thinking on our conversation I believe it would be good for each of us to carve out spaces in our lives to remember our hope, purpose and reason for being. Life has a way of trapping us in the mundane minutiae of everyday living. Refocusing on our purpose, our hope, frees us from just passing one day to the next and allows us to truly live, not just exist.
We need rain. The ground is parched and a nice drenching would quench it’s thirst. Yesterday, there was an 80% chance the sky would open up and grace the land with water from heaven. I watched several times as the sky grew dark with grey clouds, blocking out the sun, threatening to unleash a torrent only to see the potential dissipate. Not a drop was to fall all day. An 80% chance equaled 0% actuality.
I was talking with someone this week whose having a difficult time with their teenager. This parent, clearly exasperated and their wit’s end, declared to me; “She just wont communicate with me! When we’re together not a word is spoken. I’m not sure she hears a word I say.” I asked the parent; “Do you know that 80% of our communication is body language? Only 20% is words. When she’s not talking she’s still saying a lot. You’ve just got to be able hear her. It takes a different kind of listening to understand what’s being said when no words are given.” The rest of our time together we discussed ways to hear and be heard with someone who isn’t able, ready or willing to talk.
Clouds and a parent. 80% seemed like a certainty when it came to rain. Speaking being only 20% of communicating seemed like never to a parent longing to bond with a child. Percentages, statistics, probabilities can bring false assurance and disappointment. This is why wisdom teaches that we are not to anticipate, generalize or give up when the odds are stacked against us. We enter and exist in every moment with the realization that every opportunity holds possibility and promise.
There are those days when you; “hit the nail on the head,” and others when you hit the finger instead.
Yesterday evening I finished building two doors for an outdoor lean-to we use for firewood and other misc objects. Critters have been messing around in it and I needed something to keep them out. The project wasn’t hard but my focus was off and in a relatively short amount of time I smashed my finger and hand with a hammer. I was becoming frustrated both by being off target and the pain which was shooting up my arm. Finally, doors in place, I went inside, washed and looked at my damaged digit and hand. Each one had already begun to turn purple and I rolled my eyes at my incompetence. This morning I looked again at the doors and at my bruises. The doors looked nice and will last, hopefully, longer than the damage to my hand. I also thought about all the nails that I hit on the head, drove into the wood without any problem at all.
The path we travel will have it shares of twists and turns, bumps and bruises, obstacles and heartaches. The temptation when we encounter these is to close our eyes to all the good, what’s going right, the blessings and focus solely on what’s not working, hurting us, the negative, impeding our way. The choice to look around and see the fuller picture can be the difference between keep going or giving up, hoping or despairing, living or just existing.