This morning the pastor began his sermon by quoting my favorite Psalm;
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
He had my attention. Then the reverend told the story of a logger challenging another to a contest of chopping down trees. “The one with the most chopped wood at the end is the winner.” The challenged accepted and they met the following morning at dawn. The challenger yelled; “Go!” and began swinging his axe with all his might and at great speed. The challenged swung his axe at a steady, but slower, rate. The challenger went as hard as he could all morning, ate a short lunch, and then resumed his feverish pace until the sunset. He knew he had won. How could he not? His speed, strength, and stamina were unmatched by the challenged. In fact, during the day, when he’d stop to wipe his brow, it seemed every time he looked the other logger was sitting down and resting. However, when both men looked at the two piles the challenger was flabbergasted and admitted his opponent’s pile of wood was bigger than his. “How could that be?” he asked. “I worked longer, stronger and faster!” “True,’ said the winner; ‘but when I rested I was sharpening my axe.”
A simple but important lesson. Sometimes we are so fixated on “what we have to do!” that we forget to rest. We are overworked and overwhelmed. What we need is rest. Rest restores the body, mind, and spirit. In our culture, resting is frowned upon. This is because we’ve forgotten the difference between being at rest and being lazy.
The past few weeks there’s been an invasion of Middle Tennessee! The multi-legged, orange-colored, flying insects called Ladybugs. They’re everywhere and this morning they kept stealing my attention away from the pastor as he spoke from the Book of Saint John, chapter 12. They were collecting near every light fixture which was about 10 feet from the pews the people were sitting in. Every now and then one or ten would fly across the room landing on someone. One tried to use my neck as a resting place but he didn’t stay there long. I watched hundreds on one light fixture as they crawled around it seemingly looking for a way in. I am not sure if they were attracted to the heat or the light. Of course, once in it was nearly impossible for them to get out. They very thing they were after was actually a trap. They would die there getting what they wanted but not able to get out.
I reflected on the Ladybug’s fate and how it also mirrored our own fascination with those things in life which promise safety, warmth, and light. We become fixated on things which we believe will make life better, bring satisfaction and enlightenment only to find out once we’ve achieved or possessed them it was an illusion. Wisdom teaches that what is worth having comes to us. It is our humility, our acceptance that we are not able to control or manipulate love, peace, kindness and a grace-filled life that makes it possible for these to permeate our minds, emotions, and spirits and bring a unique warmth and light to our cold and dark world.
Nothing is Lacking–
I was a part of a conversation this week where a group of people was giving a person advice. The advice was based on what the person had shared; a story of love and betrayal. On the wrong side of a bad choice is a terrible place to be and the person was fixated on how to either get over on the person who hurt him or get over it period. Two choices were staring him the face and he was going to choose either one or the other.
Decisions based on pain are almost always bad ones. We make these in times of stress, confusion, doubt, and loneliness. We feel as though we have lost something, had it taken away from us, and we want it back or rather life back the way it was or the way it should be.
Wisdom teaches us that suffering is the gap between how life is, reality, and how we think life ought to be. The greater the gap the more suffering. It is why learning to let go and acceptance are two of the greatest life lessons we can learn and practice. Life is rarely if ever, the way we want. Even if for a while it seems to be sooner or later it changes and we have no control over this truth. To live with open hand, to not try to grasp, force life to stay the same and allow for the inevitable change is to know and live in peace.