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.”
A few weeks ago I was working outside in my overalls. A friend stopped by and was shocked I looked so “country.” “What are you wearing?” was the first thing he said to me. I was taken aback by how he couldn’t get over my overalls. “I actually have a couple of pairs and wear them to keep from getting too dirty, they have multiple pockets to put things in, and look great with my boots!” I thought he might faint. He’s known me primarily in work and play clothes, never in yard work attire. It was as if a pair of overalls changed his view of me.
Yesterday, I almost threw myself into a political/theological argument a friend was having on Facebook. I thought better of it and remembered that social media is not the place to have deep conversations. As I read the thread of the discussion the primary antagonist held several views I disagree with and supported his arguments with not so pleasant words of attacks and insults. I finally stopped reading the conversation because my view of this man was becoming negative, judgemental and I didn’t even know him!
His beliefs and convictions are not mine but too often, like my friend when seeing me in overalls, differing points of view cause us to see people in certain ways. We use political, theological and a host of other convictions as litmus tests to place people in certain categories, judge them as unworthy, unintellectual, strange, sinful, or label them in other insulting ways.
People are more than their outward appearances and opinions. When we allow our view of them to be shaped by what we see or hear on the outside we are actually revealing more about ourselves than them.
Absence of Disease –
This afternoon, at a staff meeting, we listened to a Harvard University graduate talk about happiness, mindfulness, and contentment. He was humorous and engaging with lots of information.
One of the things he said that seemed to resonate with the staff was; “Absence of disease is not health.” It takes a while for the truth of this sentence to sink in. We often think sickness, a diagnosis, a trouble, challenge, a difficulty, is what keeps us from a contented life. Perhaps it’s a new job, losing weight, a promotion, a relationship or whatever that will make us happy.
Wisdom teaches us that anytime our quality of life depends on outward circumstances we are not where we need to be, ie: unhealthy. CS Lewis says; “Never let your happiness depend on something which can be taken away.”
Fill My Cup –
Sunday morning, heading into the sanctuary for worship, I grabbed a styrofoam cup from the coffee stand and went to a water fountain to fill it up. As I filled it with water, I was also saying; “hello” to a few people and thinking about several other things. After a while, I looked down at the cup and noticed it was only half filled. So, I kept the faucet going, felt the eyes of the person behind me waiting for me to finish, checked again and it was only half filled. I then let go of the lever to the fountain, picked up the styrofoam cup, looked at the bottom and noticed it had a big hole. The water was leaking out almost as fast as it was being put in. I emptied out the bit which was remaining and threw the cup away. I then walked down the hall to where the kitchen was located, the door was open, so I went in and grabbed a plastic cup, made my way back to the water fountain and filled up the cup with ease. I went into the sanctuary, found where my wife was sitting and stood beside her.
As we sang a chorus I wasn’t familiar with I reflected on the oft heard statement; “I hope the singing and the sermon is good this morning! My heart needs to be filled up today. I’m almost empty.” I chuckled as I thought about the first cup with the big hole. It wasn’t the fountain’s fault the cup wasn’t being filled. Maybe, instead of looking to church, concerts, special services, “good ol’ preaching,” or whatever the newest, most popular sermon series happens to be, we should check our heart for holes. This could be why we’re empty every Sunday. Too many times we look outside before inside to see what the problem may be.
Thursday I wrote about a piece of reclaimed lumber I picked up and hoped to use. I knew it would require cutting away the decaying pieces to see if there were any useful parts.
This morning I grabbed my jigsaw and went to work searching, hoping to locate the good. Truth be known there wasn’t much. Time, dampness, bugs and weather had stripped it of its strength, sturdiness and purpose. I was able to salvage a nice sized piece in the middle where nature and neglect hadn’t yet destroyed.
We’re similar to the wood. Our outer edges, the parts of us the world corrupts and compromises so quickly. The inner, the center, the part of us that’s protected, shielded, and remains good. This is worth finding and worth saving.