Today I had the privilege to hear the first sermon by a young man who I first met when he was 6 – 8 years old. He’s 23 now. After he spoke, his father, who has been one of the most influential pastors I ever was blessed to know, shared his words as well. I only know bits and pieces of the drama and trauma of their lives, but what I know they have lived with, through, and moved on from fill me with awe, wonder, and hope; three important things I have buried and let go of in the midst of the daily episodes of fatigue, pain, and depression from dealing with the fibromyalgia and the consequences of having made the choices I have made in my life.
7 “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. 2 For the way you judge others is how you will be judged — the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure to you. 3 Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye but not notice the log in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when you have the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite! First, take the log out of your own eye; then you will see clearly, so that you can remove the splinter from your brother’s eye! (Matthew 7 ~ Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
Blake was primarily speaking on choices, but at the last minute the verses shown above were brought into his consciousness and he started off by sharing them and asking us to just sit with them while he spoke about choice. The choice to stay focused on other people and what they are doing prevents us from looking inside of ourselves and seeing what we need to be accountable for in our own journey through life.
He shared a story about his five year old self, when he and his older sister tagged along and hung out while his dad was in church board meetings. He was bored. That boredom encompassed the entirety of everything that sucked in life ~ anger, sadness, and all that just wasn’t right with his world. At five years old he would approach his dad, shoulders slumped with a downcast face, chin tilted up in frustrated appeal and proclaim to his dad, “I’m bored.” The expectation with that announcement is that dad could fix it, entertain him and make life all better, bringing happiness and joy.
This is something that all kids kind of experience and expect parents to be able to do. However, Blake’s dad, Duff, is an especially demonstratively happy and joyful person. One might say he’s bubbly and bouncy. He is an extreme extrovert with a brilliant smile, warm laughter, and empathetic touch. He is one of the few people that I have ever known who truly lives his life out loud. This is the father who looked at his brooding, disgruntled, and bored five year old son and stated in his special way, “Well that’s your choice.”
As you can imagine, that wasn’t something a five year old little kid was going to grasp. However, it set the groundwork for this young man to begin learning that allowing his emotions to be driven by the externals of life and the uncontrollable situations, relationships, and events wasn’t the path to fully live life.
13 “Go in through the narrow gate; for the gate that leads to destruction is wide and the road broad, and many travel it; 14 but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7 ~ Complete Jewish Bible (CJB))
It’s easy to look around and get discouraged, angry, upset, and hopeless. It is easy to decide that things are too difficult, require too much effort, or cost too much in order to achieve desires, hopes, and dreams. It’s easy to take on the victim role and blame other people and circumstances for why things are less than ideal and why life has failed to meet expectations. This is the wide and destructive path that so many of us live on with our tattered and forgotten hopes and dreams in the midst of the turmoil and strife, the disappointment and fear of broken relationships and damaged psyches. I know it is the path I have been on for a long time and apathetically surrendered myself to recently.
The Gospel or Good News that Blake shared today is that we, I, don’t have to stay captive to that path and that past. Acknowledge and accept that is the way it has been, but don’t wallow and stay stuck in the self-recrimination of choices past. Step by step, making new choices, small choices, to take the hard path to choose a different response to the pain, sorrow, and suffering in life.
God is in the details, thoughts, dreams, hopes and goals that course through the brain and desires of the soul that we all experience. Making the choice to pay attention to those things and direct the energy into those internal desires and needs isn’t selfish, but life affirming because they are coming from the one who gives life.
Duff, built on what his son had to say and reminded us that all the methods we are familiar with using to hold the pain and tears at bay: intellectualizing, thinking it through, and putting it in the context of if we don’t mind, then it doesn’t matter is never going to help us to move through, deal with, and heal from the emotionally wounded areas of ourselves. It has to be experienced and accepted in order for it to be moved through and to be able to experience the present that is the here and now. He shared a quote, “Don’t push the river,” which I interpreted as meaning that life, emotions, people and circumstances are going to flow as they will without my efforts to move and contain them. I can choose to fight against the flow, creating and amplifying my own trauma and drama of futile disillusionment and continue living, or rather barely existing, the way I have been.
Alternatively, I can choose to wake up, look around and see what God is already doing in and around me and open myself up to His presence, allowing myself to be present today and join Him on the journey we are all already on. Let go of the “need” to dictate, define, and do. Allow myself to accept life on life’s terms, be present, and available.