My behavior may be erratic,
My mind often changing,
My desk overflowing,
My brain ruminating–
I may need a mentor,
I may need a chart,
I may get frustrated
And give it a new start.
But I am not a mess
Despite what it may seem.
There’s meaning to this madness
And purpose to this scheme.
So while there are messes
And dizzying turns and twists,
It’s a jovial journey:
I’m finding my bliss!
Do any of you remember hearing the “miracle stories” of people who normally would have been at work in the Twin Towers on 9/11 but for odd reasons hadn’t made it there by starting time–which meant they weren’t among the 3,000+ killed in the terrorist attacks and resultant collapse–which they interpreted as evidence of God’s loving care for them? Did such stories make you cringe, as they did me?
I remember when Erik, Ashleigh, and I were involved in a car+semi fender bender in 2010 which could have been fatal if Erik had turned one second earlier. Rather than feeling overwhelming gratitude to Providence or God for having spared us, I instinctively thought:
‘There is nothing special about us. No reason why WE should have survived this. I’m so relieved we weren’t hurt, but there are many families mourning today for their loved ones who’ve been killed recently on I-15 and Ironton Hill.’
(It was one of the years in which extensive road construction was happening along the Wasatch Front here in Utah–and we were hearing of several deaths a week.)
Recently an acquaintance of mine posted about a multi-car accident she realized she’d avoided by not feeling up to going to the gym. Her friends were quick to call it a tender mercy–evidence of the Lord’s gracious involvement in her life, but I had a very different response: “So glad you weren’t involved in an accident, [name withheld]. Very unfortunate that those people in the multi-car accident weren’t equally spared the complications or pain. May I gently remind people of the importance of being sensitive when wishing to declare God’s involvement in their lives– when others don’t see similar blessings . . .”
I’m realizing now I wasn’t being very sensitive myself–as those people had wanted to affirm and validate the faith of their friend. Wish I could convey, in a gentle but honest way, the pain that some feel upon hearing others’ Good News (i.e. “God loves me so much that He . . .”) when their own heartfelt pleadings and prayers of faith have produced no miracle.
The chaplain who taught my clinical pastoral education (CPE) class in 2012 mentioned on more than one occasion how hurtful it is to those who are suffering to hear others go on and on about how blessed they’ve been and how they therefore know God loves them.
How can we help those with a strong conviction of God’s hand in their life to consider using more sensitive affirmations (e.g. “I deeply trust that God loves us and will help us find a way forward, even when things don’t turn out the way we wished or hoped for . . .”) rather than equating positive outcomes in their life with God’s love for them?
A recent Facebook post by one of my cousins inspired this reply of mine:
My experience is that if my behavior is too far from my ideal, others’ love is never going to be enough to make me feel good about myself. But rather than just beating myself up for not being near my ideal yet, I’m learning to ask the question, “What would it take for me to feel greater self-respect right now?” When the thought inspires me to do at least one thing that I value, it’s a huge mood lifter.
My cousin’s position was that one need not “earn” (through achievement or self-mastery) his or her worth and loveability, and to believe to the contrary is to believe a lie. I can appreciate her point: if we can never feel contentment or self-love until we’ve done ALL the things we imagine life (or God) expects of us, we will be forever miserable. But I would counter the idea that one need not earn the FEELING of worth and loveability. My experience tells me otherwise. While meditation and gratitude can do much to improve a personal sense of wellbeing independent of achievement and self-mastery, neither can replace the profound import of acting according to one’s conscience.
Which raises in my mind the very important question: “What (or who) are the influences in my life that are defining my moral compass?” I’m convinced that when we hand our consciences over to others who claim the right to define morality and worthiness for us, our current and future happiness become dependent upon our living according to their definitions (whether reasonable, attainable, ethical, or beneficial).
What do you think? Can you feel worthwhile/loveable without acting in ways that please your conscience?