Mar 11, 2013

Thoughts on Life

I have been contemplating life at a much deeper level after finding out that two of my friends from Middle School and High School have recently died at such young ages.  I'm normally a very deep thinker anyways.  These are familiar waters for me.  I didn't know I could go any deeper.  But I did.  And now I have a few things to share from my time in the depths of recessive thinking.  It could be ugly.  It could be beautiful.  It could be scary.  It could be humbling.

Every person has a story.  We like to think our own is bigger or better; our hurts and failures worse than others; our successes and joys, better than everyone else's.  We look at others and think they couldn't possibly understand where we came from or what we did.  So we don't give them the chance and we judge them that they won't even accept us before we even give them a chance to decide for themselves.

What if we were more interested in other people's stories that we are in our own?  Wouldn't that be like putting others first?  Wouldn't that be like giving people the benefit of the doubt?  Wouldn't that take the power of pre-judging others out of our hands?  Wouldn't that put an end to being self-serving in our relationships?  Wouldn't that be love?

How many opportunities have I missed because I was more concerned with my own story than I was with truly trying to understand my neighbor's?   How many more people could I have befriended if I wasn't busy pre-judging what I thought people were thinking of me and opted out of the gift of a friend before I even gave the friendship a chance?


My deepest prayer as of late echos the words of St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, grant that I may seek to comfort
rather than to be comforted; to understand
rather than be understood; to love
rather than be loved; for it is by 
forgetting self that one finds.


We are all connected to one another.  We need each other.  I need your story in my life.  You need mine.  Our weaknesses in our stories are the very things that cause us to be drawn to others' strengths and vice versa.  We were made to be a part of each other's story.  I like that.  I want more of that.  I feel even more whole and complete when my story interconnects with someone else.  It is beautiful.  It is a gift.

On the flip side, when our story has been hard, bad or painful we tend to let it either dictate our future or can choose to learn and grow from it.  You can't erase the hard parts of your story and you can't let them define you either.  Reliving the yuck parts of your story in your mind is like sitting in a cesspool and constantly rubbing the filth all over you and then wondering why you never get clean.  It does no good to stay there.  Moving on doesn't mean the yuck is not still a part of your story.  It does not negate it.   It does not make the wrongs right, but it does give you the freedom to grow and not let the yuck control you any longer.  Let the hardships of your story be foundations of love and mercy and grace in your life that you can in turn show others because you recognize the same hardship in theirs.  Our stories aren't for us.  They are for others.  This line of thinking totally reminds me of what Dennis Miller wrote in his book, "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years".

I read this quote today in a memoir of a Holocaust survivor.  I think it's quite apropos. 

No longer forward nor behind
I look in hope or fear,
But, grateful, take the good I find,
The best of now and here.
- John Greenleaf Whittier, 1859

The second in my series of contemplations comes from the passage of time and parenthood.  I can't help but chuckle now as I think back to days gone by when the children were itt-bitty and needed all my attention, time, energy and everything else I had to give.  I thought those days would never end.  I remember when we first brought Gavin home, the reality of having to wake up around the clock to feed another human made me cringe and sink into despair.  The dying of self started immediately.   And it was painful and ugly.

Parenthood is the most genius plan.  How else can you get someone to voluntarily give up food, shelter, sleep, time, money and anything else this life has to offer for another human being?  How about make a little human in their image.    

I remember when the only thing I wanted was 5 minutes alone...was that too much to ask?  Five whole minutes to have a complete thought or feed myself instead of some little person or close my eyes for five minutes and not fear someone was going to run out into the street.  Those years of parenting young children are so physically and mentally draining.  But the training is not for them...that is secondary.  The training is for the parent. 

I love how God teaches us how to die to our self in increments...a little sleep here, a little time there, a little food here, a little space there.  After years and years of letting go of our 'stuff' it gets a little easier every time.  Now I don't care about getting 5 minutes to myself.  I can have all the time I want to myself, yet what I want now is to spend all my free time with my kids who no longer need me as desperately as they once did.  I look forward to serving them.  I look for ways to give more of myself.  Funny how that works.

I'm still learning.  All the time.
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