Thursday, March 23, 2006

change of plans

In the past week I have had a lot of my plans changed. I did not change them – dates got mixed up, people called with emergencies, someone forgot an appointment, scheduled meetings developed conflicts and had to be rescheduled, the talk I prepared ended up being delivered by someone else, people were unavailable – all these things did not happen the way I planned them. Some things were beyond my control – other things were presented to me and I decided to go with the flow, change direction slightly, and alter my plans to accommodate someone else. I did not find any of it particularly traumatic or bothersome, and that is a good thing. I am learning to let go of the need to control my world. At another point in my life I would have freaked out about things not going the way I thought they should.

Whether you admit it or not - and some people say they don’t have a controlling bone in their body but I would beg to differ – we ALL have this urge to make things happen our way; some of us just mask it better than others. I simply get angry – it is easy to tell when I feel powerless and out of control. Others will argue about the smallest things – like ten cents too much on a bill or their helping of fries not being big enough. Some pout and make life miserable for everyone – if they are not happy, no one else should be. I know some people who must always feel superior in a room, and will use cutting remarks to make others uncomfortable. Some people have an agenda and try to get everyone to participate in their personal mission, not taking into account that others might have a valid mission as well. Some use their emotions to elicit sympathy and manipulate people in that way. Others are simply domineering and won’t take “no” for an answer. Flattery is an unexpected, but often effective, method of getting what you want. You name it…humankind has tried countless ways to bend an unwilling world to its desires.

And I hate to be the one to break the news…but it is all in vain. We are not and never will be in control of our lives. We have free will, yes, and the choices we make affect the outcome of our lives, but we will never totally control what happens to us. How arrogant of us to assume that we can control something we did not create. Let me suggest a better way…surrender. It’s not a sexy concept by any means, yet it is the most effective means for laying to rest all of that maddening, insatiable gnawing inside my gut to make this moment turn out like I hoped. I guarantee that you will never be a happy person if you do not learn the secret of surrender. You will be frustrated at every point, impatient with those around you, perhaps a constant complainer or a workaholic, and usually unpleasant to be around.

Surrender does not mean giving up – it means death. I forfeit my right to do things as I please and instead I trade my pitiful attempt at living this life for that of someone who already did it right. Death is a powerful liberator. It is never about me. It is never about you. It is always about LOVE. His name is Jesus and he really is the one in charge. He is just waiting for me to recognize that fact.

Monday, March 13, 2006

be n*ce

We live in an odd culture. Sometimes I take a step back and look at the things we do and don't do and find acceptable and awkward and it seems so strange. I was talking to a friend yesterday and despite my prodding, she found it difficult to say anything nice about herself. Why? It just feels wrong to say something like, “I am a kind person.” It feels proud and slightly false because can one ever be truly kind? I have other friends who like to tease me (I am an easy mark for this, I will admit) and I know this joking and trading harmless insults and sparring banter is a sign of affection, but on the other hand, why can’t they just tell me, “I like you and value spending time with you?” Why is that so difficult to say? Why must we couch all our affections in these insulting words that we don’t mean and adopt faux modest behaviour that keeps us from acknowledging the truth about ourselves?

I am a fairly straightforward person, which can get me in trouble sometimes, but if I like someone, I try to tell them. I don’t “play” nice - I will not say something slightly untrue just to avoid hurting your feelings; I will not call you my friend easily, but when I do, you know I will back it up 100%; I will tell you what I see in you – the good things and those that might need a bit of work – and then offer to help you improve in those areas; and I am trying to work on telling the truth about myself as well. And let me define “the truth” here. It is what God says about a situation or a person, not just my or anyone else’s perception of what is going on. We all have our skewed view of life, especially since we have all had our sense of value screwed up by imperfect childhoods and bad experiences and rejection, but I am attempting to learn to see things as they really are. The value that God places on people and the characteristics that he looks for in people, myself included – those are the things I want to place a high priority on as well. And I want to be able to recognize the truth and speak it at all times. There is power is a truthful word, and all our socially acceptable avoidance of saying what we mean, our reluctance to say something that will make us or another person vulnerable, is a crippling impotency that I am not willing to live with.

So...

To my best friend and confidant…I can hardly believe the profoundness of your love for me - you always exceed my expectations.
To my husband…I love you and need you in my life - you are a good friend and provider and protector of all things important.
To my immediate family…Thank you for your continued generosity and acceptance. I respect our differences and value our common affection for each other. We will always be family.
To my close friends…I like you because you have let me come close to you and in turn involved yourselves in my life and made me feel important and special. You are kind and funny and smart and present and most enjoyably different than I am. Thank you for accepting me and challenging me and not drifting away.
To myself…I am beautiful and have a big heart. I like to learn new things and go on adventures. I am spontaneous and thoughtful and sometimes na├»ve, but always want to do the right thing and will cry when I get it wrong. I will also sometimes cry when I get it right, so don’t be confused. I love deeply and am often afraid to show it, but I’m working on that, so help me God.
To you…go and tell the truth to someone you care about.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

change the world

When I was young I believed that I could change the world. Why not? The world I knew was quite small, just a few square miles, really, and the people I knew and cared about were all within those few acres, and the issues I grappled with were usually resolved within a day or two, and if I encountered something really tough, I enlisted the help of my father and he settled the matter in no time. The older I got, however, and the more I travelled and the more people I met, and the more complex the situations I encountered became, I started to lose hope that I could in fact influence anyone or accomplish anything! My life seemed insignificant and small and of little value when you looked at the whole picture of human history and especially when you took into account that I would probably never get to meet many influential people and those that I did meet, in positions of power or not, were exercising their free will, just like me. But lately, I have begun to adapt the attitude of my childhood once again for I believe that it is the more accurate and truthful one. I CAN change this world.

If you remember any science experiments from school, you will know that in a controlled environment, the presence of another substance always changes the outcome of the experiment slightly, even if it is not directly interacting with the main elements. My presence changes things. I walk into a room, I buy something at a store, or I talk to someone on the phone. All of these everyday events may seem insignificant, but inasmuch as I will let him, where I walk, Jesus walks, and where Jesus walks…things always change. If I speak with kindness or wait with patience or smile at a child or let someone in line ahead of me…things have changed. If I call a waitress by name, pray silently for a couple having an argument or impulsively call a friend to say, “I like you,”…things change. If I drive across town to meet someone for lunch even when my day is already too full…I have changed something. If I stop and look up in awe at a wispy cloud while standing on a busy street corner with people rushing all around…I have changed something.

By stepping foot in Africa, I changed the world. I used precious moments of my life to take an intimate look at life in another part of the world and more than that, to participate in it. I gazed in wonder at foreign people and landscapes, I briefly met people of great standing in the community and spent time with small children who might not live a full adult life. I hugged black people and white people. I discussed deep and profound spiritual matters with my friends, and at other times stood silently because those I was with did not understand my language or rather…I was foreign to theirs. I laughed and cried, I worked and played, I gave and received, and in the midst of it all…things were changing and I was being changed.


And if I can be changed by the small things that touch my life…so can others.