The biker dude scowled at me as I sat next to him. He seemed life-beaten and harsh. To be honest, I felt pretty intimidated by him. Yet, within ten minutes together, something triggered his gentle side. This trigger is available to all of us.
In his biker-dude outfit; leather jacket, tough-soled shoes and messy helmet-hair, he watched me play with my one-year-old grandson. I sat on the sofa keeping an eye on the baby as he practiced his newly found skill of walking – he would venture as far as his courage would take him then turn around and run back into my arms. All the while the biker-dude watched out of the corner of his eye. At one point he got up, fetched himself some coffee and went and stood a few feet away. My grandson followed and stared up at him as only young children can. Then, for no apparent reason, the little one cracked a huge smile. Biker-dude caved. “Darn cute kid,” he said, bent down and cooed, “Hello, buddy.”
There’s something about the tenderness of babies that we all understand and, no matter how tough we become, we intuitively respond with gentleness. We touch them softly, we speak in kind tones and we are protective toward them, eager to look out for their good. We see their immeasurable value and treat them carefully.
Why does this change?
When does this change? Why does it change?
Life is hard. I don’t think it was meant to be anything else. It is in the struggling that we find purpose. Answers to meaningful questions should not loll about at surface level but should be tucked away in obscure nooks, found only by careful thought, eager enquiry and plain old persistence. The search keeps us alive and vital and the answers, when found, are treasured and valued.
A little while ago, when I was feeling completely overwhelmed at work, I was challenged to discover six areas that are vital for me to accomplish in my leadership role and then to concentrate on only those. I wrote many items on my list only to be scratched off and replaced by others. It took a lot longer than I thought it would but in the end it was a fascinating and worthwhile exercise. It set me free from the myriad of burdens leaders sometimes find themselves carrying.
It got me thinking. What about my life outside of work? What are six areas in my personal life that, if I concentrated on only those for a set period, would change my world? It was a life altering exercise for me.
I have honed in on one that I would like to share with you. If adopted, I believe it could improve everything in your life.
Marriage is like a business and like any business the success thereof depends on the partners involved. When entering into a business partnership, smart people meticulously do their homework. They make sure that their business partner has qualities that will help them be successful. If we would quit looking for the nonsense-romance and be more business-like about marriage, we would create societies and cultures with more stable families.
“Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts.” Proverbs 24:3-5 (The Living Bible)
Here are some common sense qualities that we should seek in a business partner if we wish to be profitable. Each one is equally important if we want to plan wisely for the enterprise of marriage.
In my last post I shared four things that will resolve any conflict. Then, lo and behold, I found myself right in the middle of one. After rolling my eyes and thinking that I could at least get some points for writing this stuff and be let off the hook just a little, I knuckled down to taking some of my own advice. I discovered that I knew how to treat the other person but was not so sure of how to treat myself.
As a follower of Christ we know that we are to love our neighbor. We know that we are to turn the other cheek and we are to walk the extra mile. All this is right and Godly but while seeking the good of the other person, how should we be treating ourselves? I found some answers in 1 Corinthians 4: 3-5
Yesterday at gym, I watched as a middle-aged woman went through the paces with her personal trainer. I had earphones firmly plugged into my ears listening to some of my favorite songs in an attempt to distract me from the treadmill I was on, so I could not hear what they were saying to each other. I just watched their actions and I was impressed.
The trainer stood beside her through each set of exercises. He never left her side, moved along with her when she started on a new machine, nodded his head regularly and then patted her on the back when she finished. She left smiling. The next client was a man I estimate to be in his early twenties. The trainer changed his tactics somewhat. He again never left the man’s side, but his demeanor was different. He clapped his hands a lot, never scowled or shouted but seemed to push this client harder and demanded more. My workout finished before they were done but by all accounts, they were getting along famously.
Last week I scheduled my annual medical checkup. On my list of favorite things to do, this one ranks in the same category as unblocking drains.
First up, I went for a simple blood test. I’ve had loads of these in my lifetime – no problem. But this one leaked. Into my arm. Within a few hours my arm was covered in deep red and purple bruises and by the next day it was painful every time I moved. My mood soured and turned as blue as my arm. And I was not yet done with the medical examinations.
The next day I sat filling out one of those forms that the medical profession’s receptionists dream up during their slow season. I filled out the reams of information, all the while my arm was throbbing. I had barely sat down after handing the completed tome back when I heard a loud sigh emanating from behind the counter. In her loudest voice, just short of shouting, the receptionist informed me and the entire waiting room that I had filled the form out incorrectly. To a chorus of suppressed sniggers I slunk back to the counter. “Here”, she jabbed at the offending information. I read it, re-read it and wondered what made her, a total stranger to me, decide my name and address was wrong. “That should be your husband’s information,” she said. I looked up just in time to see her rolling her eyes. And that is when I turned into a total jerk.
For many months I have read and meditated on Psalm 5. I have not been able to pull myself away from this portion of scripture. It has inspired me, taught me, rebuked me and comforted me. While reading through it I was reminded of the sermon “The weight of glory” by C.S. Lewis. I hauled out my copy of this sermon and re-read it. Many scholars have said this to be his best work. I would like to share a portion with you.
In this sermon, C.S. Lewis explains how each human being is daily becoming a creature that is moving either toward reflecting magnificent glory or toward deep and terrible horror. Lewis says:
“All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.”
Lewis goes on to make another statement that takes my breath away:
“It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.”
Each time I read that statement I am brought to my knees. What my neighbor becomes is somewhat my doing.
Last week I spent a few hours every day with a total stranger. More accurately, he was a total stranger to begin with but by the end of our week of transacting business, we got to know each other a little better. In between business, we shared a few personal things, mainly about our respective families. He has one child, a daughter, whom he dotes on and overprotects (which he freely acknowledged). We laughed and shared a few sweet daughter stories. Knowing that I work in Africa he wistfully said he would love to go there and I of course encouraged him to make a plan. A sadness came into his voice as he said, “I would love to travel, but my wife is afraid of flying.” Observing this momentary sadness, I saw reflected in his eyes a glimpse of the burden we all carry that others can’t see.
Every one of us carries a burden placed there by the actions of somebody else. We hurt because of something said or done by a trusted friend, a parent, a spouse, or even a child. We carry this burden, carefully tucked away from view but heavy enough to make us walk with a limp. Those around us see our flawed walk but they don’t necessarily see or know the burden that caused it.