Some time ago I found myself halfway up Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, with murderous thoughts directed at my son.
The highest point of Table Mountain is 3,563 ft (1,086 metres) above sea level. One of the easier hiking trails typically takes two and a half hours to summit. It was halfway up this trail that my thoughts turned murderous toward my son. I recall having these same murderous thoughts toward my husband whilst giving birth to this self same son. Each time the pain came, I wanted to get my hands around my husband’s neck and keep squeezing. At that moment, while enduring the birth pangs, I blamed him entirely for getting me into the mess in the first place. All rationality left and as far as I was concerned, I had nothing to do with having this baby; it was entirely his fault.
I am not an expert on cyberspace, but the other day I came across the term “troll”. I think, in the internet context, it is a person who makes malicious, unreasonable comments on blogs and other conversation forums in order to provoke a response. I’m not sure where the term originated, but it reminded me of the story from my childhood – the one about the troll who lives under a bridge and scares the family of goats who need to use the bridge to get to the green grass on the other side. In my leadership roles, I am like those goats trying to get to the other side.
I have plans and goals and dreams. And, like those goats, sometimes a troll pops out from under the bridge and confronts me. I don’t like being confronted, especially not by a troll with a bad case of the grumps and a point to prove. My instinct is to lower my head and start butting.
Last week at the women’s bible study I attend, one of the women shared some of the difficulties and pain she is currently going through. With tears on her cheek she voiced how, with all the stuff going on in her life, it seemed much easier for her to leave her husband and live on her own. My heart broke for this young woman and the pain she is in. It made me think of marriage in general and mine in particular.
I entered into marriage with the proverbial stars in my eyes. I patiently acknowledged the pre-marital counselor’s advice about weathering the storms that would come but secretly believed that my marriage would somehow be different. My husband and I have celebrated over 30 years of marriage. I can honestly and thankfully say that for most of those years I have been happily married. However, there was a time when, like the young woman at our bible study, I thought my life would be easier if I just left.
There are some days when I want to revert back to a childhood tactic and cover my ears while singing “lalalalala” as loud as possible. I don’t want to hear all the voices that come at me. These voices tell me I am not thin enough, not smart enough, not rich enough or not cool enough. In fact I am not anything enough.
As I walked around my local shopping mall a little while ago I saw people who have listened to these voices and, quite frankly, they looked bizarre. Mature women with skin so taut I’m sure it hurts to smile. Young men with pants that are so loose they are in danger of stepping right out of them with each step they take. Then there are the young girls who seem to compete with each other to see how much skin they can bare in public without being arrested for indecency. I sat at a bookshop drinking a cup of coffee, not really judging the people around me so much as judging the “voices” that society allows to be dominant in our culture. As I sat there, I felt angry at the world and its voices. Then I saw them.
A while ago I found myself at a street corner arguing theology with a homeless person. I was waiting for the traffic light to turn green so that I could walk across the street when a homeless man came up to me and asked for some money.
I was deep in thought about some pressing issues in my life so I shook my head and gave him the “not today” fob off. His response to me was, “Well, God is very disappointed in you.”
He said it in the same tone of voice that my 3rd grade school teacher used when I ‘forgot’ to do my homework. His statement brought me out of my personal musings with quite a jolt. I turned to the man and indignantly demanded, “How can you say that?”
The other day I had a terrific idea. I’ve lived long enough to know that not every idea I come up with is great, but that particular one was. I liked it and wanted to move full steam ahead to implement it.
There was one catch however. It wasn’t entirely my decision to make and I had to present it to another person for consideration. And yup – that person did not like it.
What to do?
Here are some things I considered doing:
- Get a posse together of everybody who agrees with me and let the person see how many people are on my side.
- Bombard the person with statistics, blogs, emails and opinion poles to help them see the light.
If I am to believe the stuff I have recently read in popular books and magazines, I should be adopting a “be cool or die” attitude. Everywhere I turn there seems to be an obsession with greatness. Apparently I need to “be a leader not a follower”.
After listening to the latest “you are great and can be successful at anything” mantra, I was left asking myself – does God want me to be great?
On the one hand, the bible teaches humility but then there are scriptures like the one “In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him.” (1 Samuel 18: 14)
So which is it?