Where Are You Going?

Leaving the Church

“Donald Miller”

This name has spawned a bit of backlash recently.  Why?  He wrote a blog post about why he doesn’t attend church much, if at all, anymore.

I read his original post here.

I then read his follow-up post here.

I then read some responses to is blog here …

and here …

and here …

and a really good one here

and another one here

Clearly, this Donald Miller has struck a nerve.

But if we abandon all that we don’t like or remain with those who align with us 100%, we will end up alone or, worse, lukewarm.

Sorry for all the jumps.  This Donald Miller, I admit, has struck a nerve with me as well.  It’s personal.  And it’s important.

And just like I was for 16 years…he’s wrong.

Is it really so difficult?

I am sorry“I know I got really, really angry.  And I kinda feel bad about that.  But they really, really pissed me off!  And I was justified to get angry — I really was justified!  *hands on hips for emphasis*  I don’t think I should have to apologize.  Well, I’ll just get them a small gift instead.  I don’t feel like saying ‘I’m sorry’ so I’ll buy them some little trinket instead.  There!  I won’t have to say the words but the gift will speak for me.”

I call HORSEHOCKEY on that one!

It takes a great deal of humility to face someone that you’ve hurt.  Or disrespected.  Or maligned.  Or gossiped about.  It takes thinking of  yourself as someone who has done wrong.  *YES! You do make mistakes!*

You! Are! Not! Perfect!

And even if you feel justified in your wrath, you can still err.

So get off your high horse, realize you’re a stupid git and you could be (and probably are) wrong in your reactions, go find that person, and apologize for your response!  To their face!

And don’t explain it away.  Own it!  Don’t rationalize your apology.  Don’t be passive aggressive.  Don’t accept half blame while transferring the other half to the other person.

Otherwise, your apology is worthless.  A waste of air.  A waste of time.  Because your ego is getting in the way!

“I was wrong, and I am truly sorry.  Will you forgive me?”

Wisdom Denied

To Build a FireIt’s -19 degrees in Billings, MT, today.  I went outside to shovel a small patch of frozen ground out of the ice and snow for my long-hair dachshund to potty.  As soon as I stepped outside and I breathed the ice-crystal-saturated air, my nose hairs bristled and my eyes stung.

It.  Is.  Cold.

And my imagination shot immediately to the Jack London short story “To Build a Fire”.   Yukon.  -50 degrees.  Man.  Pride.  Huskey.  Instinct.  Matches.  Sleep.  Frozen.

And I think how often we ignore the wisdom of others.  I’m not talking about the whinings of those who speak from veiled interest or those who have done and experienced everything in life, so they must know it all.  You know the type….

I mean the wisdom of those in our lives whom we trust.  Those who have proven their love for and interest in us.  We ignore them.  We scoff at their words.  We stare at them with affected interest, nodding in “knowing” understanding, commenting with emotionally laden “ah” and “uh huh”, all the while thinking, planning, plotting, organizing, hatching our own plan.  Those words of wisdom “going in one ear and out the other.”

Our plan, our path, will be different.  We won’t fall into the same situation that they did.  No way.  Can’t and won’t happen.  We’re different.  Unique.  Bold.  Smart.  Creative.  Mentally / Physically / Emotionally agile.

Is it lack of humility that keeps us from allowing those wise words from sinking in?  Is it arrogance that builds that wall of imperviousness?

Sometimes our own path is a success, and we are vindicated for taking the road less traveled (there’s another blog post on that poem for sure…).

And then there are those times when we fall flat on our faces.  Angry.  Humiliated.  Gutted.  Hopefully, we aren’t like the nameless man in London’s story who has no hope of redemption.  Hopefully, we have a chance for a “do over.”  Or at least to sort out the rubble from our exploded plans and eventually move ahead.  We might need to eat a bit of crow.  Or, perhaps, a bit more than just a bit.  But at some point we move ahead and onward.

And then we gain perspective.  And more people come into our lives.  And one person in particular has a choice in front of them much like we did at one point in our past.  And we speak those words of personally-gained and painfully-acquired wisdom to them.

And we see the oddly familiar stare of affected interest in their eyes.  The slow nods of comprehension.  The emotionally-laden “ah” and “uh huh”.

We shake our heads.  We denied wisdom those years ago.  Wisdom is denied from us now.

And we trot off, like London’s husky, towards the camp filled with warmth and shelter and food and security.

The Bulkhead Did It!

Image

I’m in the airport looking forward to my return flight home to Montana.  I’ve got all my security items with me:  cell phone, books, planner, laptop, lip balm, cinnamon gum, small Americano.  I have had a wonderful Thanksgiving visit at my parents’ with Dad’s family visiting.  Too much food.  Lots of peace and quiet.  A smidge of shopping.  Excellent trip.  Dad’s OCD about time has gotten me to the airport exactly 2 hours before my flight.  I have a chance to sip my coffee and read my book while I wait at the gate for the first leg of my trip.  Ahhh, all is bliss….

Fast forward a bit…  I am luckily on row 4 of the plane but an aisle seat.  I’m the last group to board, and the plane is full.  However, I pause before getting settled in as my seat mate is not on board yet.  She arrives and says she needs to go to the restroom before she sits down.  (Really??  Didn’t she just come from the waiting area where restrooms were abundant?!)  So she reaches across my face and tosses her bag and coat in the seat and just stands next to me.  (I guess she’s waiting for permission or something.)

When she arrives from the restroom, I stand up to let her in and hit my head on the bulkhead. (Dangit!)  Then she says she’s not ready to get in yet.  (What?!)  I sit back down.  (What is she DOING?!)  Finally, she wants to sit down.  She apologizes for having me wait.  I stand.  Hit my head again.  (I should’ve known that bulkhead was so low.  Dangit!)  She gets in jabbing me in my side while she gets settled and buckles her seatbelt.  She apologizes again.  I get settled now, pull out my laptop, plug in my David Gray, and try to regain the bliss I was basking in earlier.

(Ugh!)  Because her entire arm is smothering the arm rest, I cannot type properly.  Now she wants to get up (again!) and use the restroom.  (You’ve GOT to be kidding me!!)  I stand…yes, hitting my head again!  (This person is completely pissing me off!)  I sit back down and wait for an eternity.  It’s no use getting settled because as sure as I do she’ll be back.  Finally, she comes back.  I stand sans hitting my head this time.  I’ve put away my laptop as that is a fruitless pursuit.  I’m armed with my book and my David Gray again.  As she steps in front of me to get in, she apologizes again.  I stand in the aisle to allow her to get settled (See how generous I am??).  I get in again, sit down again, buckle my seatbelt again, plug in my earphones again, a pull out my book again.  She says she’s really, really sorry.  I say it’s ok and bury my face in the book…again.

Fast forward a bit…  How did my bliss turn to bust?  How did my peace turn to pissed off?

Lesson to Learn:  Life is not always about me.

Did I notice how uncomfortable she was?  Did I notice how she crossed herself twice before we took off and again when we landed?  Did I notice how sad she seemed when she kept inconveniencing me?  Didn’t I see how she continued to wring her hands throughout the flight?

Yes, I did notice all these…and more.  Sadly, I was so self-consumed about my own agenda and desires that I didn’t even give a second glance to her needs or fears or sadness or discomfort.  All I could think of was how gracious I was being by smiling, getting up when she needed me to, nodding to her pleas of apology, scooting over and leaning into the aisle so her flopping elbow would stop punching me in the side.

Me.  Me.  Me.

Now that we are separated and have gone our own ways on the planet, I am so very sorry for my behavior.  I could have pulled myself out of my own pious self-righteousness and talked to her.  At least initiated a conversation… if this was her first time to fly.  If she is feeling okay.  What is her reason for traveling.  Anything.  In my efforts to be so outwardly accommodating and genteel, I was inwardly rude, arrogant, and prideful.

It is not all about me.  My interactions in this world, this life, are not all about me.  What I do should be for the benefit of others.  Josemaria Escriva said:  “If thou aim at and seek after nothing else but the will of God and thy neighbor’s benefit, then shall thou enjoy interior liberty.”  While my actions may at times be for me, I need to be mindful of, no absorbed in the fact of, the results of my actions.  My words.  The tone in my voice.  My facial expressions.  These behaviors that I exude reflect my heart.  And my heart during the last 2 hours were most certainly not how I would wish to treat this stranger.

‘Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”  (very loose quotation)  The abundance of my heart was for me.  In spite of my smiles and nods and responses of “It’s okay”, she knew I was irritated.  I should have stepped out of my own selfishness and irritation, noticed her discomfort, and been attentive (if even for a brief moment) to her.  A kind, sincere word might have meant the world to her.

And I blew it.

Wherever you are, I am sorry.

May I remember that I am not the center.  I am merely another orb in the universe.  And may I remember to lay myself aside and seek after my neighbor’s benefit.