Commentary

The letters before your name, the letters after your name, the books published, the awards won – all that is just commentary. What we really want to be is good people. ~ Harlan Coben

I have a dumb job. That’s what I say sometimes – just to my friends and family.

I used to have a smart job.

I had a job where people took copious notes when I spoke and stood up and applauded when I finished. It made me feel important. It made me feel like what I was doing mattered. Over time, I think it made me feel like I mattered.

No one applauds me now. Working the night shift as a gate guard on an oil rig is lower than the lowest rung on the ladder. Sometimes I mix up what I do with who I am and I wonder if I matter at all anymore.

Last week my friend died. He was driving to a rig when a truck crossed the center line and plowed into him. He was only 45. To be honest, I didn’t even realize how very much we’d become friends until after his death. The persistent ache in my heart is a tangible testimony now.

Lee didn’t have any letters after his name. I don’t know if he finished high school. I don’t think so. Maybe. I’m pretty sure he never had a room full of people stand up and applaud him. He didn’t need applause to feel important. I don’t think feeling important was particularly important to Lee.

But he was important and he did matter. He was kind and fair and unassuming. He brought me chicken at midnight and I miss him. I’ll probably miss him for a very long time.

I learned a lot from Lee about what important people do. Important people are generous. They extend grace. They go out of their way to be encouraging. They don’t think too much of themselves or too little of others.

My life was better because he was a part of it.

Lee, with no awards or extra letters, reminded me that all the rest is just commentary.

Losing Time

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance ~ Ecclesiastes 3

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. But sometimes I step out of that season. When that happens, I lose time. I’ve lost time by mourning when I could have been dancing. I’ve lost time with people I love by dreading their death while they were still living. I’ve lost time anticipating how much I would miss my children when they left for college when they were only beginning high school. I’ve even lost bits of vacation by thinking about how soon it would be over.

I’ve been on a journey to try to live more and more fully in the present. It sounds so simple but sometimes my mind wanders. Last week, for example, I got the unexpected news that my job would be coming to an end. It isn’t a monumental thing. It happens often in this business. I may be without work briefly, but probably not for long. I have enough to get by until a new spot opens up. I wasn’t worried but I wasn’t happy.

I wasn’t happy because I didn’t want things to change. While I was grateful for the present good, I reacted as if I’d used Aladdin’s 3rd wish. As if I’d rubbed out God’s last bit of blessing. I didn’t want anything to change, even if the change was good for me – even if the change might be something better. I wanted what I had to stay as it was.

How easy it is to give up the gift of joy in the moment by giving in to fear or worry or dread or anxiety or sadness or the need for control. I started grieving the loss of what I had before I lost it and in doing that, lost it before it was over. I lost time for a day or two.

There will be a time to mourn, but it isn’t today. It isn’t this moment. This is the time to dance!

Time Heals All Wounds?

Time heals all wounds. ~ Geoffrey Chaucer

I was 19 0n a beautiful Sunday afternoon when a drunk driver crossed the center line doing 65 mph, hitting my Dodge Dart head on. She walked away with some minor cuts. It took the EMTs and the Jaws-of Life to get me out of the wreckage of my little sedan.

After setting my leg and putting 4o stitches in my knee, the on-call doctor began a crisscross of stitches in my jaw. An EMT who’d never left my side repeatedly told the him that there was still a lot of glass in the wound (my head went through the driver’s side window) but the doctor made quick work of it.

For 25 years, the scar that runs right along my jaw line, would inexplicably begin to bleed and a sliver of glass would work it’s way out. Time scarred over the wound. It didn’t heal it.

I’m mystified at the magical or seemingly miraculous power we attribute to time. Time is just a method of measuring minutes and hours and days and years. Time doesn’t have a will or a way to heal wounds. Time passes, period.

When we’re wounded, it’s tempting to try to make quick work of the stitching up. We minimize and deny; we eat too much or too little; we sleep too much or too little; we get angry all the time or refuse to get angry at all; we drink, repress, project, blame, agrue – anything to avoid the temporary pain of digging out the shards. But if we don’t, the unresolved emotions start bleeding out in other areas.

Time doesn’t heal our wounds but healing does take time. It’s what we do in that time that brings or blocks the healing. We can fall back on our quick fix coping skills or we can lean forward on God and ask Him to guide us through the hard work of acknowledging and grieving and forgiving and repenting and accepting and making amends – in His time.

~For added perspective, check out Jan’s post Does Time Heal All Things – Love and Forgiveness!

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men. ~Thomas Merton

Long before Friedrich Nietzsche wrote about it or Kelly Clarkson sang about it, folks held tightly to the theory of the school of hard knocks. I think we often do this in an attempt to make sense out of pain and suffering.

It’s peculiar, though, isn’t it? The school of hard knocks is the playground where the bully wins. What doesn’t kill us makes us something, but I don’t think it makes us stronger. It’s more likely to make us: angry, resentful, unforgiving, fearful, hard…

Sometimes I think we confuse hard with strong.

If we get stronger, it’s most likely despite, not because of the hardship. What doesn’t kill us in fact often makes us weaker but our Father, in His grace, promises to be strong in our weakness.

It’s not what almost kills us that makes us stronger. It’s love and compassion and tender care that enables us to fight the good fight because these gifts nurture and strengthen us, expanding our capacity to learn to love and lean when pain and grief and loss come along again.

I believe that Merton is right: Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul. It’s our job to keep a careful eye on the winged seeds.