Well.. today is my birthday and I am 38-years old. According to the averages… that places me halfway through this life-journey, which is interesting, surreal, and humbling all at the same time. The way I figure it… when you are at the midpoint of anything… it is always good to stop, evaluate where you have been, and chart where you need to go. So that is partly what this post is about: evaluating where I have been and what I have learned.
So anyway, here are three (of many) things I have learned over the first half of my life:
1. Love never fails. Sure… this is a portion of one of the greatest verses ever written by a human being… but it also happens to be true. Love never ever fails…ever. And I know this. Not because it is some memory verse that I memorized when I was little… but because I have seen the wreckage of everything else. Anything less than love hurts, wounds, divides, minimizes, ostracizes, condemns, and sometimes even kills (spiritually and/or physically). I remember the times when I have expressed “less than love”…and I can’t help but think of the lasting wound I inflicted on a certain person. What did it do to that person at that time? How did he/she receive it? What trajectory did it send his/her life? What is the ripple effect of my “less than love” beyond that one person? What was the “last straw” before he/she completely broke or lost it? Did he/she become bitter, angry, or resentful because of my “less than love?” Did he/she pass that along to other people or ever his/her own children? The questions haunt me. When I have shown “less than love,” how have my words and my actions affected others? God forgive me. The only way I know that heals, mends, uplifts, changes hearts, and brings together people from every walk of life… is to love unconditionally. I have learned that when I take off the labels and just see people for who they are (not white or black, poor or rich, Democrat or Republican, religious or not)… I can love them completely as a human being… and that matters. There is no other way on earth to effect so much positive change in the life of a person, a family, a community, a city, a state, a country, or the world… than to love. And it never fails.
2. Always be thankful. Never take things for granted. One would think that the best illustration of this might be some amazing story that might knock your socks off. Far from it. I remember sitting in the family room a couple of years ago and closing my eyes. I could hear the shuffling, the movement. First, Anna asking a question and then Caroline. I heard Jenny answering them. Music playing indiscreetly in the background but no one was paying attention. It was an ordinary day. It was an unspectacular moment. But it was the closest thing I have had to an Emily Webb (from Our Town) moment in my life- cherishing the mundane, glorying the transience of life, appreciating the treasure I have been given, and doing my best to always be thankful (for the mountains and the valleys, for the joys and the pains, in happiness or sadness). Say a prayer with each breath. Breathe in the grace that is offered moment by moment. And declare that It is good. Yeah… life is too good to take it for granted. Savor every bit of it.
3. Life is too short to live in fear. Move forward fearlessly and use every ounce of the gifts, talents, and abilities God has given you to affect positive change in the world. Some of the biggest deceptions I have ever heard are: I am too afraid- and/or- I am not good at anything. Listen… you get one life… live it to the fullest with no regrets. Don’t worry about tomorrow… for God has said, “I will not in any way fail you…nor give you up…nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down.” Go forth boldly with God leading the way and do great things. Each of us have been given a gift to use to the glory of God and for the benefit of our brothers and sisters in the world. If you write… write words of inspiration or encouragement. If you cook… make a meal for the homeless or the struggling family. If you play music… set up on the street corner and sing your lungs out. If you are a simple servant… then serve behind the scenes cleaning the toilets or washing the windows. If you create art… create a piece to bring beauty and joy to the home of another. If you talk… visit the hospices, nursing homes, or jails and talk to those who are lonely. If you fix things… offer to help those who do not have your skill. Whatever gift you have been given… use it fearlessly… give it your heart and soul… with great love… for the benefit and uplifting of others.
I have a ton of other things I have learned over these years. Maybe the greatest thing I have learned is that I have a long way to go in doing those things well. Only by God’s grace…
Peace and love…