it gets complicated


 

theworminmyapple.com

theworminmyapple.com

I was feeling all warm and cozy at what had been an unexpected epiphany a couple of days ago when with one phone call I found myself fighting for that freedom. Than I realized something. (You can read it at “depressionsgift.com” for May 3oth. I’m not sure whether it’s considered ok to give yourself a pingback.)

Wow, another epiphany! I’m on a roll.

Freedom to live our lives isn’t easily come by. Especially when you’ve been the “go to” person for everyone in your life, when you’ve been the one they’ve all counted on. To suddenly change course and carve out some time for yourself reeks of selfishness.

But, please, if you find yourself in this situation, think again. If you are doing the best you can for the people in your life, you have not only have a right but an obligation to yourself to place some “soft” boundaries around your own life. Not in a vindictive manner. Not in a “I’ll show them”, but just in a way that lets you breathe and maintain some balance. In a way that lets you pursue your own interests without feeling guilty. (I must admit this is very hard for me.)

I find it hard to carve out my own space. I’m always aware of the Biblical injunction to love others. I forget the times that Christ walked away from the crowds to re-group. And he never apologized. I forget how Christ didn’t apologize to the rich young ruler and how he walked away after the rich young man refused to listen. If Christ who is love can do that, I need to learn how too.

When we give freedom to others to live their lives, it boomerangs back to us. Just the awareness that we are giving them that freedom reminds us that we are a person too. Exercise the freedom to live your life while giving others the same courtesy. It makes life so much easier all around

(There is one caveat to all this. Sometimes we are responsible for the physical care of someone. Practicing that freedom under those circumstances can be very delicate. While we need to have some freedom from the pressure, we simply might not be able to have as much as we’d like, only what we need. I’m somewhat in that position myself and I never find it easy. It’s hard to know sometimes when I’m being fair to myself or just incredibly selfish.)

Humility-what it is, what it isn’t


 20_07_3Y

(Today’s post has a definite religious viewpoint. Just wanted you to know. This post is  featured on both blogs.)

I opened the door in response to the quiet knock. A timid youngThai woman bowed her head and mumbled some words. “Why was she bowing?” I asked myself.

She had on a uniform with the name of the hotel embroidered on it, so I knew her to be one of the hotel staff. I let her in and in her broken Thai/English vernacular, she said, “Housekeeping, Madam.” I understood that but still couldn’t figure out the bowing part.  My first instinct was to tell her to straighten up, but I knew I couldn’t make her understand what I was saying. My second instinct was to gently place my hands on her head and lift it but I know better than to touch a stranger in a foreign country. Over the next two weeks, I was bowed to so many times, I felt like royalty. My husband laughingly explained it was protocol for the staff at this particular hotel. I grew to like it a little too much, I’m ashamed to admit.

Fast forward twelve years later. I’m at a motel chain in Atlanta, Georgia, a far cry from the Bangkok Hilton. On the flight there, I was reading a book by John Ortberg, entitled, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”.  It’s a book that focuses on spiritual growth and at the end of one chapter the author suggests we ask this question, “Am I becoming judgmental or exclusive or proud?”

That question is what prompted me to remember my experience in Thailand. How this job dropped into our laps a week before my husband was to be unemployed is a story of God’s intervention but I won’t go there now. (Just so you know, that didn’t mean his salary was huge. That may be true of sales reps who travel a lot but not forensic auditors. He just got a LOT of frequent flyer miles which is how I was able to go with him a couple of times a year.)

We were extremely grateful for his new position in the beginning but when the job’s requirements changed to international travel, we had to work a little harder to be grateful. We had to convince ourselves that God knew what He was doing. We are now at the end of that crazy schedule and while it was tough being apart so much, we both agree that our faith has grown exponentially in the process.  We’re glad that God chose to interrupt our lives the way He did. We wouldn’t trade the lessons we’ve learned for any amount of mundane predictability.

We knew it was important that we handle what others would view as a “WOW” in the right way. We knew people can be impressed easily and we didn’t want that.  We knew we were the same people.   So we decided early on that we wouldn’t broadcast the bit about the international travel. I remembered the times I’d heard other women talk of international travel and I remembered how that seemed to create a barrier for me in those relationshps. My fault not theirs but I didn’t want others to feel that way about me. It’s too easy to get a big head. Besides, the glamour wore off after about the third trip.

Humility doesn’t mean we can’t feel good about our achievements. We all feel good when we’ve worked hard on a project and it turns out even better than we expected.  I feel a healthy pride when one of my paintings turns out good.  (It’s rare.)  Unhealthy pride almost always leads us to thinking we’re more valuable than the next person.

 The wrong kind of pride always shows up in how we treat other people.

We can enjoy the fruits of our labor without feeling we’ve abandoned humility. Physicians make the salary they do because they’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on an education, years of internship and often hold a patient’s life in their hands. Respecting someone’s expertise is very different than elevating them.  My husband earned every one of his frequent flyer miles the hard way: cancelled flights, long layovers, being away from his family and friends, being sick In a foreign country, having to rush every minute when he was home to see the people he needed to see, and never getting any time to enjoy his own pursuits.

When God blesses us with something we need never apologize for it. As long as we acknowledge that God is the ultimate source of every blessing and show our thankfulness in meaningful ways, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of our labor. Pride rears its head when we twist our thinking to convince ourselves we did it all on our own. That’s when we cease to be humble.

Many people confuse personality traits with humility.  Some of the most humble people I know are extroverts. Some of the least humble people I know are introverts.  Further, humility doesn’t mean we never confront or share our opinions either.  Christ was humble but he wasn’t meek or timid acting. Hardly.  He often harshly addressed the hypocrites around him.  Even during his trial, he never backed down from the truth.

(Remembering my promise to myself to keep my blog “real” I share this personal bit.)There are days, when during my quiet time, I say to God, “God, I think I made you smile today and that makes me feel good.” I want to know I’ve made God smile. Why would I want anything less? I don’t feel the least bit prideful about saying that. Maybe that’s because on other days I have to say, “God, today, I think I made you sad and that makes me feel awful.”

If you can look in the mirror and once you look away forget about yourself, you are well on your way to humility.  If you can pick up someone else’s mess without complaining, you are well on your way. If you can graciously offer your place in line to someone behind you, you are well on your way.  If you can visit someone who needs a visit even though they’re not the most pleasant person, you are on your way.  I believe as with most aspects of life we have to be intentional or we simply will let things slide

Deliberately put yourselves in situations that keep you humble.

I want to tell you a true story. Your first thought may be that this woman I’m going to tell you about was less than humble by sharing her story. That’s not true. She’s one of the most genuine people I know. It happened in a Bible class I was teaching and the subject was relationships. Her demeanor in telling her story was gentle and sweet and I could tell she struggled with sharing it for fear she would bring too much attention to herself. But it perfectly fit in our discussion.

It happened in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  She has four children. Her and her husband struggle financially. This particular day everyone was getting on everyone’s nerves. Her husband was becoming frustrated with the children and with her. This was very much unlike him. This kept up for the afternoon and she was to the point of tears.  She was also getting irritated herself with her husband’s lack of understanding about a few issues that were transpiring that day. She went into a room and prayed.

She knew what she had to do.

Everyone was gathered in the family room sulking, no one talking to one another. She went into the kitchen, filled a large round bowl with water, and gathered some soap and a washcloth. She entered the room, and without saying a word she knelt in front of her husband. She said that everyone immediately became still and quiet as they watched what she was doing. Her husband was so taken aback, he just sat there. Without one word, she took off his shoes and socks and gently and lovingly washed his feet.  Her family was so struck by what she was doing, tears came to their eyes. (Mine, too, as I listened.)

She never said what happened next. She ended her story very quietly and none of us spoke, even the never-at-a-loss-for words teacher. As I recall, the silence in our room continued for quite awhile as we took in what she’d done. I will never forget it. It is to this day the most graphic example of true humility I’ve ever heard about.

She could have been justified in nursing her wounded feelings but she knew her husband was upset with himself and rather than chastise him, she took the opportunity to humble herself before him.

Those of the Christian faith are beginning to celebrate Holy Week, the interval between when Jesus entered Jerusalem till the day he rose from the dead on Easter. During that time there were a few trials, many betrayals, and finally a crucifixion. In Philippians (a book in the Christians bible), it says that Jesus humbled himself.  Christians believe Jesus, being God’s son, had all the same power his father did. He could have stopped his own crucifixion but instead he humbled himself and fulfilled prophecy. No one had to humble Jesus. He did it himself.

 Humility isn’t an intrinsic quality. Humility is an action.