”Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.”
Sounds true, rather smart, actually. Apparently Ambrose Redmon said that. Well, I don’t know who he is: I did not know then, I do not know now. I deliberately chose to go against my usual self (for the sake of this post) and post a quote of/by the unknown. But why?
Whenever I hear or read something interesting, I am quick to analyse, dissect. I want to know more. More about what the author/ artist/ musician meant when s/he said what s/he said. I want to know more about his/her personal background, more about what influenced him/her, more about all things concerned and related to him/her. After all, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. It follows that I need to know what or who influences me, and be able to choose to resist or succumb to it. No statement is ever a statement on its own. The character of the person, his/her life and actions, matter as much as a single statement of his/hers.
Okay, you know what? For simplicity’s sake, I’ll just be talking about him.
So, what I usually (used to) do was to look him up, get an autobiography if possible or scroll through the pages of the internet. No knowledge is waste, right?
One of my favourite quotes has always been “I am indeed a king, because I know how to rule myself.” And although I could not agree with the lifestyle of its owner, Pietro Aretina, his words had the ability- if I may call it that (and I do)- to put me in check.
After a while I mastered the art of picking and choosing when to allow someone’s words or works vs. life influence me. Or rather, to understand the difference between weakness and wickedness. To accept that rather than just “practising what one preaches” many (indeed, most) well-meaning human beings simply naturally spoke more highly than they lived. A friend once said, “It is so much easier to do or copy what is wrong than what is right.”
And so I looked around.. at all the beautiful things that once were, were now, and would one day be, and mused. Truth was, most of these things weren’t an actual reality. Those beautiful things I had imagined and aspired to live by/ up to were often nothing more than a fantastic imagination of my mind. Did they exist anywhere else? And, how do you even remember something that never really was? I don’t know.. I guess, you just do. Like dreams, hopes, wishes. The inner fuel that keeps you going.
Outside of self, some other beautiful things – both tangible and not – were experiences and emotions created by the words, works, and acts of others.
The ministry of gifts.
A couple of months ago, when I asked a good friend of mine if he would share his writing gift with me, I was asked “How much would I get?”
Gifts and price-tagging? I felt disappointed. Surely I had done numerous friends similar favours without asking for or expecting payment in return. Whatever happened to “Freely you have received, freely give?” at the very least among friends. After all, it would have cost him nothing. A sigh. Especially around Christmas, it seemed, people became particularly aware of money and its value. In the season of giving a lot, we want to make sure to be receiving just as much. Trade by barter?
I don’t know..
Upon my return from Austria, I handed my friend a gift: a dress and a perfume. She received the bag in which I had put it with a smile. Five days later, having seen her twice and chatted with her at least thrice, still no word- let alone expression- of gratitude.
And as I examined my disappointment, especially in light of the fact that I had previously pointed out to her that she often took things for granted, I smiled. Life.
I realized that I had not given her a gift in the hopes of being appreciated, but had expected appreciation non-the-less. Surely, I thought, it was common sense: the most basic of manners, to simply say “Thank You”. However, I also realized that often people live and speak and act in ways that are simply different. Whether it be by nature or nurture, a consciousness of right and wrong, or a lack of social norms, at some point one simply grows up, grows out of the limitations and excuses of the aforementioned, and simply chooses to live, act and do right.
In all this, I remember another friend of mine. Probably the one I had loved the most; sacrificed the most for. The one through whom the Lord showed me what it meant to lay down one’s life. To live and die, and yet be rejected.
And as I sat, examining my thoughts, feeling a bit used, abused and sorry for myself.. the wetness on my cheeks and the discomfort in my stomach reminded me of my word for the year,
.. Just Be Happy!
Funny how much power the mind had over my physical sense of well-being.. A tunnel, a light.. “I am indeed a kind, because I know how to rule myself.” Words spoken by a man whose lifestyle spoke of little more than vanity, lust, and a lack of self-control.
Truth is, as scattered and messy as my thoughts were, they were beautifully woven together in face of the realization that whoever or whatever I’ve come across- be it through pleasure or pain- has somewhat shaped my life, made me ME. The best and worst friends have equally scratched my back: with velvet gloves or poisonous scorpions. They have taught me important life-lessons, have forced me to face what I would rather have not, have drawn me closer to God.
I don’t know what it is you are upset about, you regret, you would rather have differently. I have no idea about the pain or loss, regret or shame you go through right now, but I’ve come to remind you that eventually, all things will work out for you good and to His glory.
Sometimes you give and give, and never get back. Sometimes you love a weaker one selflessly, but are sent packing anyway. Sometimes you invest so much into a relationship, allow matters to be settled in the other’s favour, and are yet the one to count your losses. Sometimes love simply does not seem to be worth it. And yet, we’ve been commanded (note you, not adviced!) to love anyway.
Sometimes nothing seems to work well, right or to make sense. But that is okay. We usually see and prophesy in parts. Other times we do not see or prophesy at all. That is okay. Love is always a higher calling. Not a feeling (noun) but a verb. A call to action! The calling to be more like Him.
As scattered and all-over-the-place as your thoughts seem to be, do not allow them to master or overwhelm you. Choose to be Lord over them, focusing on what is true, noble, pure, virtuous, holy. Arranging your thoughts like flowers, beautifully.
Just last evening I received the sad news of a lady-friend (31 years old) passing away. It put things into perspective. Life is short. Most worries – even in the face of pain, disappointment or death- are not worth it. As long as there is life, choose to live (right) to the best of your ability, bringing Him glory.
At the end of the day, there are only so many hours in a day, only so many days in your life. We might as well spend them doing and acting and living right..
But in order to do so, first find out what right looks like.