Many speed humps, but I am on my way

I want – I want – I want – was all that she could think about – but just what this really was, she did not know.
(Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter)

Luckily, I know the object that I want, or perhaps, more fittingly, that I am fighting. It overwhelms me. Repeatedly. It is unavoidable. It makes us flesh and blood. I am referring to the collection of moments which are triggered by seemingly harmless everyday (or humdrum) occurrences; think of a phone call, a text message, a Facebook post, a song, a picture; let me allow you space and time to add other “weaknesses.” For, that is how some prefer to describe the moments.

One of my Facebook friends recently received a touching, painful, and (I believe) necessary and most importantly cathartic audio message. I did not get the title. The speaker was media personality from Kenya. On the strength of what I heard, I can safely conclude that it was entitled “I ran out of time.”

All we are left with are feelings of guilt

It is a conversational message. Remarkably our lady from Kenya holds herself well as she tells her story. There are undeniable hints of emotion. It is a story which brings to the fore everyday remembrances, no, let us make that reflections, on the many promises that we make to family, relatives, friends and business associates about “how we will make time for them, catch up with them, or (see them…tomorrow?)” The recording tugs at the heartstrings when the speaker powerlessly but realistically concludes “…and we wake up to realize that we ran out of time.” All we are left with are feelings of overwhelming guilt, of self-flagellation! Why could we not make the time for the cup of coffee, for the much-talked about lunch or for the promise-laden business meeting? Where did we fail?

I don’t want to run out of time again

The prominent lady reflects on losing four close people over seven years. She makes a dramatic conclusion: that she will henceforth make time for people because she does not want “to run out of time again.” She wants to keep her promises (note the word, promises). If she must, she is ready to cut down her circle of associates to a neat and manageable number so that she does not live a lie again. I find this to be a tough and moving decision. Yet it also seems to answer a very important need in our societies today. Is this not the way that character is built? Think about such virtues as love, faithfulness, patience, gentleness and self-control. They do not mushroom or burst forth overnight. In the end, we know that some of life’s abiding lessons come through pain.

The recording resonates with me on several levels. However, I do not believe that it is encouraging me to slump back into my chair and go down memory lane. I said at the beginning, it still happens, is unavoidable, and I believe it underlines our humanness. For that reason, I agree that it is a remote dream to think that one can completely expunge or blank out memories from the past.

Be that as it may, my wish is to use the message (as I have tried to summarize it) to suggest some new thinking.

Charles Dickens in Great Expectations wrote: Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.

The Scriptures teach that “we plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it.” (Proverbs 16:9 MSG)

I think it is appropriate that I develop this further by showing man’s despair and God’s rescue. In Acts 27: 18 – 22 (MSG), Luke writes: Next day, out on the high seas again and badly damaged now by the storm, we dumped the cargo overboard (may I suggest a lesson here about getting rid of unnecessary burdens?) The third day the sailors lightened the ship further by throwing off all the tackle and provisions. It had been many days since we had seen either sun or stars. Wind and waves were battering us unmercifully, and we lost all hope of rescue. With our appetite for both food and life long gone, Paul took his place in our midst and said, friends, you really should have listened to me back in Crete. We could have avoided all this trouble and trial. But there’s no need to dwell on that now. (Is he saying, we may have run out of time, but it’s not over?) From now on, things are looking up! I can assure you that there’ll not be a single drowning among us, although I can’t say as much for the ship – the ship itself is doomed.

HERE IS MY BOLD CHALLENGE!

How about taking a fresh and genuinely interested look at family, friends and business associates who have been on “the to-do list” for too long, without good reason? CONFESS, CONFRONT AND CLAIM back that relationship – and that one – and yes, that one too. It is my conviction that we may go some distance towards changing the generally bleak atmosphere that envelopes us. One Pastor strongly advises that our efforts to restore relationships – and character – should also include even those “who may drive us crazy or are unappeasable.”

I wish to turn now to Ron Carulli, who is one of the most powerful motivational speakers I have ancountered. A respected colleague, Dorie CLARK, recently referred me to a Carucci write-up entitled “For 2018, Dig Deep and Keep Promises, Not Resolutions.” (Published December 30, 2017)

I will quote from the paper at length if only to drive home the need for new perspectives on relationships.

…I’m very tired. Because in between (all of that), the rest of life happened. I lost several friends too early in life to cancer. My older brother passed away unexpectedly. Both my kids got very ill, and they live thousands of miles from me…

A few weeks “in between years” is hardly enough time to rejuvenate one’s mind, body and soul. But it’s a start, and we all try and do it. For 2018, I’ve decided that rather than making “resolutions,” I want to make promises.” To myself, and to others. I don’t want to be another statistic among the near 80% who make and break “resolutions” weeks after the New Year begins. Resolutions are something we intellectually decide on our own. Promises (note the word) feel more sacred. And most importantly, they involve others…If I learned anything in 2017; it’s that having others on the journey may well be the most important thing we need to learn in life. To participate in the journeys of others, and to invite them to participate in ours. (Emphasis is mine). When I look back at all I have learned, I feel giddy.

Get help.

At the end of many podcasts I was on, when asked what piece of advice I would offer, I answered with, “Get help.” Honestly, help from others is one of life’s greatest gifts. Why on earth would we EVER want to undertake difficult things alone? Yet, we all do. We fear a burden. We don’t like feeling vulnerable or looking incompetent. We don’t want to admit we need others. (Oddly, we are perfectly ok being helpers to others, expecting them to admit they need us)…If you have one ounce of resistance to others joining you in places you need help, PLEASE get past it.

Proverbs 18:15 (MSG) says simply: wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights.

And that is my interpretation of the prominent lady’s speech. If we want to stop running out of time, let us suffuse our homes, workplaces and world with a regenerated sense of love and caring. Psychologically, it is argued that “healthy relationships with peers lead to a happier life…peer relationships help enhance one’s interpersonal skills and leadership qualities.”

Admittedly, I see many speed humps along the way. But I will take on the journey with love, gentleness, faithfulness and patience. MT

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