This week I have two God stories to tell.
Story #1 – Years ago, as part of a course on Stephen Covey, I was given the assignment to write a “mission statement” for my life. What did I truly believe was important for my life’s journey? I had done this once before, years earlier, but the mission statement was so long and wordy that I promptly forgot the particulars or even the gist of it (though I’m sure it was “brilliant”… or something like that!).
This second attempt at a mission statement, I decided, had to be memorable, and catchy enough to remember at the drop of a hat. I wrote something that has stayed with me through the years, so I guess I succeeded.
My mission statement: “To love as I have been loved.”
My pithy sentence came to mind last weekend after seeing a movie. Once every two months, our house church hosts a community “movie night” called the West End Movie Group. We watch a movie and talk about it afterwards over dessert. Our evenings are a fun blend of laughter and deeper talk which we all walk away grateful for. Anyone reading this blog is welcome to join us.
This past Saturday we watched a movie called “As It Is In Heaven”. Anyone would love this movie, but especially if you’ve ever sung in a choir. It is the story of Daniel, a musician who had a mission of his own. Since boyhood, he wanted to make music that would open people’s hearts. Trouble was, though he was very gifted, he was also a very driven man. Though the music he created was exquisite, he hounded both himself and those he conducted with a ruthless perfectionism. Daniel was far from his boyhood dream.
A heart attack changed everything and all his work came to a stop. Forced to end his career, he moved back to his tiny childhood village in Sweden, his heart “worn out”. He decided his only goal now was to listen.
As great stories have the power to do, I felt invited to reflect on my own life. My lifelong dream has been to love others but how well have I done that? If I’m honest, I saw myself in the angry musician of the movie, my interactions with others unconsciously so often driven by issues of insecurity and ego rather than love. I haven’t had a heart attack like Daniel, but my heart has become worn out over the years by the unbalanced symphony and the internal dramas going on within. No doubt my headaches are a result of this.
God has been with me as I’ve reflected on this question. I know this because I have not felt condemned for the blindness and shortcomings of my youth, which has been the way I’ve often responded in the past. Instead, a verse came to mind which I’m sure I’ve written about in past blog posts. “You do not have because you do not ask.” (James 4:2)
A prayer has been in my heart, which is the prayer of my mission statement. “God, help me. Help me to love others the way You in your vast mercy have loved me. Heal me of my self concerns and open my heart to love my students and all others who cross my path.”
The movie has left me with this prayer. On the days when I am back in that smaller world and my petty ego seems to have grabbed hold of the steering wheel again, it is of infinite help to know that God is only a breath away. I don’t have to stay there. All I have to do is ask.
Story #2 – This story is probably the longest one, but I will be short. Perhaps I will write the longer version another day. Our son Joel moved into an apartment with his buddy Erik this weekend. He’s 22 years old so it seems like the right time. An number of circumstances seemed to line up the right way and he was “ready for take-off”. Yesterday we launched him into the world. Actually, it’s more accurate to say he launched himself. He is resourceful and I’ve always thought he’ll land on his feet in this world.
It is an epic and kind of surreal experience as a parent. The last time his bedroom was empty was over 22 years ago before we bought the crib and change table! I don’t want to make too big a deal about it, because after all, it’s a pretty normal thing, but it does take a certain balancing act to bracket our own feelings and let the guy go. As Lyle and I prayed for him on Friday, and asked God to be with him, I had more than a few tears. There’s a whole gamut of feelings that both Lyle and I noticed. In so many ways, we see he’s ready, but in many other ways, we see his youth and lack of readiness, as I’m sure our parents saw ours when we left home. I understand more and more why our parents have told us so often over the years, “We’re praying for you.”
And so it was with all these feelings and thoughts that friends came over to help with the move yesterday. There is no better salve for epic times than the good wishes and help of solid friends. They brought laughter, absurd jokes, Tim’s coffee and muscle power. They reminded us of their prayers for Joel. They celebrated Joel’s step into the world.
As Lyle said, moving all the furniture and boxes and plants and computers seemed a bit daunting at first, but in community it’s really a different story! I think Joel felt the same way.
God, hold Joel tight.