I was thinking again today about happened with my friend I am calling Jim the other day. How one minute he was fine, at least externally appearing so, and the next minute he was several chests pumps away from the other side of life. There was a cheesy song that became a hit about a decade ago called Everybody’s Free (To Where Sunscreen). Remember that one? The one that was a man reading a commencement speech, dishing out all kinds of advice set to a basic beat? Like I said, it was pretty cheesy. But today I remembered a line from that “song” that has, from my experience, rang true:
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind;
the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.
This has happened to me on a number of occasions. Sometimes its something that seems major, but turns out to be minor, sometimes its something that is life altering in one way or another. On an average October evening in 2004 I got a phone call from my dad telling me my grandfather had leukemia. Another afternoon, early in my marriage, I came home from work to find my wife very upset about a work incident. I won’t go into details about what it was exactly, just to say that it was very complicated and could have turned out very badly. It didn’t, but for about a week things were kind of scary and a more than a little tense. One fairly recent Friday night I was gearing up for a much anticipated all night video gaming session, when I got a phone call from a friend in distress. The next thing I knew I was on my way to Sacramento, not to return home for seven hours and with a house guest in tow. These are just a few examples. Live long enough and the list will just continue to grow. Whether its disease, family issues, or finding out a close friend is not exactly who you thought they were, how you react to these times helps to shape and define who you are.
And that’s really trick. How do you react? On one hand its an easy question to answer. In the case of something physical, you obviously do what you can for them to meet those physical needs, whether its CPR or just sitting with them while they’re fighting off the affects of chemotherapy. If its an emotional or interpersonal problem the answer should be easy too, right? You do the right thing. But what is the right thing? Its not always cut and dry. What if a friend is involved in something he or she shouldn’t be, but the implications of a confrontation could involve hurting others? A friend in need may need a place to stay for awhile. Are you prepared to turn your life upside down to accommodate? The answers aren’t quite as easy when the right thing actually costs something.
But consider the costs of not reacting at all. In the long run isn’t that more expensive? What happens to that friend in need if you aren’t there? What if you don’t confront that friend that seems to have strayed? What if sitting in the hospital makes you uncomfortable? Are we really friends if we don’t do the hard stuff? Doing the hard stuff is by no means a guarantee that things will turn around, but at least you can have the peace of mind of knowing you did what you thought was right. That’s all you can really do.
But if you’re not prepared to be blindsided, the right (read hard) thing is going to be that much more difficult. The Bible teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Other than to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength, Jesus calls this the greatest commandment. Why that one and not thou shalt not commit adultery or thou shalt not kill? Because if you love your neighbor, you’re not going to sleep with his wife or kill him are you? With that as your focus, you can be ready to help your friends, or strangers, when they show up on your door step on that idle Tuesday. That will make the right (hard) things easier. Not easy, but easier. It takes work, don’t be mistaken. Its hard to put your own comfort and desires aside. Left to our druthers, we’re pretty selfish. We want what we want and we want it now. We think that fulfilling those desires will somehow fulfill us. But living for yourself will never satisfy you. Never. Maybe for a little while, but all you’re doing is creating a pattern of selfishness that is toilsome to break. Once your current distraction loses its thrill, you’ll move on the next, leaving a trail of brokenness and hurt behind you. But what do you care? Do what you want, right? You need to be fulfilled. There was a guy who tried that once named Solomon. He literally had it all and in the end came to one conclusion: vanity, vanity, all is vanity (see the book of Ecclesiastes).
The world we live in is corrupt to its core. People will stop at nothing to fulfill their own selfish desires. At times it gets pretty downright depressing. People worry about political correctness so as not to hurt anybodies feelings, but that’s just a superficial way to appear caring when few are willing to actually make the hard choices to help others. I don’t mean to sound preachy, I’m no exception. I like my little, comfortable world. Stepping outside of it is not one of my stronger gifts. But I’m trying. With God’s help, I’m getting better. I hope that I can serve when needed, help when asked, confront when necessary. The alternative is too scary to contemplate.
(I’ve posted the Sunscreen song in the Box on the sidebar. For nostalgia’s sake, and to lighten the mood of this post ever so slightly.)