Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 17: Groping an Elephant

One of the things that helps me when I'm in a time of disappointment (or fear that life won't work out the way I hope) is to scale back a bit and try to see a bigger picture than my fear or questions suggest. I don't do this in a guilt-ridden, "Well, I should just be happy with what I have, because people all over the world have it far worse than me..." kind of way. That's true, but I've never once seen it work helpfully to transform despair, or prompt positive action. Feeling bad about feeling bad just adds layers to the problem.

As you might have guessed from all the book references on my blogs and in my memoirs, reading is one of my primary strategies in searching for a larger picture. I consider the thoughts of folks who hold a variety of different outlooks. I'm not looking to adopt a new faith or philosophy, but (as suggested by the fabled elephant contemplated by three blind men) I find that looking at something through a different lens is often a helpful way to get a better picture of the whole.

As I wander through books, I find a ton of stuff I disagree with. (If the library let me annotate, I'd leave scrawls of outrage almost everywhere.) But usually I keep my pen to myself and keep reading, so long as the author seems to be heading toward a sincerely-held point rather than just callously tossing out annoying statements. And sometimes in the midst of that, I find hidden gems.

I spent last night with friends discussing one of these gems, the life slogan of Forrest Church: "Want what you have. Do what you can. Be who you are." We agreed that all three of these exhortations have the potential to derail a productive life if used selfishly, encouraging complacency, lack of ambition, and a defiant refusal to move away from bad habits and choices (the movie Reality Bites comes to mind). But we also saw the wisdom there, if approached from a different direction (or, as we put it, when considered with a Jesus overlay). When we added God to the mix, for us it seemed to line right up with much of what the Bible suggests: Enjoy today's gifts, whatever they might be...do something, don't just sit around lamenting your inability to fix this broken world...share the fullness of how and who God created you to be--unique, quirky, talented--rather than spending all your energy trying to conform by saying/wearing/doing the exact right thing. Because honestly? Nobody knows what the "right thing" is. (Even Oprah is really just guessing...)

As the conversation was winding down, we asked ourselves, How am I doing in these three areas? I'd love your answer, too, if you're game to share.

Here's to a day of hidden gems :)

2 comments:

Jane said...

"Want what you have. Do what you can. Be who you are........" Mmmmm this requires some thinking. I have recently started a new job and I am learning to embrace it and love it and notice when my mind starts to interfere with its chatter about things being wrong. I keep positioning myself to be of service and a contribution and giving my all, trusting in God that this is all part of his plan. The final part "being who I am" is the hardest for me. I have recently come out of an intimate relationship and I am blaming myself for not being 'enough'......good enough, beautiful enough, exciting enough etc etc. This goes really deep for me. I am committed to experiencing myself as being more than enough, that I have nothing to prove and everything to give. I am who I am!

Holly said...

Funny, when I read that slogan, I thought it was too much -- too much pressure to DO, and to pretend I don't want what I really want. Of course, I was once so steeped in legalism that I had to stop reading the Bible, because I'd become incapable of getting anything positive out of it. So perhaps I'm an extreme case. But I find that I'm so constantly on guard against complacency that I almost never get to real Rest.