1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
I used to enjoy photography. Capturing reality and beauty frame by frame, sharing it with the masses. Editing and post-processing like a boss in Lightroom and Photoshop. Then smart phones, filters, and Instagram came along and everyone’s a photographer, uploading an indiscriminate barrage of unedited, blurry images. Selfies ad nauseum and grotesque facial expressions. On purpose.
I used to enjoy singing. My first solo in front of a congregation at age three to people intrigued by a family with seven boys, and then one little girl. Competed in high school. Obtained my university degree in the discipline. Directed ensembles and choirs, and took groups across North America and Europe. I did my best, but as is true of all of life, there’s always someone better (and someone not as good). I am generally somewhere in the middle.
I used to enjoy games. Scrabble in particular. Always competitive, often triumphant, but finally realized ridiculously high game averages eventually didn’t hold a candle to nearly losing friends who didn’t like losing. (Who does, really?)
Running on the adrenalin of constant competition meant I was forever fearful of losing place, losing face, and it left me at loose ends, running on empty. Criticizing others became the rule of life. They just weren’t doing it the right way (my way). And yes, I realize there’s still an edge of that in this piece. What you may not see, is that, like many, I am most critical of myself. (That’s a whole other post.)
I’m pleased with what I’ve experienced and been able to accomplish, but now, well into my 63rd trip around the sun, it all begins to fade. The years reveal that winning, being the best, standing in the spotlight, only for the sake of ego? It is an empty well. A cracked cistern that can’t hold water.
I'm tired. Tired of sharing, tired of shouting, tired of needing everyone to look at me, listen to me. Tired of falling short. Tired of alienating others. As I look at the list: writing, photography, music, games… these are primarily hobbies. Only a few people are able to maintain successful careers in these fields and even they are continuously scrambling, marketing, striving. The rest of us do stuff we don’t enjoy from 8-5, then we fly and do what we love till the wee hours. Most never realize that dream of “Do what you love and you’ll never ‘work’ a day in your life.” Because there are just some things that have to be done. Like eating and paying the hydro bill.
Now I’m retired and have more time but less energy to engage. The bills are paid. Most days I have no need to be seen. Prefer to stay home. New to the idea that wholeness isn’t about perfection, but rather an acceptance of all that I am: the healthy and the broken. I remain a strong witness to the fact that relationships trump everything, so I’d better keep them healthy.
Relationships require me to give and receive, collaborate and cooperate (not compete), realizing we have all been gifted with something to bring to the table. And it’s a very big table. Look at the one beside you and carefully cultivate. Listen. Ask questions. Draw out.
“Bigger, better, best” is no longer the measure. “Fight, flight, or freeze” is no longer the response, but rather in the years, days, or moments I have remaining, I’m leaning more toward “bend, tend and befriend.”
Bend my head and knees in prayer. Bend to lift another. Bend my ear to listen.
Tend my heart, my home, and my own business. Tend to my friendships.
Befriend the outcast and the incomplete parts of my own life.
This is the invitation to awaken to all of life.
This I shall enjoy.