Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Few Good Questions

I don’t have a whole lot of wisdom to share with the world (some might argue that I have none at all), but I’ve collected a few questions over the years that have helped me immensely in living my life, and I think that that’s important, because regardless of what promise I will receive upon my passing from this earth, I’m continuously impressed by the fact that I’m not dead yet. I’m still very much alive, still living this life that God gave me, and I have to think that He would be much more pleased with me if I actually did something with that life rather than just sit around waiting to die so that I can receive my eternal reward.

I’ve come to love figuring things out for myself rather than relying on – and trusting in – someone else’s worldly “expert” opinion (the same experts who told me for years that Pluto was a planet and who now tell me that it’s not; the same ones who once said eggs were bad for me before recanting years later to say that they are in fact actually pretty good for me; the same ones who have a scientific law that says matter & energy can neither be created nor destroyed and yet have no explanation for where all of the matter & energy that exists in the universe came from [and whose very existence would seem to be a direct violation of this particular “law” because, well let’s face it, it’s all here and it came from somewhere]).

I realize too that for anyone reading this, I myself fall into this category of “someone else”, so I won’t even attempt to force my advice on you, because it would probably be wrong anyway. But I will offer these questions to you in the hope that you may find them useful in coming to your own conclusions:

What would you do right now if you weren't afraid?

I used to have this question taped to my monitor at work years ago so that I would constantly see it during the day, and it helped me to face certain aspects of my job that I would rather not do and would often put off until later (returning a call to an irate customer, dealing with a personnel issue, etc.).

But fear hasn’t just compelled me to shun “negative” things, it’s also stopped me from doing things that I would actually have liked to do. How many questions did I not ask in school because I was afraid? How many girls that I really liked in my younger days never knew that because I was afraid to tell them? How many sports, activities, plays, etc., did I not participate in because I was afraid? I have no idea. But there was a bunch.

I still have fears, but asking myself this question helps me to face whatever it is that I am afraid of at the moment and push through it. Would I do it if I wasn’t afraid? Yes? Then do it. And you know what? No matter what it was that I was dealing with, it was never as bad as I feared it would be. In addition, I’ve also learned that regardless of appearances, just about everybody else is afraid too, so I’m always in pretty good company.

Are you pretending not to notice YOUR part of the problem?

I’ve known dozens and dozens of people who are divorced – friends & coworkers, men & women - and many of them have shared the details of their pain and the “sins” of their ex-spouse. What I’ve learned is that one person always seems to be a villain and the other a helpless victim. But you know what? Of all the divorcees that I’ve talked to in my life, never once have I ever talked to the villain. Isn’t that funny?

You’d think that sooner or later – marriages being made up of only two people after all – that at some point I would have met one of the villains. But everyone I’ve ever talked to has always been the victim in the relationship. On top of that, I’ve never met anyone else who has ever talked to the “villain” either. I find it very interesting that we should all defy the law of averages in that way.

You see where this is going. My mom once told me, “There are two sides to every story, and both of them are lies”.

Catherine & I don’t argue much, but it does happen, and when it does, sooner or later I always get around to asking myself this particular question. After all, I always know what she did wrong - that’s why I’m arguing with her in the first place, right? - but what was my contribution to the problem?

I don’t like stepping out of my shoes to stand instead in hers, because then I am forced to see what she saw and what she heard, including the tone of my voice, the look on my face, and the words that I used. And I have to tell you, I have never once been able to look into that mirror and absolve myself of all guilt. In fact, what I usually find - to my own shame – is that I contributed more to the problem than she did, or, in more instances than I would care to admit, I was the one who actually created the whole problem in the first place.

Sometimes, just to summon up the courage to ask myself if I’m pretending not to notice my part of the problem, I first have to ask “What would I do right now if I wasn’t afraid?”, because looking into that mirror can be a little scary.

In what way will this move God’s Kingdom forward?

As a Christian, this is a question that I try to hold close by at all times. It’s pretty similar to the little question that was popular years ago, “What Would Jesus Do?”, but I find that I’m able to use it a little more effectively. The problem for me with the question “WWJD?” is that I don’t know what Jesus would do. I mean, Jesus blew people away with some of the things that He said and did, and I think it would be rather arrogant of me to assume that I could somehow know His mind when I’m still trying to figure out what half of the things He said & did actually meant. But if I can’t claim to know the mind of God, I have no problem at all understanding my own; my thoughts, and my desires.

This question is very deceptive because while answering it honestly isn’t usually that hard, taking the appropriate action based on what the answer is can be excruciatingly difficult. Everything we say and everything we do has an impact. Sometimes it’s big and sometimes it’s small, but it has an impact, and it makes no difference whether we like it or not. And all of it – whether we like it or not - is going to move God’s Kingdom in one direction or the other.

Sometimes, in my own selfish desire, I feel an overwhelming compulsion to say or do something out of an adamant belief that I am right to do so. But so often, when I take the time to stop and ask myself what the result of my words & actions will be, I find that I have to stop myself from doing what I wanted. And it can be SO HARD to bite my tongue or stay my hand when I feel that I am justified but the answer to the question still comes back as: “It won’t move God’s Kingdom forward at all, Blaine. In fact, it will actually push it backwards a step or two”.

I’ll be very honest; I don’t like it at all when I get that answer, because it means that I can’t do what I want to do. But if I guide my actions with the answer that I receive, even though I won’t be able to do what I want to do, the possibility exists that I might be able to do something that Jesus would.

And wouldn't that be something?


Anonymous said...

Great post! The first question will undoubtably cause some deep thinking and action on my part. Thanks for the gentle prodding...

And, thanks for the book! I can't wait to get started on it....

Blessings, Q.'

Jen said...

I'm really enjoying your blog and I was so pleasantly surprised to be one of the 50. Thank you so much! I can't wait to get reading.