Monday, February 18, 2008

"Friend, move up higher"

I had quite an amazing experience the other day. One of the ladies at our local library emailed me to say that a lady had checked out “Finding Liberty” and that she now wanted to purchase a copy of it.

Now, “Finding Liberty” hasn’t exactly been flying off of the shelves. I understand why; it’s a collection, and collections of any kind – whether essays or short stories or articles – generally aren’t the biggest sellers, even when they are penned by very well known authors, of which I am not.

I’m just a man. An ordinary man no better and worse than anyone else who wrote down some thoughts about various things and put them together in a book. Not many people are looking for a book of thoughts & reflections written by somebody they’ve never heard of, especially when he has no lofty credentials and the book he has written doesn’t apply directly to any specific problem in their lives that they are trying to fix.

I knew all of that before I published it, and in truth, because of those reasons I almost didn’t even bother. But, I had the stories already written, and some people had commented favorably on them, and I wanted to have at least one offering available from Linear Wave Publishing, so I figured, why not? I’ll burn a thousand copies and have the rest of my life to do something with them.

One of the things that I did a few months ago was to donate a couple copies of “Finding Liberty” to our local library. Since then – what with the new book and everything else going on – I had pretty much forgotten about them.

And then I get this email from the library regarding this lady who wanted to buy a copy of it. So I gave her a call. As it happened, the very next morning I was going to be down at the library annex at 9:00 a.m. to work my 2-hour shift for the book sale that our library holds twice a year. I told her if she wanted to, she could drop by and I’d bring a book for her.

Shortly after nine o’clock the next morning, Rosia (pronounced “Rosa”) walked into the annex with her son, a man about my age, and what happened over the next 20 minutes absolutely blew me away.

She said the most wonderful things to me. I can’t even begin to describe the words she used, the manner in which she treated me; even the way that she looked at me. It was incredible. She – and her son – treated me like I was some sort of celebrity or something; like I was important. She even brought her camera because she wanted to have her picture taken with me. Nobody has ever asked to have their picture taken with me before.

And she didn’t buy a book from me either; she bought five. To put that in perspective, our library sells books at these sales for 25 cents each. For the same $60 that she gave me that morning, she could have walked out with 240 books written by proven, best-selling authors.

But she didn’t do that. She walked out with 5. Of mine.

I was high all day. I still am when I think about it. And as I reflected on that amazing experience, I couldn’t help but think of the parable that Jesus told of the wedding feast:

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both shall come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” - Luke 14:8-11

In my corporate life I had a lot of opportunities to praise myself, and I often did exactly that, many times only to suffer a predictably humiliating aftermath. I’ve also been the beneficiary of my fair share of legitimate awards and commendations, and yes, those do still hold some amount of pride for me.

But it was not until a lady named Rosia walked into my life to share a brief 20 minutes with me that I truly knew what it actually felt like to be exalted. I’ll be honest, she didn’t just move me up higher at the wedding table, she all but kicked the groom out of his seat just so that she could give it to me.

What an absolutely amazing, wonderful feeling. I wish that experience on everyone.

And that’s kind of the point to writing this today; not to put in a subtle plug for “Finding Liberty”, and not to say “hey, look what happened to me”, but to show yet another example of how living our lives in accordance with God’s instructions – however backwards they may seem in our world today – are truly the best things that we could ever do.

I think sometimes we look at God’s word as being limiting. We see these commandments and rules and obligations and we don't like them because we view them as unwanted restrictions which hold us back in our lives. But that’s the incredible irony of it all, because they’re not. They don’t restrict us at all; they free us.

They allow us to understand, for instance, what real joy actually feels like. Not the momentary pleasure that we get from constantly participating in our materialistic culture, but the kind of happiness that penetrates to the very core of our spirit and never goes away. All we have to do to experience that is to trust God and let go of everything else. He won’t let us fall.

Because of this experience I now know firsthand what Jesus was really talking about with this particular parable. What I have to do now is to remember that while many times in my life I will be a guest at the wedding feast, there are also many other times where I will be the host, and as such, I need to be vigilant and aware of who is seated at that table, so that I too can approach someone with a smile and an outstretched hand and say to them, “Friend, move up higher.”


Jen said...

The praise is well deserved. I was so surprised this afternoon when I opened my mailbox to find an unexpected package. And it couldn't have come at a better time. Not to gloss over the fact that I am THRILLED to have received a copy of "What So Proudly We Hailed" and would have eventually purchased it as our budget allowed but today the lesson surrounding that gift was priceless. I had, only hours earlier, a conversation with my 12yo son about integrity and doing what you say you are going to do and being able to be a person that can be relied upon- And the importance of doing these things for Christ's sake, as we are here representing him. It was a much needed conversation, at a much needed time but nothing could have brought the message home like receiving your book and reading the letter to him did. And even if I never read the book, which I AM looking forward to reading, your gesture has touched lives and hopefully helped to send a message in a very concrete way that when we live our lives with integrity, God sees and we are rewarded in unexpected ways. Thank you!!!

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised that she bought 5 copies either! If my budget allowed I would have purchased just as many (and hopefully will at some point )- I would love for everyone I know to read Finding Liberty. I also was quite pleasantly surprised to open my mailbox to a surprise the other day- I am sorry I did not thank you earlier- but have not bee non the computer much- I have not been able to put the book down. I love it. Thank God for your wife’s wonderful blog keeping me on my toes or my household duties might be totally neglected -did I mention I have not being able to put it down??? I am in 2023! Thanks again for the blessing. God has definitely given you a gift asa writer -please continue to use it! Melody Joy