When we're preparing for work, an event, a meeting, an interview, etc., we usually spend time considering what to wear. We want to be properly dressed. Have you ever gotten all gussied up and then found you weren't dressed for the occasion? Recently, I attended a life celebration/funeral that caused me to reflect on the necessity of being dressed for the occasion in a different context--that is, being ready when my time comes. You and I may differ on what it means to be dressed for that occasion, and I know this subject is morbid to some. But that time comes for us all. And whenever the call comes for me, I want to be ready to answer based on the condition of my soul and the life I've lived.
I live a joyful, textured life full of rich and diverse experiences. I'm living my purpose, loving my journey (well, not all of it, but I gotta take the good and the bad), and I've been blessed beyond measure. But what's most important to me is trying to live a life pleasing to God. It's not about trying to be perfect, as that's impossible. We all have our struggles. Remember this "shining" example? We ALL have our struggles. And if you follow this blog, you know I'm big on self-examination, soul-cleansing, maintenance, and improvement. I routinely ask myself questions like: "am I who I say I am, am I doing the best I can do, giving the best I can give; would my colleagues and neighbors be surprised to find out I'm a Christian because of the way I carry myself on days other than Sunday; do only my Christian friends and church members know I'm a Christian?" My answer, no matter the question, is that I can always do better. I want to live a life where my words, deeds, and attitudes consistently reflect what I say I believe and what's most important to me. 'Cause when it's all said and done, I don't want to be all gussied up, but not dressed for the occasion.
Christmas is next week, and my heart is heavy as my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and loved ones suffering from last week's mass shooting in Newtown, CT. A painful reminder that We Know Not the Day Or the Hour, and It's a Difficult Time of the Year. Loved ones are now left trying to celebrate those they had. It's incumbent upon the rest of us to be ever mindful to celebrate those we have.
Sometimes there are just no words to express our feelings of loss, anguish, sorrow, devastation, or sympathy. That's one reason why what Christmas represents to me--the birth of Christ, the King--is so meaningful. Because when my heart is torn to pieces, when I feel empty inside, I have a place to go where no words are required. I can go to the King. And for that I'm truly grateful.
Do you remember this line from the movie Shawshank Redemption? It's one of my favorites. Isn't that what we're doing every day--getting busy living or dying? Of course, from the day we were born we've been on the path to dying. That's a fact. But it's what we're doing on the way that's most important.
There was a time in my life when I was on life's treadmill, going nowhere fast. Just going through the motions. Busy dying. Living every day as if "life was too long"*. Although I was surrounded by love, had an active social life, and had accomplished my professional goals and many of my personal dreams, I had no joy. And my challenges were bringing me down. I had established residency in the land of the walking dead. But I knew I had to move to the land of the living and joy.
And I did move. But it required some housecleaning--of my soul. A move into the land of the living and joy was impossible without getting rid of some junk. Stuff on the inside that had to die so I could live. And there was plenty of that. But afterwards, there was enough room in my soul for the lesson(s) I needed to learn from my challenges. I learned that my life had to serve a greater purpose than me and what I wanted. My quest for joy taught me to think of "JOY" as an acronym for "Jumping Outside of Yourself".
The house of my soul still needs cleaning on a regular basis, but I'm now a long-term resident in the land of the living and joy. And if my life does not include serving others, I'm not living it to the fullest. As it turns out, after all of that work, to some extent I'm still busy dying. How ironic is that? Well, it's different this time. Now, I'm busy dying to live.
What about you?
*A line from the movie "16 Blocks", which accurately described my thinking many years ago.