Secret to Life

My husband works in construction and uses this thing they call a wobble light. Obviously its purpose is to give light, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why it is constructed the way it is.  It appears to be unstable.  Like a strong wind could easily blow it around making light shine in unpredictable places.

wobble light

This has happened to me. At times I have decided that there is an issue or relationship in need of exposing light.  I have got out my bright light and tried to aim in one direction only to have the light wobble around and shine back on me.  (Like here for example.)

Earlier this month, my husband and oldest son went on a hunting trip with family. It was a male bonding, rite of passage experience.  (Or maybe it was all about the moose.  I honestly don’t know.  This is a part of their lives that completely eludes me.)

The first weekend they were gone I tucked the youngest three into bed and faced the long lonely evening stretching ahead of me. I decided to curl up on the couch and watch a movie that Rob would never watch with me.  Seldom content to do something halfway, I decided to watch the epitome of chick flicks.  It was called The Women and does not have even one male actor.

Now, when I watch a movie I tend to vacillate between two extremes. I either surrender myself completely to the emotion of the movie and refuse to question any degree of unbelieveability.  Should anyone mention that the scene is ridiculous, cheesy, or completely improbable, I will silence them with a look.  (Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, Ever After, You’ve Got Mail . . . )  My other reaction is to attempt to completely deconstruct the movie looking for cultural assumptions or world views that are being promoted and use this as a trigger for deep philosophical discussion.

This particular movie made me do the later – probably because I didn’t like any of the characters enough to want to lose myself in their story. The main character was experiencing breakdown in several areas of her life. A light had been shone on the things that defined her, and so to cope she was processing these revelations at a spa.  Having reached her ‘breaking’ point, she needed to decide if she should break away from what had been and forge something new, or should she break away from all that could be and return to what was.  The movie was building up to the turning point of the story, the scene that changed everything.

It was a scene that lacked any sense of subtlety.  The main character turns to her roommate for advice, and her roommate sits her down to explain what she calls her secret to life.

“Don’t give a ______ about anybody. Be selfish.  Because once you ask yourself the question, ‘what about me?’ everything changes for the better.  I mean, after all, who are you? What do you want?”

The main character spends a restless night tossing and turning before returning home. She takes the advice to heart and pursues what she really wants.  In true Hollywood style, the result is spectacular success on every level.  Armed with a new look and a new career, she makes the people in her life sit up and take notice.

Part of me sitting there and watching wanted to point my finger at the rest of the world. Isn’t that the problem with our world? Isn’t a large part of our problem the fact that everyone is so fixated on caring for themselves above all else they have little regard for others or opposition? (Having emerged from the circus that was our federal election, I could speculate that this is what’s wrong with our country.)

But the wobbly light turned back on me. Because the other part of me sitting on that couch wanted to ask myself the questions posed by the roommate and just run with it.  This part of me wanted to listen to the seductive whisper that asked me to imagine what all I could become if I got really selfish.  What kind of image and name could I build for myself if I started every day with ‘what about me?’

Forget the world for right now, selfishness and pride are the problems that most taint my marriage, my parenting, and my other relationships. Forget the rest of the world.  I’m the problem.

In the beautiful paradox that is the Gospel, the Good News, I see why the narrow path is found by few. Because it is not those who look in themselves and see unlimited potential that will ultimately succeed, but those who look inside and see poverty of spirit – a complete inability to help ourselves – to whom belongs the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is those who are humbly gentle and free from pride who will one day inherit the earth.  Those who crave more of Him rather than more of self, they will be the ones who are satisfied.

When we get busy writing our own stories they will surely end like the tower of Babel. Seemingly impressive at the outset, but scattered and incomplete in the end.  Great will be the fall of it.

But when we spend the best of ourselves telling His story, we are called Blessed. We are promised a reward in heaven that will be great.[i]

So in my broken imperfection, I keep trying to tell the only story that can change the world.

If I told you my story

You would hear Life, but it wasn’t mine

If I should speak then let it be

Of the grace that is greater than all my sin

Of when justice was served and where mercy wins

Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in

Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him

This is my story, this is my song

Praising my Saviour, all the day long.

[i] Scripture referred to is from Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount

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