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I Just Can’t Get Out

I Just Can’t Get Out

It seemed so futile.

While sitting at my desk today, my ears were perked by a frustrated buzzing sound.

As I looked at the window in front of me, I saw the wasp that was desperately trying to get back out doors. He walked up and down the window pane, wings fluttering constantly in case he should finally step off of this invisible barrier and achieve his goal of the great wide open.

So close, but yet so far.

So close, but yet so far.

For 12 minutes he paced the glass, often times wandering farther away from the open window and his only escape to freedom, his only path to achieve his heart’s desire.

I occasionally tried to usher him in the right direction, using the window curtain or a piece of paper. To no avail; he was certain that if he just kept where he was, he would eventually get through. And had he moved 6 inches to the right, he would have succeeded. I wondered if it would ever happen. I considered whether or not I should just crush him against the glass, ending his frustration (and my own).

But I didn’t. After some minutes he made it to the top pane of glass, then shifted so that he sat just above the opened window. I could see that hope was in sight; would he take that final step down and around the window frame obstacle and find freedom?

He did!

While watching this wasp, I realized this was a perfect sermon illustration…5 months too late for a message that I gave earlier this year (which you can listen to from my Writings page; just scroll down to Sermon Audio).

In that talk, I reflected on how we can get distracted, even blockaded, from attaining the very good purposes we may have by becoming fixated upon the means, rather than the goal.

This wasp couldn’t get out the window because he was stuck on dealing with the window.

Similarly, we sometimes may struggle to attain the goal of really walking with God, engaging deeply with Him, because we may get distracted by the very avenues–spiritual disciplines, our own experience, worship, testimony, prayer, even Scripture–that should enable us to encounter God. All of these “windows” are excellent avenues for us to get a vision of relationship with God, and are effective means for us to meet with Him. Or at least they can be. They can also become a distraction to us if we end up obsessing over the means, and set aside the ends.

The wasp got out eventually. I don’t know how bruised he was after bashing himself against the inside of my window for nearly a quarter of an hour. I don’t know what emotions he encountered, what wounds he acquired, but I do know that he wasted a fair bit of time and energy…especially for an insect with a lifespan of just 12 days.

What about us? What are the goals of our own spiritual lives? What avenues do we have for walking those paths? And are we utilizing those avenues well, or are we enabling ourselves to become distracted? Are we caught up in some nuance of Scripture that’s preventing us from hearing God? Are we concerned about the format (or formula) of our prayer, rather than actually having a conversation with God? Are we embarrassed by our singing voice or lack of rhythm, rather than worshiping God? Are we spooked by the labels that others may ascribe to us, rather than enjoying a spiritual discipline as an opportunity to meet with God?

What windows are we butting up against, rather than walking through? In what areas of life are we internally proclaiming, “I just can’t get out”?

In addition to the sermon mentioned above (entitled “Windows & Rainbow Stickers“), another resource I’ve found helpful for this question is a book entitled Designed for Relationship, which looks at various aspects of who we are, and addresses challenges and opportunities for growth in each that can enable us to have the kind of interaction with God that we were intended for. Definitely recommended.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2013 in Life, Prayer, Theology

 

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A Bright Idea?

I had never thought of purchasing light bulbs as a daunting task.

But while settling into my new country of residence, acquiring these little tubes of glowing gasses has proved to be quite the ordeal.

Bayonet style. E14 screw-type. Energy saver. Halogen. Small bayonet style. 40 watt equivalent. There is more variety here among light bulbs than there is among colors of umbrellas.

We have bought and returned many light bulbs over the last few weeks, and each purchase and each refund come with a tinge of anxiety. Is this the right bulb? Will we find the right one this time?

Pitiful enough, once we find that we have indeed purchased the right kind of bulb, I’m keeping the empty packaging, and labeling it with which fixture in the house this bulb is the appropriate one for. I’m really hoping to avoid future stress when it comes time to replace them again.

I have no idea why there are so many styles of light bulb. I don’t see why a particular lamp or chandelier couldn’t have been fitted with a slightly different socket in order to promote a more universally acceptable bulb type. Nevertheless, the variety does exist, and we are the ones who must reach back into our human heritage as hunter-gatherers in order to obtain the correct mysterious glowing orbs—be they candle-style, round, flood-lamp, or loop.

Have we made things needlessly difficult for ourselves? Although we often herald variety as a virtue, have we really obtained something so laudable?

A recent documentary on the wholesale store Costco revealed that part of their success is not to offer 5 different brands of ketchup. There is one choice alone…and consumers are grateful for it. No time or energy need be spent comparing prices or quality; if ketchup is on the shopping list, it is located on the shelf and put into the cart. No dilemma. No debate.

I spent four hours just at two different stores today: one, a hardware store; the other, a grocery store. Which paint to buy? Which potato chips? What’s the best deal on tissues?

We tend to equate choice and options with freedom. But we fail to recognize the tyranny of variety. Besides inspiring severe cases of “decision constipation” (as my father-in-law would say), having many options just opens the door for uncertainty and regret. No one ever wonders if they bought the wrong ketchup at Costco. They got the only one available, and it will have to do. “Why didn’t I buy the Kleenex in the pink box without lotion?” “I knew I should have gotten the semi-gloss black paint and not the ebony wood stain!”

But we insist on making the choice for ourselves, requiring manufacturers to present us with super-eco halogen light bulbs guaranteed for 10,000 hours of use, and also regular eco mini-fluorescent bulbs rated for 6,000 hours. Apparently, I want to be the one to decide if my bulbs will need to be replaced after 14 months of round-the-clock use, or only 8 and a half.

Thankfully, I sit here in my living room, knowing that every fixture in my house now has the appropriate bulb (though we still have one or two incorrect ones left to return to the store). I have survived weeks of hunting and deciding. But it’s not over yet.

Next week? It’ll be time to purchase some flashlights.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Life

 

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Retirement

My father has 12 days of work left. This past weekend included a retirement celebration for him. Thirty-five years of teaching is coming to an end.

It got me thinking…no, I’m personally not yet ready to retire, but I’m interested in this idea.

The big question associated with retirement is, “Now what are you going to do?”

What’s the most frequent answer?

Most commonly, the perspective is that one’s time has been served, the work is done. And now, they will do nothing.

Oh sure, most retired people find something to do–there is still a desire to keep busy. Those who fail to find something with which to occupy themselves (which apparently is no longer termed an occupation) end up having a rather dismal and challenging time of it.

Most think of retirement as a season of rest; thirty or more years of labor–perhaps half or so of one’s life up to that point–followed by another few decades of recuperation.

I ran into one of my professors from graduate school not long ago, and he shared a perspective on retirement that was truly inspiring to me.

He had traveled to India a number of times, and had the chance to teach there on many occasions. It led him to consider retiring from his tenured position in the United States so that he could move to India and teach there–as a volunteer, without salary, for as long as he possibly could.

Remarkable. This professor wasn’t looking at retirement as a gateway to rest, but rather as the doorway to a whole new opportunity. He could get this season of work out of the way so that he could invest himself anew.

Upon reflection, his perspective seems right on.

Thinking about the word retire leads me to see it as re-tire, a chance to tire oneself out all over again, as the result of a new pursuit.

Having lived and labored in work and weariness, the season of garnering experience (and a pension) could be brought to close so that a new endeavor could be undertaken, free from the chains of having to build one’s career or reputation.

With some things out of the way, brand new opportunities to tire oneself out could now be explored.

Marvelous. Whereas retirement (like rest) is often perceived as an entitlement, we might truly maximize it if we behold it instead as opportunity. It’s not 20 or 30 years’ reward for 30 or 40 years of work; it’s just another season, with any number of chances to serve others, grow, invest, and contribute.

I was in a workshop recently with two retired military personnel. Each one had served for over 20 years, and now, they were on to another career. They had retired, but not in order to sit on a fishing boat. They took themselves in a new direction, having the opportunity to share their experience and expertise with others, in a forum where their every decision didn’t have to be impacted by the amount of the paycheck that they might receive. They were free…and loving it.

Re-tire. We all need seasons of recuperation–sometimes a day, a weekend, two weeks, or more. But recuperation is not an end in itself. We enjoy a season of restoration so that we can dive in once again.

Retirement provides a fantastic opportunity to recuperate significantly, and then to drastically change direction in how one gets involved next. It isn’t just “back to the grind”; a whole new raft of opportunities becomes available.

I’m looking forward to seeing how my father engages in his retirement. His impact and experience so far has been impressive. I hope he does indeed rest well. But I also hope that he’s willing to tire himself out all over again, as he continues to live as a blessing to others, impacting future generations, and living as an example of faithfulness, diligence, and excellence…in both his career and retirement alike.

Congratulations, Dad…I’m not done watching you yet.  🙂

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in Life

 

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