I ran 4 miles today and got passed by three young whipper snappers talking away like they were relaxing on a beach. I gave them a go though. I fantasized that they were just starting when I was just finishing. They passed me right when I returned to the bottom of my driveway. I guess I’m a little competitive. I decided to feel good about myself even though they were faster.
What was nice though was that the sun was warmer today. It felt like spring was in the air. Bring it!
In today’s lap letter I want to talk about noticing how we respond. I’m going to share one of the important lessons I’ve learned from my own experience. My hope is that this will help you in your own unique journey. Tomorrow I’m going to read the letter and expand on it in a video and make it available to you, just like I did last week.
How I do anything is how I do everything. I’ve noticed that I have a particular way of responding to things. A particular way of doing things. My way. One could look at how I respond to things and say, “Typical!” It is because how we do anything is how we do everything. Particularly today I want to talk about the way I respond to disappointment and hurt. The way I respond to these is the way I always respond to these, no matter the source.
Let me explain. If I feel disappointed by someone, or hurt by them, perhaps my response might be to pull away from that person and distance myself from them. If the disappointment is slight from someone I really love, like Lisa, perhaps I will only pull away a small distance and only temporarily. If the disappointment or hurt is from someone who is a friend or an acquaintance or someone I dared to trust, perhaps I will pull far away and totally remove that person from my life. Maybe I will even reject them entirely forever.
About 30 years ago, my spiritual director Sister Marie noticed something about me. Lisa and I had gone through a very difficult time in our young marriage and in the church I was assisting at. It ended up being a most difficult period in our lives. Please note that this was during a time when I had a very certain belief in God and a very concrete faith. But because my life was a mess at this time, I let all my spiritual passions and practices fade away and I drifted far away from the God I knew and loved. Sister Marie brought this to my attention one day by looking me straight in the eye and asking, “So, why do you run away from God whenever life gets rough?”
I’ve learned how to rationalize. I can theologize it and say that the God I believed in was insufficient and therefore false and I had to run away from it to find the true God. Or I could psychologize it to say that I had to distance myself emotionally from something I was attached to that was unreliable and untrustworthy in order to find That Which I Could Truly Trust. Or I could philosophize it to say that there really is no god and I was learning how to wean myself off of this illusionary attachment in small doses. Whatever. These are all coping mechanisms. The real issue is what is going on inside me.
It dawned on me at that young age that perhaps I have such an idealistic view of life and such a magical view of God that when something goes wrong I get angry and reject God.
But at the bottom of it all was that this is how I deal with disappointment and hurt. Always. I run away. I close myself off. I distance myself emotionally, spiritually, even physically, from that which disappoints me or even may disappointment me possibly in the future. Whether it’s God or Lisa or a bank. I might even demonize the one who disappointment me to justify my rejection of them.
If I go even deeper though, I can perhaps even see that inside of me there’s a small boy who is insecure and afraid, who lives in an uncertain and scary world, who knows that people can and will disappoint him, hurt him, and even reject him. So maybe I harden my heart to protect myself from these things even potentially happening. Perhaps I am not experiencing true love at its deepest and most carefree level because I’m always on guard, waiting for the next sting of disappointment and the next infliction of hurt.
But… and this is key my friends… what I’ve also learned is that it is enough to notice this. It is enough to know that this is how I respond to the world and people. I am aware. I didn’t use to be. But Sister Marie pointed this out to me many years ago. It was a revelation. Have things changed? Sure. Somewhat. But I can still find this frightened small boy hiding in the dark corners of my heart.
However, this is the other thing that Sister Marie taught me because her response to that revelation was perfectly gracious. When she said, “So, why do you run away from God whenever life gets rough?”, I was dumbstruck. I just stared at her because I knew she was right. Even though I thought I was somewhat spiritually and emotionally mature, I responded in very childlike ways to disappointment and hurt. I was speechless. So she very gently said, “David. David. It’s okay. It is good that you see this. Now, what do you feel when you see this small boy inside of you? Will you love him?” I wept. I weep now as I type this.
She reminded me of Paul’s bold assertion in 1 Corinthians 4:3…
“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.”
I just notice that this is how I respond to disappointment and hurt. Noticing it is what matters. That’s the important thing. I don’t judge myself. I don’t beat myself up over it. I just notice it. This is enough. And I’m learning how to embrace this small frightened boy and beckon him out into the light of a safer world.
Because how I do anything is how I do everything.
Same for you.
Stay tuned tomorrow for an extended video version of this letter!
much love to all!