Monthly Archives: January 2015
Human frailty is a topic most of us avoid thinking about until we can’t. Every day on the news we witness someone’s death without giving the slightest thought to our own. We regularly attend funerals where the speaker reminds us of our own mortality but the thought gets lost somewhere between the cemetery and our car.
But then there are moments when we get boxed in. The near miss auto accident, waiting to hear back from the doctor, the stumble-and-fall and suddenly thinking, “That was close!” Fortunately it was only close, nothing more.
Disappointment hurts. Often it’s nothing more than something we can walk off. At other times it crushes.
A medical doctor once shared that early in his career he visited a patient coming out of anesthesia. As he walked into her room chimes sounded just outside the room from a nearby church. The woman, still groggy, said, “I must be in heaven.” Seeing the good doctor she said, “No, can’t be. There’s Dr. ______.” Whoops.
Everyone enjoys a compliment. Not everyone knows how to receive one. Mark Twain once said, “I have been complimented many times and they always embarrass me; I always feel they have not said enough.” That’s one approach.
For some Christians receiving a compliment is notoriously difficult. Taking credit for something troubles their conscience. They often deflect the compliment with something like “Don’t thank me, give all the glory to God.”
I think it was the German priest, theologian, and Protestant reformer Martin Luther who once quipped, “I often laugh at Satan, and there is nothing that makes him so angry as when I attack him to his face, and tell him that through God I am more than a match for him.”
It helps if we can maintain a sense of humor with our critics. It’s not godly to let anger fester but it’s impossible to live as if our opponents don’t exist. Sometimes a humorous cynicism strikes a happy balance.
Imagine anyone writing a blog entitled “Staying sane.” Now imagine me writing one! Webster defines sane as “The condition of having a healthy mind.” Perhaps I’ll be forgiven for not finding that definition very helpful.
Talking about one’s mental state is a minefield of potential misunderstandings. People with nothing more to go on than their own experience throw around medical terms, label people with Greek words, and pronounce prognoses as if they spent their whole life studying the subject and have a wall of degrees. I get uneasy when someone who is not a mechanic tells me what he thinks is wrong with my car. Needless to say I’m hesitant to have someone inexperienced in mental health looking at my mind.
I believe it was pastor and author Tim Keller who observed you don’t realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have. How true. But it’s equally true few people really want to be left with nothing but Jesus. It’s like the story of the man in trouble and someone offers to pray. The troubled man responds, “Goodness, it’s not that bad!” It apparently has to be “that bad” to be where you have nothing but Jesus.
It’s easy to be glib when there’s even just a little security and self-sufficiency left. As long as there is one more thing I can try, Jesus is not all I have and so I don’t fully realize Jesus is all I need.
At times there appears to be very little difference between loneliness and being alone. At other times no two things are more different. Everyone wants and needs to be left alone; no one wants to be lonely.
We need others if for no other reason than the opportunity to serve others. The early Greek bishop and theologian St. Basil the Great asks,
“Whose feet then will you wash? For whom will you perform the duties of care? In comparison with whom shall you be lower or even the last, if you live by yourself?”1
Some people look at routine as a form of sanity while others look at it as a form of suffocation. But even the most cutting edge individual has to eat and sleep. God has made each one of us a creature of habit.
When C. S. Lewis was a little over 20 years old he had already learned the importance of routine and discipline. He understood self as a wonderful servant but a poor master. If you want to achieve a goal, any goal, it will require effort.