Tuesday, November 17, 2009

P4E.122 "It Might Rain" Revisited

I've just finished reading Charles Dickens' The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain. In it, the Haunted Man often broods over wrongs done to him, trouble and sorrow of the past. The Ghost offers him the "gift" of removing the sorrow, wrong and trouble he has known from his memory. The Haunted Man hesitantly agrees. The Ghost grants his wish and adds that The Haunted Man will give the gift wherever he goes. It becomes clear that The Haunted Man's sense of compassion, empathy, forbearance, pity, patience and even love were grounded in the sorrow, wrong and trouble that were a part of his memory. Everywhere he goes, the people around him become irritable, impatient, unkind, ingrateful and regretful.

This idea, that the sorrow, wrong and trouble in our lives have the potential to promote positive character qualities, was a pleasant surpise to me. There is a strange connection to James' "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials..." but I hadn't ever thought of it quite the same way. Which is why I have complained and cursed and become angry when things went "wrong." I have been a terrible example.

My son Jon has had some hard hits in the last couple of weeks. He's lost two close friends and I have the sense that he might blame God for their loss. It has not escaped me that I have played a part in creating my sons' outlook on life. That my "It might rain" attitude has caused my sons to view God as an unjust, hard, unforgiving, irrational God because that was how I represented God as their father. It gives gives me great pain and grief to think on it.

I forgot (and I'm reminding you now) that sons (and daughters) establish their perception of the Heavenly Father by their earthly father's pattern. All the times that I was unjust, hard, unforgiving, irrational and critical must have had their affect on my sons. All the times that I blamed God for the things that went "wrong," the "bad" things that happened, the dreams that went unfulfilled, gave them a pattern for how to respond when things didn't go their way. My ingratefulness to God when things went right were not a good example. I am not saying that they are ingrateful. They are better than I am. But, whatever ingrateful tendencies they may have, I accept the possibility that they got them from me.

My only hope is that the true and living God has revealed Himself to them from other, more positive, sources and that they are open to continually receiving from Him. Also, that my regenerated self can continuously work to heal the previously inflicted wounds.

My relationships with my wife and sons are immeasurably better now than they were at their worst. I recall these things to share them with you in the hope that you will learn from my bad example and won't have to suffer the same consequences that I have.

In this time of Thanksgiving, we can not only give thanks, but "consider it all joy" for having encountered various trials...

Giving Thanks, Kim

Monday, November 9, 2009

P4E.121 It Might Rain

We watched a movie the other night in which the main character establishes his outlook on life with the first words of the movie,

"It might rain."

There was a time when I could really identify with this perspective on life. "The glass is half empty" was my middle name. It embarrasses me to think of how it affected my life and the lives of my wife and children. We didn't go anywhere. We didn't do anything. I worked and they lived their lives. The boys grew up. My wife became self-sufficient. I was paralyzed much of the time thinking, "It might rain."

I'm reminded of this because of husbands/fathers that I see and hear who are in the same place I was. This is a case of "it takes one to know one."

"I don't see any other options."
"It's just the way I am."
"I can't."
"That's just the way it is."
"Something might go wrong."
"I can't afford it."
"There's no other way."
"There's no other interpretation..."

Gwen and I see so many husbands/fathers "locked" in this mindset. I know that not every man lives here. But, many do share this mindset malady. I think, in some ways, the American work ethic, taken to the extreme (which is where many men think they want to be) exacerbates the problem. We men think we know the way to success, we put our nose to the grindstone, we work long hours, we focus, we don't allow distractions, we are frugal, we conserve, we work for a future goal. In and of themselves, these are not bad intentions, per se. I did this. I followed this path to success (as I think many do) only to be disappointed in mid-life, wondering "Where did I go wrong?" And, in the mean time, my family was wondering "When are we going to live life?"

There was no creativity, no vision, no balance, no bright outlook, no self-examination, just tunnel vision. I regret it now, even though I sometimes still fall victim to my own bad attitude. I could not help but pass this mindset on to my sons. I know that I have changed. I just pray that they can overcome my bad example.

As a Believer, I should have known better. I did not know then that "it's the relationship, stupid." I did not know what sort of relationship was possible with God and my fellow man. I'm not the man I was before. I have changed. You can too. I dwell on this only long enough to pass along some words of encouragement to whoever cares to listen.

Your ally in the pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

P4E.120 Relief

I've obviously not posted in some time. There've been many changes in my life, including a new employment situation that comes with a longer commute. My time for writing is reduced. I do not let writing intrude on family time.

I feel very fortunate and blessed to make a positive job move in times like these and there's been a couple of situations lately where I've felt something that I know not everyone is feeling right now. It's relief.

As I begin to write about the first, I realize that I need to be discreet. Although I understand that the person who gave me relief had the discretion to do so, I don't want any chance that the person would get in trouble.

Through ignorance of my own, some fees I owed accumulated over the last couple of years. When I became aware of my mistake, I owed nearly $2,500 (that I didn't have). As I reviewed the paperwork associated with these fees, I saw that there were some numbers handwritten on the form. There was a way to make it look like I would only owe fees for a few months. The temptation was great to manipulate the numbers to my own advantage. Because I was not able to address the situation immediately I would vacillate, in my mind, between being tempted and dismissing the idea.

"I could save us over $2,000!"
"I could be charged with manipulating official documents."
"No one would know or care!"
"I would know."
"People must do this stuff and get away with it every day!"
"I don't."
"I don't have the money to pay this fee!"
"That doesn't make it right."

In the mean time, I had given notice at my work. When I left, I met with my boss and he paid me a compliment. He said, "The thing I really like about you, Kim, is that you're a man of integrity." On my last day, I received severance pay that gave me enough to pay the fees. I could really have used the money for some other critical necessaries, but this was the most pressing. I went to the office and waited for over two hours with hundreds of other people to pay my fees. The whole time, the forms were in my hands. I had the appropriate colored ink pen. Two little flicks of the pen and I could potentially be off the hook or charged with forgery. I prayed for strength to resist temptation. "That is just not the sort of person I am. I am a man of integrity." My number was called. I resigned myself to paying the fee. As I walked up to the clerk, I actually did pray and asked God for mercy and that somehow, I would be relieved of paying these fees.

The clerk took my paperwork and reviewed it.
"Did you know that you should have taken care of this over two years ago?"
I answered, "No, not until recently."
"Do you realize that you'll have to pay the fees for the last two years and the upcoming year and late fees?"
"I understand that, yes," I answered, dejectedly.
The clerk looked at me. Looked at the paperwork. Looked at me again.
"Well.....I'm not going to make you do it."
The clerk took a pen and made two little flicks on the form.
"You owe $307."
I thanked the clerk and wrote the check.

As I walked out of that office, I got choked up. My eyes filled and I felt like a giant load was lifted from my spirit. I felt relieved. I called Gwen and related the story. We talked about how, in the past, I might not recognize or appreciate how God was at work in my life. I do recognize and appreciate it now. What spiritual lessons were there to learn? Going for the feelings, I recognized how incredibly exhilarating it is to experience relief. To know that I was in debt and to have that debt removed was a touching experience. I'm determined to look for opportunities to help others feel relieved. It will cost me, I know. To relieve someone else, I will have to shirk some wrong done to me, will have to take on someone else's debt, will shoulder the blame that someone else should take.

Sound familiar? It will be worth it, if I can be more like Him.