Thursday, July 14, 2016

Tunnel Vision

My wife and I are in the midst of clearing house.  Its amazing how in 9 years of marriage you can accumulate so much 'stuff'; paper, knick knacks and journals.  We have so many journals, some full and some half started.  This morning I was going through my work journal/to do list book and I came across notes I wrote as I reflected on my driving.  These thoughts came to me as I began viewing how I drive our car and I began to slow down to 'see' others.  What I encountered was frantic people, with tunnel vision.  I had been so preoccupied with where I was going that I lost sight of others, making me a dangerous and unkind driver.  I found that we can take this attitude into ever part of our lives and can be consumed by it.

I was thinking about the human condition of 'self' and how this plays out in our every day lives.  I think this concept is something that isn't necessarily new (what is now a days!)
but still applicable and necessary for us to evaluate on an ongoing basis.

We talk about LOVE, ACCEPTANCE, DIVERSITY but let's look at the fundamental belief that 'I am here on earth to get what I need and deserve!'  

There is this Christian worship song called 'Jesus, lover of my soul' by Paul Oakley.  It's a great song and I love it.  One day as I was singing it, I changed the words to the verse to better fit how we often live out our life.

It's all about me, Jesus
and all this is for me
for my glory and my fame
It's not about you
as if you should do things your way
I alone am God and I don't surrender
to your ways

If we think closely to this verse and how these words speak to our spirit, we can most likely shout out an ouch...that hurts.  Is it really all about me?

Now before you jump all over me with excuses and thoughts on surrender and 'life is to be lived to the fullest', hear me out.

If I truly evaluate my life and examine my thoughts and I keep in mind the statement; 'I am here on earth to get what I need and deserve!'
This will cause me to see life with tunnel vision, narrowing my sight to just me, myself and I.  Our narrow vision may include others from time to time, but deep down, a questions continue to nag at the very depth of our soul: "Who am I? and What am I getting out of life?"

I think of many men that I know who have left their wives or their wives have left them because they came out identified with being 'gay or lesbian' or they left their spouse because they 'fell out of love, or never loved at all' or they found 'love someplace else'.  It's tunnel vision.
We bought into the notion that self actualization, self worth is more important than commitment, respect, honor, love, integrity, hard work, faithfulness, self control, goodness...kind of similar to the fruits of the spirit! We make excuses and tell others what we want them to know which is actually just appeasing our own neediness and brokenness, because we don't want to feel pain.  I get that.  I lived it for years...and if I am honest, I still wrestle with it. 

When I came out gay identified, it was about me!  It wasn't about others.  It was me, realizing that I had to live true to myself.  It was I in the garden, the serpent handing me the fruit saying "Did God actually say that?  He wouldn't hold good back from you, would he?"  I bought into a cultural definition of worth and identity because it felt right and good.  It didn't take into account those who loved me, or people who would be hurt by my 'self actualization'.  I was applauded by society, and yet I left a trail of pain behind me as I plowed off in my own direction.  I was a relatively good guy to boot. I hated injustice (I still do) People liked me, I liked people and I tried to treat others fair.  Yet, life was about me!  I viewed success as how I would prevail and rise above and get more money.  I was busy getting!

I met a great friend in the midst of all of this 'life of self' who challenged me by the ways she lived her life.  To this day, I don't think I have met anyone who is like her.  She challenged me to see others, to value others and to give generously.  We were co-workers at a school and we began to pay things forward (before it was even popular!)  Kindness; how could we be kind?  How could we lighten someone's day?  We tried secret pals, we created events like goody days that went all out in blessing others, and who knows the impact it had on others, but it did something to me.  It began to change how I saw people.  It slowed me down, because I needed to be intentional.

Now as a believer, I have come to realize even more, that life is not about me...and I still wrestle with that.  I still battle my own will when it comes to my interaction with my wife, my daughter, friends and those around me.  I'd love to say that I have laid down all my selfishness at the cross and live totally free of that.  Hardly.  There are still decisions that I mindlessly make that are fully equated to what I get out of it, rather than asking the question: "God, will you direct my decision making so you are glorified and others benefit?" 

This note that I found this morning, came at a good time as I reflect on getting rid of clutter, as I choose to allow God to continue to direct my steps and as I seek to do His perfect will and not live out of my own broken will.

Galatians 5:22-24 (The Message)

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

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