Wednesday, February 23, 2005

One simple choice

I was reading somewhere about a writing contest where your entry was to be about a life changing event. It was to be something you could look back on as a pivotal point in your life. While I did not enter the competition, it did get me thinking and the wheels churning. There are many points in my life where I stood at a crossroads and wavered, waiting for some thing or some one to give me direction or guidance. There have been great and large decisions in my life which have shaped the direction of my travel. Each decision was predicated on experience or faith. Some directed by what has always been and others by what I hoped would be. They have not always worked out as I had hoped, but all are part of the crooked path that led me to this place. There have been great and small decisions. There have been some which, at the time, seemed almost inconsequential, but later, in retrospect, proved to be very life shaping.

Friends I made, or found in junior high school still enter and leave my life. Decisions I made from the standpoint of ignorance still direct my life. One notable example was my decision to pursue a career in electricity. It was a decision of happenstance. I was working 3rd shift at a factory and sick of it. I quit and told Dad to help me get into the electricians union. It was, for me, to be a stop gap measure. I did not intend to make it my career. Now, 30 years later, I am still working within that field. That decision of circumstance has had a long lasting defining effect on me. We like to think that we are creatures of choice, and for some things, we are. However, we are led by the decisions we make more often than we are led by personal choices.

For example, If I make a personal choice to buy a new truck, then I am led by that choice to work to pay for it. Those are the repercussions of a personal choice. I lose the choice to work or not to work. I lose the personal freedom to take off a month and drive around the country. If I further choose to drink and drive, I am bound by the consequences of that personal choice. So, you see, we are creatures of personal choices, but we are often led by the consequences of those choices, whether we realized the course upon which we had set sail.

That being said ... I do remember a day when I was driving in Nawlins (New Orleans, for the tourists), and there seemed to be this sudden realization that hit me. It came to me that I was lacking in a very important area in my life. Let me set the stage just a bit. At that time, I was working in Nawlins, living in Slidell, LA, and going to church in Slidell as well. I was an ordained Minister and working as a 'mudman' for a stucco company owned and run by the boyfriend of my first wife's aunt. He was an unscrupulous businessman and employer. He underpaid his help and got them to borrow money from him. Then, when they were in his debt, he used that to treat them unfairly by not paying overtime. I was in a bad situation. I was there working to help myself get out of debt in Kentucky, not to go into debt in Louisiana as well.

So, here I was, in a bad situation that wasn't getting better, and thinking about what I needed to do to get myself out. My wife and children (2 at the time) were depending on me. The weight of the world was on my shoulders. At least it seemed like it was the weight of the world.

The realization was not about my work situation. It was not about my family. It was about me. I realized that I was completely lacking in compassion. My heart was hard. Never mind that I could not effectively minister to people without compassion, I could not be a complete human being without it. There are those that know me now, many years later, that have a hard time getting their minds wrapped around that concept, but it was true.

On a ramp, on my way up to I-10, I looked up and asked God to give me a tender heart. Remember how I said that we are more often led by our decisions made without proper consideration of all the ramifications? This is one of those times. I recognized there was a need in my life. That much was fine. I recognized that God was the one to help meet that need. That was fine as well. It was the simple request for a tender heart that was over my head. I had no clue what that entailed.

Before long, I found myself crying at movies. Other people would be talking about events or hurts in their lives and I would feel that hurt. I could feel the pain. I didn't know this was part of the deal. I realized. Some years later what had happened as the result of my simple prayer. What is it that makes a spot on us tender? If we rub or continually hit (lightly or hard) a spot, it becomes tender. What I had unwittingly ask for, was to be touched or rubbed by the pains or joys of others. That was how my heart would become tender. I was blessed with an empathy. I hurt when others hurt. I sorrowed when others sorrowed. Conversely, I rejoiced when others rejoiced. I laughed with the joy of others. Unfortunately, all too often, people are more willing to share their sorrows and keep their joys private.

Still yet, knowing what I know now, I wouldn't take back that elementary prayer. It was a turning point in my life. Although much else has changed in my life, this has remained constant.

One simple decision.

1 comment:

TammyJ said...

you know my love that i am one of the doubtful ones ... that i cannot believe that you were not always the tender hearted softy i love today.. but .. if it werent for that simple prayer.. i wonder if you would be the man i love so much..the one that was the only person with the heart and love to help me heal.. you do so much for so many.. do you even know how much you mean to not only me.. but to everyone who's life you have touched..