Thursday, August 13, 2015
Rudyard Kipling penned a poignant and piercing poem titled “If” that describes the outworking of virtues that a man will display when he is truly “a man”. It is a moving piece and stirs one, hopefully, to strive toward greater resilience and strength. There is something about it that bothers me, though. It is all about self-effort. Not only that; there is also the implication also that one is not a “man” until he has achieved the pinnacle of unwavering fortitude. Kipling does not seem to make allowance for brokenness or reliance on others – both representative of humility – as manly attributes.
Recently, as most reading this are aware, we relocated to the United States to volunteer with Mercy Ships at the headquarters in East Texas after eight years on the Africa Mercy. Many aspects of this change in season have been wonderful. And yet far too often I find myself grumbling, getting frustrated, and bemoaning this, that, or the other thing.
“Why can’t this stupid software program work like I want it to?”
“Why does that person __________?”
“Why does my stupid ankle still hurt two years after my injury?”
“I’m so tired of relying on other people to financially support us. God, why won’t you let me go get a ‘real’ job?”
“Why can’t you kids remember to chew with your mouths closed or not track dirt all over the floor?”
The list could go on but you get the idea. I am embarrassed to share these frustrations, pride issues, fears, and examples of my poor parenting. I would much prefer that you all think I am a spiritual giant reminiscent of the ‘man’ in Kipling’s “If”. As our family walks this new path, though, I keep seeing or hearing things that lead me to believe that God is cultivating patience, grace, humility, and dependence on Him in these circumstances. I think that one of the outward displays of walking the right direction with God through this is little moments of gratitude. For me, it isn’t If but What If.
…I thank God for the efficiency of technology and having grown up in a country where I learned how to use it?
…I see Jesus in the person that I am interacting with and considered how I could be a blessing in their life?
…every time my ankle hurts I remember to pray for those enduring pain and hardship, and choose to be grateful that even though it hurts after lunchtime basketball on Monday it is strong enough to play again in time for lunchtime basketball on Friday?
…I choose to see the blessing in learning to be reliant on others, trust that God will meet our financial needs, and remember that serving with Mercy Ships is very much a ‘real’ job?
…be grateful that my children have food to eat, a yard to play in, and a safe home that they can track dirt through – AND remember what an incredibly blessed man I am to have such amazing kids?
I think that, perhaps, being a man (or woman or child) is much more about embracing these seasons of brokenness for what we can learn from them, the relationships that grow out of them, and the grace that we experience in them than it is about becoming a self-reliant, unshakable rock. Strength, fortitude, and determinism are good things, Mr. Kipling. But they aren’t the only good things.