Sunday, May 22, 2011

The purpose of life.... eat snickers bars!

When Gracie was five, she witnessed a verbal altercation between her sister and me that was frightening to her. She was a gentle child, one who never heard a harsh word spoken in her direction because none was needed. On the occasion mentioned, she'd positioned herself between us and was trying to get my attention. In my frustration, I barked at her to wait until I was finished talking with Erin. She was startled, and ran away in tears. I was ashamed of myself for frightening this precious little soul, and went in search of her. She had gotten herself into bed, and was hiding under the covers. I lay down beside her and told her that I was sorry that I'd yelled at her. She poked her head out of the covers and turned her big brown eyes on me. "Do you know the whole point to life?" she asked. I was taken aback by the question so, not knowing quite how to answer, I simply said, "Well, to love you." She looked right at me with solemn eyes piercing my soul and said, "It's to love your whole family." Wow. Such wisdom from one so young!
I learned from Grace that day what the purpose to life is. At least for me. I'd grown up hearing that the purpose of this life was to prepare to meet God. I've never been particularly interested in meeting God. I don't know him much, and many of the stories about him portray a being I don't think I'd like. So that purpose didn't do much to motivate me to better myself. But Grace's inspired words pointed me in the way I'd like to go. Toward a more loving relationship with my family.
This whole purpose of life question is a biggie. Many people think they know what the answer is, and they love to witness to the rest of us ignoramuses. I don't think I know anything, or much of anything anyway. And I'm not interested in witnessing to anybody. To each his own, I say. With a caveat..... if you can't love your neighbor, at least treat him or her with dignity and respect. Basically, we are here to learn to truly care for one another, to sacrifice for one another, to give of our time and talents to lifting one another. I don't know who is in charge of this whole operation, and I'm not convinced that he or she is watching our every move and orchestrating little miracles for us like finding lost car keys. But I do think someone or something pretty powerful created us and our world, and is giving us this amazing mortal experience in which we get to see if we can really, really and truly, learn to love other people. And it's not an easy task. Some people are god-awful and difficult to love. Or even tolerate. I'm related to some of those people! And my task while in this earthly state is to learn to love them, the unlovable! As well as love the easy to love, like Grace.
Several years ago, Madonna said in an interview that she valued marriage because it teaches us how to relate to one person at a time, to really come to understand this person's positions and values, and to learn to love them in spite of the difficulties marriage brings. She said that if we can each do that in our marriage, we would be better prepared to be citizens of the world and would be able to take those abilities we'd gained out into relationships that determine the state of our local communities, states, nations, and the world. We could change the world by working to be a better partner in our marriage. That's something everyone can do, because it isn't just married people who have opportunities to participate in relationships where they gain the skills necessary to change the world. The point is, it's how we interact with those closest to us that affects change on a broader scale. Which brings me back to the purpose of life.
It's the relationships we have here in this life that mean the most in the long-term. Not the houses we live in, or the cars we drive, or the vacations we are able to afford. The people we love, they are who matter. Building a house where we are all able to feel at home, driving a car big enough to get us from point A to point B with enough space that we don't kick each other into misery (and with a really great sound system to listen to Queen), going on vacations together as a family that offer bonding moments memorable enough to be spoken of lovingly at the dinner table for many years to come! (The silliness must stop!)
I don't know what comes after this life, and I don't really think much about it as it isn't the reality staring me in the face today. But I believe that I will know all of these amazing people who have had a place in my life here. I believe that wherever we are, we will always remember each other for who we were to each other here. I will always be Mom to Erin, Alix, Nathaniel, and Grace. And I will proudly say they were the children I was honored to parent while on earth. And everytime I see them or hear of them, I will smile and remember something sweet and silly about each one. And I will always be Daron's wife, the person by his side through much of his earthly sojourn. And he will always be the one who got me through it all, the strong bearded one at my side, who sometimes laughs at my jokes, who always makes me think he's lucky to have me. I have a great life; thinking about all I have fills my heart with snickers bars. (My favorite candy) I'm trying to take a moment each day to reflect on how lucky, fortunate, and yes, blessed I am to have what I have. I think I gave birth to 4 of my best friends!! After marrying my very best friend, that is. And they form the purpose of life for me.
Thanks, guys, for a wonderful Sunday afternoon! I'm looking forward to many more to come!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Knowledge vs Hope: Filling my tank with gas!

Faith can move mountains, supposedly, but can it fill your tank with gas?
Last weekend, as my daughters and I winged our way south toward home, the gas tank in the car became dangerously low. I hadn't been paying attention to it as I should have, and missed what seemed to be the last exit with available gas stations. I was becoming very concerned, as it was late Saturday night, rainy, and I had precious cargo on board. Finally, an exit loomed in the distance! And one of those signs with the picture of a gas pump, indicating that gas was indeed available for purchase! It was very dark out there on the freeway, and I couldn't see any neon lights advertising petrol-chemical distillate for sale, but as I had few choices and about 1/32nd of a tank left, I left the freeway in hopes of finding a filling station. There was a sign at the end of the exit ramp, Malta 8 miles, pointing to the right, and lights far off in the distance that could have been civilization. So, I put my faith in the sign I'd seen on the freeway indicating gas could be found somewhere at this exit, and turned right. We were on a dark, rainy, winding country road (the beginning line of a very bad novel!), and as we proceeded down this road I became very anxious about our fate. I wasn't sure we had enough gas to make it eight miles down this road, then eight miles back if we were unsuccessful in our quest, then another 38 or so miles down the freeway to the next gas station. But I was equally unsure if we had enough gas to make it another 38 miles down the freeway. I was inwardly cursing my negligence, and outwardly cursing IDOT their false advertising of the gas pump. But that was all I had to go on, that little picture of the gas pump. It was precious little knowledge, but I put my faith in it. But as we continued down this dark road, I had my daughter call 911 to get reassurance that there was indeed gas at the end of the road and that we weren't just driving off into nowhere and would be at the mercy of a deranged serial killer who we were sure was just waiting for us to run out of gas and would then rub his hands with glee and pounce! I said some choice words, words I'm not proud to have uttered in the presence of my children, but I was worried!
Just then, as we reached the end of the winding road, off to the left I spotted an Exxon sign. The gas station itself was closed, but the pumps were open to credit card purchases. Yeah! Success! I put 20.5 gallons of gas in a 20 gallon tank! What relief! We then made our way the eight miles back to the freeway, and continued on our journey home.
I've reflected on this experience since then, and have thought that it was analogous to our life's journey. At least with regards to faith. Faith has to be based on knowledge. Hope doesn't need anything; it just is. I would have never gone down that dark road in search of gas with only hope for a companion. But IDOT had provided me with a small nugget of knowledge when they posted the picture of the gas pump, and with that I had enough to proceed. However, I questioned that little bit of knowledge, and went in pursuit of reassurance by calling 911, someone I knew would be able to provide me with what I needed to continue. And fortunately, we were successful and were able to safely continue our journey home that night. Foiled the serial killer's plans!
I wish God, or the powers that be, would be so inclined to post a little picture for me along the wayside, giving me a bit of knowledge on which to base my journey. I have hope that somewhere at the end of the road is what I seek, but so far no knowledge. Others seem to think they've gained that knowledge, but I don't share this view. I just hope I don't run out of gas before I see a sign!