What if you get to the ripe old age of, let’s say, over 50 and you realize you haven’t accomplished much? You know. You haven’t been successful in business, haven’t revolutionized a product or a process, haven’t been invited to speak before large crowds, haven’t even written a break-out novel. Heck, what have you been doing with yourself?
Worse yet, what if you were voted most likely to succeed by your high school classmates? How disappointing to start off with so much gusto and glide in with so little to show for it.
I’m not looking for sympathy here. I’m just stating the facts. I was given lots of tools and lots of resources and an open door to the world. That comes with strings. The strings are: use these gifts, talents and treasures to build up the kingdom. I’m looking back on a lot of projects that were started and not finished. Good ideas whose time just never came. Efforts and initiatives that fizzled and went out. Queries I didn’t follow up on or projects that had their season but were unsustained. Left behind. Lost.
One day I will be called to give an accounting. To lay all my deeds and doings on that scale and see if they balance against the plans God had for me. We’ll see, He and I, whether I have contributed what I was meant to while I was here.
Yesterday, I got some good news about this moment. There is a place for invisible deeds on that balance. Things we don’t see but God does. Time and age and distance and despair may blind us to what God sees so clearly. But every now and then we’re given a glimpse of the invisible. Someone is kind enough to share that what we said or did a long time ago has stayed with them. It’s become a part of their story – a good part – that has meant much and lingers still. We have forgotten these things. In fact, we are reluctant to believe we are even responsible for these things because, let’s be honest, we were really not such good people back then. But still, something real remains, and it gives life.
Somehow God is working His eternal in our lives here on earth even without our knowing. And that’s good because, had I known it, I would have messed it up for sure. I am feeling especially blessed today for the kind recallings of this old friend who says the old me still lives on in him – in a good way. How do you account for that? No telling. I’m just glad God’s doing the accounting.
And I still have time left. It’s a wonderful life. Now, to finish that breakout novel!!
I just dropped my daughter off at an early morning activity. She got out with her gear, shut the door and headed on her way. I almost opened my car door to call after her, “You’re welcome!” Because she should have thanked me for the ride. She usually does. Today she didn’t. But this isn’t about her, it’s about me.
I don’t give her rides for the thanks. At least I did’t think I did. Until I heard myself thinking, “Here I am, doing this out of the goodness of my heart, and look how you respond. You are so ungrateful!”
And right there I blew it. If I truly offered the ride out of the good place in my heart, I would not be hurt by any response. My reaction showed me the un-good that was seeping in. Back to the drawing board.
Funny, when I arrived at this dedication for Lent, ‘to do one Goodness each day,’ I thought it would be easy. I mean, how hard can it be, each day to do one thing out of the goodness of my heart? And how nice to go through my day looking for some good to do, some mitzvah, some secret mission or service project. It gave me a good feeling inside.
Until I realized how few things I really did out of that good place, the place absent of expectations from the other. Especially when I did them “for” people close to me.
Oh, but it gets worse. Some of this “good doing” was actually the opposite of good. In some cases the real good to be done was withholding the doing. The good was letting the other experience the consequences or learn the lesson. That didn’t feel good at all, it felt hard. Nearly impossible. But wouldn’t it be just like God to show me the hard thing in the midst of the easy thing I set out to do?
All I could think about was Paul’s dooby-dooby-do (my adjective) verse from Romans 7″18-19.
“For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”
Left to my own devices, counting on my own nature, even the good I thought I was doing wasn’t good. Because there were strings attached. Expectations laid. Sin was at hand.
So I plow on deeper into Lent. I am starting to get it. The goodness in my heart is not mine but His. It’s in there, I know it. But letting His Good initiate, carry out and follow up on the things that I do is quite a difficult thing.
But I’m an endurance athlete. In this for the long haul. Perhaps that’s the only thing God and I have in common. He promises not to give up on me. And that, above all else, keeps me holding onto Him. Because He has no good reason for that. Except the goodness in His heart.
It’s really hard to believe, but my heart tells me it is so.