Going to bed last night, I was determined that in the morning, I was going to be different. And if I couldn’t be different, I’d could at least act like I was. Even salvation, I suspect, has a certain fake-it-till-you-make-it component to it.
I had been listening to a very inspiring book on tape and couldn’t get out of my mind how much I would like to see the world as the author sees it and make the kind of difference in the world that he has made. (If you are curious, the book is “Tattoos on the Heart,” by Gregory Boyle). I figured that if I really felt that way, why not try, right now, to make the change, rather than think of it as something I would like to be some other day, when the planets are lined up correctly, I have nothing but free time on my hands, and there are no problems troubling my mind or heart. Because that is going to happen, right?
I was better at the ideal than at actually planning out how I was going to pull it off. I was impulsively working with a vague notion of being more “God minded,” whatever the heck that means. But I was picking a weird time to do this. I’m out of town and away from my family, and they usually are a source of providing me with the strength and motivation to be a good person. I was going to be taking a deposition, which meant spending hours in a climate of conflict. I had a pile of work facing me that I really didn’t want to do. Nothing about the coming day promised anything remotely uplifting or enlightening.
So, here’s what I did differently. First, I prayed on my knees in the morning. I typically pray as part of my meditation practice, but if I don’t meditate, I forget to pray. And the prayers have taken on a repetitive or ritualistic aspect such that I feel good about checking off “prayer” in the to-do list, but don’t feel so good about the process itself. So, back to the missionary days: On my knees, in a suit, at the foot of my bed. And I changed up the prayer significantly. I skipped most of my standard stuff (I can’t think that God really enjoys reruns) and focused on two things. The first was to review the day that was coming up, share with God what I was worried about and where the rough spots were likely to be. I asked for some specific help with those things. Second, I asked that I be reminded throughout the day to look for ways to lighten someone else’s burden.
During the course of the day, I tried to SLOW DOWN. Leaving a restaurant where I had dinner, rather than stepping quickly to the car, I stood outside for a bit. Enjoying the wonderful weather. Listening to the sounds of the city. Just kind of taking it in. I tried to CHILL OUT. I approached my deposition with the intent of being effective and thorough, but not looking for opportunities to clash with the other side. I tried to WATCH MY MENTAL DIET by avoiding things that wouldn’t contribute to the mood I was looking for. Choosing my next audiobook, I opted against Kurt Vonnegut and in favor of a book on the Birmingham Jail letter of Martin Luther King, Jr. Kilgore Trout is fine, but I didn’t see him getting me where I was going. I read from the Psalms during breakfast and searched for some message that I could carry with me through the day. I found it, and did.
Now, here’s what happened: Not much. No visions. No heavenly trumpets blasting when I entered a room (that would be so cool!). I didn’t save anyone’s life or rescue anyone’s soul. It was, in many respects a very normal day.
But I walked through it differently. And in doing so, there were some nice moments along the way.
I was kind to a housekeeping lady and chatted with her briefly in Spanish. I shared a light conversation with someone at the reception desk. I got lost driving back to my hotel and, rather than losing my temper, enjoyed the trees and river at the park I ended up at. I went out of my way to be nice to a very worn out waitress. I enjoyed a touching piece of music on Facebook. I shared an encouraging message with someone. I had a wonderful discussion with my wife about her interactions with her students and how I perceived her work in the classroom as her personal ministry, one that she performs as only she can. I told my wife I loved her. I told my mom I loved her.
And I feel better tonight than I did last night.
Sometimes God awes us with miraculous moments. Sometimes He shows His hand so clearly in our lives that we would have to be blind to miss it. Other times He enriches us merely by helping us see ordinary things in an extraordinary way. We might not walk on water, but we can walk on a different path, even as our feet are hitting the same old road. I wanted a better day today. I wanted to be better today. And in a few small ways, that happened. I’ll take those little blessings, go to bed thankful, and hope that tomorrow I see the path more clearly.