Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Message for the Weak

Today I want to talk to you guys about one of my biggest frustrations in my life. This thing has represented itself in many different ways and its presence and its impact have become increasingly more and more evident as I have grown as a man. It encompasses my weaknesses, my faults, my inconsistencies, my ignorance and my shortcomings. The best word to describe it is my “limitedness” I understand that this is something elementary. The concept that we as human beings are limited is not something that is new to me. As I stated before it is rather the increased awareness of how many limitations I have and how they manifest themselves in my everyday life. I, Benjamin Adam Scott Gillens, am limited. And I am continuously learning just how much. Let me explain.
The first area that this stood out was in the area of my abilities. One particular event in my life comes to mind. It was the very last basketball game of the regular season my senior year in high school. At that point I had lived and breathed the sport of basketball for about 5 years and my passion bucket for basketball was still quite abundantly overflowing. This younger and even skinnier Geeze (if you can imagine) was very excited about this game. Not only was it our last regular season game, it was also our last home game, senior night and our homecoming game. On top of all of this, we were playing the best team in the conference (honestly, we didn’t really have a shot at winning this game and I knew it but if you know anything about how competitive I am you know that that pumped me up even more). I ended up playing decent but we got destroyed and every member of their team let us know just how much better they were than us. I was defeated, disgraced, about as frustrated as it gets…and there was nothing I could do about it. They were better. It had nothing to do with my effort or desire. I just didn’t have the ability to succeed. I was limited.
The second area is my limited knowledge. The fact that my knowledge is limited I’m sure is no big surprise to you. This is not headline news for me either but it is frustrating nonetheless. You know, for me a lot of the time I’m ok with not having the answer even when it’s embarrassing. Geography, science, estimating measurements, cars, politics, American history: these are all things I should know a lot about but just don’t. I can live with embarrassing myself every so often over things like this. What really hurts is when my friend comes to me with a problem and I have no clue how to help them find a solution. Or even in the area of Christianity, the thing I care about most. Time after time someone will come to me with an objection or a question and I will be stumped. This is no good. No good at all.
Lastly, is the heavy hitter: Time. This one has been gettin at me a lot recently…in a few ways.

In the short run, I feel the limitations of living in a 24 hour box: friends, family, sleep, exercise, reading, eating a balanced diet, work, church. Many of the things I’m told are vital are squeezed out: I skip dinner or church with my parents, I tell a friend I can’t hang out with them (again), I only get 6 (or 5…or 4) hours of sleep, I pass up going to the gym for the day. I understand prioritization is a part of life, it’s just difficult when it involves people and my health.
In the long run, my inability to “control” time has also been painful to get accustomed to. I think the fact that I lived in the same house my whole life and went to the same school from kindergarten through graduation caused me to overlook this part of life and dwell in my naïve state. It wasn’t until college that I really understood the fact that some people I loved wouldn’t be in my life forever. Even then I held on as tightly as I could to my false reality and clung to denial as long as possible. The past few years, however, I’ve been forced to release my grip; friends have moved away, gotten married, started families, gotten “real” jobs. Ready or not, life continues and I have to move along with it. And a lot of the time I’m not ready. I’m not ready at all.
So what’s the next step? Like I said, life doesn’t stop and wait for me to catch up. Despite my inabilities and subsequent frustration, I am still placed with the responsibility as a man and a Christian to work, to serve and to take action. How, though, can I avoid frustration in these situations? And even more importantly, how can I be affective and useful in spite of my faults and weaknesses? So far, I have found two things that have helped me answer these questions: remembering how to swim and remembering that I just don’t need to be perfect. These can more clearly be states as Perseverance and Reliance Upon God’s Grace. I was reminded of the first one funny enough by two Disney movies: “Finding Nemo” and “Meet the Robinsons” (both highly recommended). With the phrases “Just keep swimming” and “Keep moving forward” I was reminded of the importance, power and beauty of always moving forward. I don’t have to sprint all of the time. But I DO need to move. To go. When life pushes you, push back. Who cares if you fall over? I guarantee you will. Friggin get up. Surprise people. Be the reason people get puzzled looks on their faces. Dig deeper when they tell you they don’t understand why you think you can continue. I know some of this is cliché and sappy but sometimes there’s wisdom in the sap. Even something a cartoon fish says can be profound. Just keep swimming.

And last but (words cannot describe how much) not least, is the realization that the being that runs the show is ok with me being a screw-up. There is an abundance of freedom in the knowledge that I am not only forgiven but also strengthened by God Himself. I stand by my stance that we must always move forward, but what a beautiful thing it is to know that when I am too tired and weak to swim I can lean back and be carried by the tide of God’s power and grace.
So, as a limited and weak man I will do my best to push past my frustrations and tackle…well...tackle life. Come on. Let’s go swimmin.