There’s been a lot of life and death discussions around me lately. Last week, I was home to be with my friends Elaine and Nicole as they celebrated the lives of their mom and aunt, but also mourned the rawness of those passings. This weekend, we had the great privilege to attend a joy-filled, sorrow-full celebration for a man who clearly made a significant impact not only on his community, but also on the lives of his grandchildren. Three of his granddaughters are among the most incredible young women I’ve ever met. On Saturday, my husband supported his friend as he sat in the funeral home saying goodbye to the second parent in five months.
It’s sparked conversations, for sure. My brother and I had one of the best. He’s no stranger to death, for the love of his life stared down cancer in a long struggle, teaching him much in the process. Cancer–though certainly not unique in this regard–has the ability to do that.
Death teaches a consistent lesson, and the lesson is this:
While “life” is a noun, “to live” is a verb. In other words, some action is implied.
We forget this.
Recently I was involved in a telephone discussion impassioned to the point where I needed to switch to speaker phone, if only to save my hearing. The volume and passion however, wasn’t because both participants were so involved in the discussion. It was because one of us was trying so hard not to be. Planning needed to be done. Some accountability needed to be taken. Changes need to be made. One of us was having none of it and no matter what suggestion was made, there was a knee-jerk counterargument about why it
couldn’t wouldn’t be done.
My friend Ros once engaged me in fascinating conversation about active or passive waiting. Waiting is something I do a lot of, though not particularly well, but her words have made me consider how I go about it. For example, my manuscript is out for critique and I’m waiting for comments from three people. I could text them every ten minutes.
- “Where are you at now?”
- “Do you like it?”
- “Is it any good?”
- “Is ANY of it any good?”
- “Where are you now?”
They’d pretty much hate me. (Ros is one of my critique partners, so that little exchange was just for her.) Alternatively (and something my mentor Nancy Rue would prefer), I could work on my query letter and synopsis in preparation for the next step. Both options require energy, but the results are vastly different.
The more passive activity of texting them–essentially asking them to stroke my ego while I wait and do nothing–is ricocheting energy that makes me feel anxious and scattered. It would irritate them as it bounced off of them. Even if they did stroke my ego, I wouldn’t believe them because I’d know inside I’d begged them for it, so it wouldn’t be a deeply satisfying exchange.
On the other hand, if I choose to be intentional in focusing my energy on the next thing, giving them the time they need to read and formulate their responses, then I’ll know that their words are intentional as well. I’ll trust what they say–both in how my manuscript can be improved (especially that), and also in what I’ve learned and improved upon from last time. In other words, if my internal energy can be harnessed and tamed, the end result has the potential to be something peaceful and worthy.
Life is much the same, I think. Choosing a constantly reactive stance–something I’ve been known to do–is ricocheting energy, and it’s unsettling at best. It’s a passive living decision.
Being intentional about the majority of my choices doesn’t remove all the bad things that happen, but it does provide a layer of calm and peace. It’s far more satisfying to me.
“God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.”
I’m choosing action today. How will you do the same?