A word picture describing life recently came to me… that of a pendulum. I’ve been contemplating how that image relates to life.
I’ve realized the first half of my life swung wildly between extremes, rarely finding rest or balance. My twenty-something life swung out to excess with an insatiable “need for speed” in the midst of an adrenaline filled lifestyle. Then in my thirties, life oscillated back to the other extreme… total abstinence.
Now, in the second half of life, I am seeking to find the equilibrium point where the pendulum balances in the middle. I’m aware on this side of eternity, a sustained steady state is not likely for extended periods of time. That it can be fleeting with all of the outside forces in life that bump us and move us off center. But I believe the oscillations can become less extreme and a sense of centered rest can be attained.
Finding balance is hard work. It is much easier to live in the extremes. To either just say yes to anything or no to everything.
Knowing what to say yes to (or no to) requires intentional thought and action to understand what is the basis for our decisions. In seeking to find a middle ground between excess and abstinence, I had to be willing to look deeply at any assumptions I might have inherited. I began a quest to understand what beliefs may be hard coded within my “DNA” versus what may have been picked up or become ingrained along the way. I explored if my choices were based upon or biased by something parents, a teacher, coach, pastor or another authority figure in my life had said at some point in time. I was forced to review and comprehend all of my beliefs and assumptions. And, I found a need to be open, willing to relearn and step out of my comfort zone.
Frankly, it appeared safer and easier just trying to stay in abstinence. The pain of past excess was scary when moving back towards the middle. But ultimately the idea of being irrelevant and isolated to others around me was motivation to be willing to let go and let God help me work through this.
I’ve come to realize understanding the basis for life choices is also applicable to relationships. Whom I choose to talk with, hang out with and/or be friends with is fundamental. In making relational choices, it is essential to be aware of what I say and do and if my word and deed are inclusive or exclusive of others.
Much like living in the perceived safety of abstinence, I have found that only including people like me can appear to be easier. Yet, settling for a life of comfort produces limited fruitfulness without some tension or struggle. Choosing diversity in relationships adds a deeper richness to our lives through exposure to different and maybe unfamiliar cultures, beliefs and backgrounds. Although the sights, looks, sounds and smells may initially make us feel uncomfortable, we have found them to be the sensory stimulation needed to inspire us to walk as inclusive people of faith and truly come to loving others.
In closing, I wanted to share a few questions Di and I are wrestling with. We will share thoughts on them in future posts. Also would love to hear your thoughts or insights on them.
- Since neighborhoods are continually transitioning and becoming no longer homogenous, does our thinking around loving our neighbor need to shift?
- Who is our neighbor? Are they only someone who looks like or lives like me, someone I would naturally be attracted to?
- In our neighborhood: who is marginalized or friendless; who is seen as outsiders or misfits; who is on the outside looking in, wanting to be a part of but are being ignored or rejected?