The Life Dichotomy

Plenty of things in this life should give us reason to pause.

Why does the word “lisp” have an “s” in it?

Since Americans throw rice at weddings, do Asians throw cheeseburgers?

And then there’s this picture of an octopus eating a shag:

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Not that bird’s best day.

Other more important things give me reason to pause, especially when the propinquity of their seeming juxtaposition nears a common epicenter.

Like my friend’s mom dying within twenty-four hours of my other friends having their first child.

As a Christian, and further as a pastor, such dramatic life events present an interesting gambit of emotional obstacles. Not because I’m worried about crying at funerals, or hate smelling babies’ heads. (I do both quite well). But because I’m called to identify with loss, and equally identify with gifts.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

When we take on another person’s life-state as if it was our own, we participate in something uniquely divine, an inferior reflection of what Jesus did so perfectly: becoming as someone else.

Life’s dichotomies, as experienced most extremely in birth and death, are not meant to be feared, but should be seen as opportunities to act Christ-like. To take on someone else’s burden so that they might understand they’re not alone. Truer, more authentic empathy is rarely seen, save maybe in exchanging one life for another. And even in that we see the picture quite clearly: giving up part of our life in recognition of someone else’s.

We die a little.

We give ourselves away a little.

If you’re asked to celebrate today, celebrate with all your might. You honor the lives around you with your passion.

If you’re called to grieve today, mourn from the deepest part of your soul. You honor the lives around you with your compassion.

You’re also acting a whole lot like Jesus. It can be draining, yes, especially when these life-dichotomies are so close together. But that’s the beauty of it: he knows how to sustain you because he became like you once too.

To Kevin: We’re so sorry for your loss. We’re with you here and now.

To Karen and Costa: We’re so happy for your new little man!

Mourning and rejoicing,

ch:

The Art of Celebrating

Serious question:

How do you feel when someone else wins?

No, stop. Don’t lie. I mean really wins. Like, your best friend wins on a $30 million lottery ticket.

What’s your first thought? OK. And your second?

Ah, see, there it is. “Me.” Somehow, “I” enter the thought process much more quickly than I’d like to admit. “Self” wants to participate. Instead of purely celebrate.

Last night Luik was told he would be heading home to Grandma Jo-Jo’s house.

Alone.

He was thrilled.

His older sister was not.

Parenting boys means keeping after the purely stupid things they do for no other reason than to see what happens. Parenting a girl means keeping after drama. Lots of drama.

When Eva finally started to descend from the delirium of her self-centered throes, I talked her through the concept of celebrating her brother’s blessing.

Now, mind you, Luik is by far our most sensitive, most sincere child.

Here’s what happened:

Eva walked into the living room to see Luik all dressed up and ready to go. She’s hugged him, still half-sobbing, and said, “Congratulations on getting to go to Jo-Jo’s house.”

Without missing a beat, Luik said, “Congratulations on getting to stay home.”

Of course all the adults in the room bit our fingers and held back laughter, trying not to ruin the lesson of the moment.

But what was the lesson? Perhaps there was more than just the obvious.

Learning to celebrate one another’s victories – and identify with defeats – is a core value of the Kingdom (Romans 12:15). In fact, much of the political turmoil I see in our nation could be averted if we’d kill jealousy with a healthy dose of genuine celebration. Entitlements to those who have worked hard to be entitled is a virtuous thing. But further still is the citizen of the Kingdom who understands he/she is entitled to nothing. Breathing is a gift. But the polar opposite is the person who feels they are entitled to anything at the expense of everyone else. This is the attitude of a child who was never properly parented.

But there is another lesson:

Learning to see that right where we’re standing is worth celebrating.

To Eva, going to Jo-Jo’s is going to Disney World. But she failed to see the value of where she was. In a home, with her family, and a new baby brother. Even though Luik was excited to leave, he was genuinely happy for Eva who was able to spend more time with Baby Levi and the family.

I’d say nearly every American – including myself – is so focused on what we wish we had that we fail to see the incredible blessing of what we do have. Correcting such an attitude is at the core of a contently lived life.

So try wishing yourself “congratulations” today. Not for where you’re headed. Or what you someday want. But for where you are right now.

Congratulations! ch:

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