The last baby shower I attended was some time ago. Certainly pre-Covid. One of the activities included writing the best parenting hack you ever received on a 3×5 card for the parents-to-be. They probably had a second question for those attending who did not have children, but I do not remember.
The best parenting advice I ever received was about labor and delivery. My OBGYN was concerned I might need a C-section with my first born. A friend of mine had recently experienced childbirth via Cesarean. She told me to walk fifteen minutes each day and stay on top of my pain meds. It turned out to be brilliant advice since I did have a C-section after all. My friend’s information calmed my nerves and helped me recover more quickly.
We have all given and received advice. Sometimes it is helpful and sometimes not. It seems like advice needs to fit the context of our situation. I have received advice and life hacks from people who live very different lives from me. Their personality may be more gregarious or they have a different skill set. It’s not necessarily bad advice. It just didn’t work for me.
But, let’s be honest, some people will give us outright terrible advice. And we know in our gut it is the wrong way to go for our situation. But what happens when we are the ones giving it? The lame advice?
I used to be frustrated when someone asked for my opinion and then did the opposite. It seemed rude. Why did they bother to ask and waste my time? Then I started to think about it as information gathering. They wanted to know what I would do and they probably asked several people. Then they took the time to sift through all of it and make a decision.
Once I reframed it for myself, it was easier to offer advice freely. I think many of us are too attached to the advice we give. But it is our opinion. It worked for us. Yes, it is true that not all advice is relative. Don’t rob a bank. Wear pants in public. Please and thank you go a long way. This is wise advice for just about anyone.
But spend some time today letting go of the advice you give and receive. It doesn’t define you. You can even change your mind. You will still be you.
Who do you admire? Does a specific person come to mind? Does a type of person come to mind? Admiration comes in many forms. Some say imitation is the highest form of admiration. We often imitate those we admire by how we dress, speak, act, and even what we read. I know that I imitate other preachers’ verbal tics even without realizing it.
There are many people I admire. Some of them have overcome great struggles in life and it is their determination that impresses me. Others have so much abundance in their life and choose to be generous. I think their generosity is admirable. Some of those whom I admire live extremely ordinary lives, but they have extraordinary love and compassion for others.
Sometimes those we admire will disappoint us. Given enough time they will all disappoint us. They falter and we question their worthiness of our admiration. Lately, God has been challenging me to hold my affinities more lightly. Catherine Cook said, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you are not making decisions”.
Leaders make decisions every day. Many times they make these with incomplete information. I am part of a ministry team that takes new leaders through a mock case study. They are asked to make decisions without much background or context. It is challenging to make plans with information gaps, but it is also reality.
In the last year, many leaders were forced to do this very thing. They made decisions with missing information and misinformation. Even experienced leaders had to course correct multiple times. And the leaders I admired most were the ones who kept getting back up each time they were knocked down.
As Lent crosses the halfway point, I am asking myself who I admire. I am also asking myself to forgive those who have disappointed me along the way. Most of them were making decisions with limited information in a context that I did not understand. All of them are human and humans falter. I am human and I falter. Are there any leaders that you need to forgive this Lent? Is there someone you admire who has recently been knocked down? Here is a prayer that I am praying. I will leave it with you.
Lord, ___________ is someone I admire. They have made some decisions that I did not agree with in the last year. I have been disappointed. Lord, I forgive them. I ask you to help me to forgive and trust them again in the future. Please give me eyes to see when I have faltered as well. Bless them in the coming year. Amen.
A few years ago, I was sick. Incredibly sick. My doctor diagnosed me with diverticulitis and sent me for a CT scan. At first she wanted to admit me to the hospital, but then she decided I would be alright with two strong antibiotics, lots of water, and rest. Rest? Who has time for rest?
The next day I fainted in the bathroom and gave myself a large goose egg on my head and a minor concussion. As it turns out, the treatment for a minor concussion is also rest. Huh!
Rest, for most of us, is a four letter word! In the church world, we take our “day off”, but we do not actually take a sabbath. We do not rest. Instead, we try to play catch up with errands and housework and our to-do lists. We do not have hobbies and we do not rest.
Yet, here I was with two ailments, a serious intestinal infection and a concussion. I could not read or watch Netflix or scroll on my phone. These all gave me a raging headache and nausea. I couldn’t eat much other than soft foods and fluids. And I had little energy for those projects around the house that were calling my name. It took all of my energy to do the basics and then I needed a nap. All I could do was rest.
I would like to tell you that I learned my lesson, but I would be lying. Nine months later I developed another intestinal infection. Fortunately, I recognized the signs immediately and sought medical care. The second infection prompted lots of medical tests all of which told my doctor I was relatively healthy. She suspected it was stress-induced and I needed to make some changes.
I admit I am a slow learner, but she had my attention and God had my attention. It was a wake up call. I did a radical sixty day fast to determine food sensitivities. I started walking 3-4 times a week. And I got serious about my sabbath. When I say serious, I mean compulsive. Mondays were now off limits and I guarded them like an alpha dog guarding her food bowl with all seriousness.
It has been a few years now and I am not quite as tenacious. Sometimes Thursday is my Monday. But this happens on rare occasion. Since then, I have developed a new appreciation for sabbath days. Jesus said sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. We read that scripture and think it is quaint. But Jesus knew that many of us are sick because we do not understand the power of sabbath as a gift of wellness.
During Lent, be encouraged to re-examine your philosophy of rest. Are you sick because you do not properly take care of yourself? We clergy are often guilty of preaching a false Gospel of the wrong type of sacrificial living. We can do more for others and the Kingdom of God if we are healthy. Dead saints do not have much impact on this world. Therefore, consider this your permission slip to take a sabbath, to rest, and to be well. Tomorrow will have enough troubles of its own and you will need your energy when it arrives.