Friday, March 16, 2007

MUCH Vs. WELL

Today is my 50th birthday. A good day to take off work. A good day to write a blog entry, especially since I haven't written one in two months!

What's it like to turn 50? Well, last night I confess I was feeling a little depressed. My day at work (as usual) was filled mostly with whiners and complainers. No one thinking about me. People around me apparently were just thinking about themselves and whatever their issues were. What a shock.

I had a slightly suspicious lunch invitation. I wondered, "Could this be a setup? Maybe it's a surprise birthday party ..." But no, it was just the usual business lunch ... people posturing, whining politely, wanting to be listened to.

That was the halfway point in my day, and unfortunately it was all downhill from there. There was the email complaining about how one of my projects (behind schedule, as usual) was causing problems for somebody else's department. Nevermind the fact that I was working as hard as I could on my behind-schedule project to catch up and pull off yet another amazing feat.

Shouldn't be any big surprise that other people are thinking mostly about themselves, I guess. Who did I spend most of the day thinking about, after all?

Fortunately I gave up about 6:00 and did the smartest thing possible, came home to my beautiful and others-focused wife. We had a wonderful dinner and there was the pre-birthday present and card. I began to feel somewhat better.

But the clincher didn't come until this morning. Thankful to not have to go in and face another day at work, I sat with my cup of coffee in the jacuzzi, listening to worship music on wireless headphones, and paging through a copy of The Message (the Bible as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson ... which I would recommend to anyone, anytime ... you can even read it online for free, though you may not want to try this in the jacuzzi). I read Philippians 1:9-11, where Paul writes:

So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.

God's example and expectation is that I will be God-focused and others-focused. That's the meaning of love. It's not simply emotional (sentimental gush), but real work. My job is to "make Jesus Christ attractive to all." To live a life He will be proud of, bountiful in fruits from the soul. To get others involved in the glory and praise of God.

Doesn't say anything about me, does it? But here's the kicker: while I'm doing this (which is undoubtedly in my best interest, since everyone knows the happiest people on the planet are never the richest or most selfish, but always its least self-absorbed), God is doing the same thing ... his focus is on me. Zechariah 2:8 says that "whoever touches you" (speaking of God's people) "touches the apple of His eye." The apple of your eye is the reflection of whatever you are focusing all of your attention on.

God focuses his attention on us. He thinks about me, cares for me, loves me, even died for me.

If life is like a journey ... traveling, for example, from one coast of the country to the other ... then birthdays are surely like signposts. Maybe being born is like starting out in New Jersey, and making your ways lowly and painfully west, toward beautiful and glorious Seattle!

I guess my 50th birthday, then, is sort of like crossing the Continental Divide. In a matter of speaking, I'm probably halfway through my journey. (I guess any of us would be grateful to make it to our 100th birthday, right? But, like love, the point is not to live life MUCH, but WELL, right?)

OK, I can see it coming ... no jokes about how "it's all downhill from here."

Anyway, the Continental Divide is a good time in the journey to be reminded that it's not about us. In and of and by myself, there's nothing at all I can do but screw things up. But if it's about Jesus -- his character, his power, his glory -- then I know that the party at the end of the journey will truly be something to behold, one much more glorious than any 50th birthday party thrown here on earth.

OK, now I'm going to go out and ride a bike ... just to prove I can still do it. Just let me find my cane and dentures first.

I promise I won't wait until my next birthday to write again.