24 Sep A Life Worth Giving
My name is Clyde Haynes and I am a longtime member of Mosaic and a Deacon, but I want to get something crystal clear before you read another word. I love the Lord with all my heart, but I am a flawed man who is far from perfect. Like really, really, really far from perfect.
I do not consider myself a theologian or a bible scholar. If you are reading this looking for an obscure philosopher or Tolkien references, you will be deeply disappointed. Who I am is someone who listens to God and shares what He reveals to me when instructed to do so. I am grateful that Thursdays are for thinking and not for preaching or for sharing all the things you know are absolutely true for everyone. But what I will try to do here is share what I have been meditating on and thinking about over the last few weeks.
I hope that you will be encouraged and that you will meditate and call out to God for your own answers as well. So what major revelation has God placed on my heart and in which I have been wrestling with for days upon days? Glad you asked. Here it is: Life in the time of COVID is tough. Wait. No. Life in the time of COVID is really tough.
Well, that isn’t the full revelation. That’s more of a pretty obvious observation. The question I have been meditating on is this: In the midst of all that going on, how do I get better? I mean, there is no going back to normal. Here is what I have so far. Two questions have been pushing me to be better during this unsettling time. Questions that push me to be better today than I was before all this started:
- What kind of sponge am I?
- Am I a safe place?
What Kind of Sponge am I?
I was reading in my daily devotional, “The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge” and the author, Tony Dungy, posed this question:
“Your mind is like a sponge, absorbing everything it dwells on. Is it a soiled sponge or a clean one?” – Tony Dungy
Everyone in my household is working harder than we were this time last year. I am fortunate enough to be able to work from home. What that has resulted in for me is working much longer hours with a lot more stress. Stress around work. Stress around inequalities. Stress around the economy. Stress around politics. And it’s not just me. My wife is incredible. What she has sacrificed to become a teacher/teaching assistant to our two kids has been remarkable. And moreover, she has been phenomenal at it.
Though I feel as though I roll out of bed, and before I can brush my teeth, work is encouraging me to get a jump on the day. The news is ready to fill me up with anxiety, dread, and pure fear before I have had a cup of coffee, tea, or glass of water. And far too often for far too long, I accepted these invitations. But when I read that quote, I began to think about what effect it was having on the people around me.
If you are like me or know someone like me, then you know what happens when a person holds on to a sponge too long. See, the sponge starts out perfectly clean—a tool to clean other things. Sometimes, the sponge gets so filled with food, grease, and grime, no matter how much soap you put on it, what it puts out is tainted. So I asked myself, “What am I pouring out to the people who come to me for counsel, to my wife, to my kids, to co-workers, and to the person who doesn’t know anything other than that I am Christian?” What kind of sponge have I been in COVID?
I didn’t like the answer. So I decided to make a change to put first things first. I have changed my routine to make sure I pour in good things. So when the day squeezes me against the hard surface, I know what will come out. For me, that looks like this: Start with Word, Pray, Exercise, Pause, Serve.
Every morning, I wake up and read one of my devotionals and reflect on the Word of God (Word). Then I pray for my family and cover them in this time of uncertainty (Pray). Next, I get in some form of exercise. It can vary from riding my bike, yoga, weights, or a workout video (Exercise). But I know if I don’t do this first thing in the morning, it will not get done. When I do this, my energy level is much higher. Then I take 10 minutes to drink a cup of tea and just be quiet in the presence of the Lord (Pause). This is the hardest thing for me to keep consistent. If I wake up even 10 minutes later or get distracted by starting my to-do list, time for this can vanish. However, when I make time for this, my mind is sharper. It is easier to hear from God throughout my day because I started my day by making space for Him.
Then I try to cook breakfast for my family and have it ready before they wake up (Serve). When I can do this, everyone eats healthier because no one is rushed, and there is space for us to talk to each other, see each other, and hear each other. This all comes at a sacrifice, but the daily reward is worth it. And like I said before, I’m not perfect, and I miss days. But I keep trying.
Am I a Safe Place?
I was listening to a podcast recently that referred to Christ as a safe place to come to.
“The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous run into it and are safe.” – Proverbs 18:10
“For in the day of trouble, he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.” – Psalm 27:5
This caused me to ask myself, am I am a safe place to come to? If you know me, you know I can talk a lot. You may not know that I also take the ability to speak the word of God very seriously. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” and I take that to heart. And before you start to say, “But I’ve heard you bash that one football team,” like I said earlier, I am flawed. But I take it so seriously that I have fasted speaking before. But as I meditated on this question, I began to reflect on if people can come to me without judgment, without criticism, and with worry about who I might tell. Can my children come to me and feel safe regardless of what they have broken, ruined, or forgot to do? Can my boss trust that I will speak well of her when she is not around? Can my wife trust that my responses will kind and empathetic even after a crummy day? I’d like to think this time around, I could smile at the answers to these questions.
But the real question was, am I responding to people around me as God has responded to me? Am I showing the same love and granting the same grace? When my daughter leaves her dinner plate on the table for the 500th time, do I react in anger or respond with grace…and loving discipline. See, for many people and especially my children, they will know God through knowing me. God has been a safe place for me to come lay my burdens down without fear and condemnation. Am I a safe place? Can I be a safer place?
By the end of all this, if I can be proud of the answers to those two questions, then I will assuredly have spent this time focused on the right things. I will be confident that I will grow and mature even when the world around me is confusing and discouraging. And that is the type of Christian I am striving to be.
Blessings to you,