Monday, December 29, 2014

The Value of Valuing

Identifying our New Year’s Goals is identifying our general goals—our long-term goals.  It’s like asking, “What do you believe in?”  or “What are your values?” or "What do you value?"

Every year we have the New-Year’s-Goals meeting in our family.  We have tried to help our kids connect these general goals with their monthly, weekly, and daily goals.  If we don’t move their thought processes into the more specific tasks that need to be done on a daily or weekly basis, the actual work that needs to be done to accomplish the goal remains separate from the goal itself.  And that means they  never accomplish it.

What if a child wants the general goal but doesn’t want to accomplish the specific goals--the action steps one needs to take for actual achievment?  What if she moans and groans over how terrible the perspective journey appears? 

How could we want to get to a destination but not want to actually take the journey to get there?  Isn’t the joy in the journey?  The challenge? 

Value is established and FELT when we actually have to journey, fight, work, sweat to obtain something.  The experience of struggling to obtain a goal is what gives us evidence of its worth.  No matter how much value something is inherently, we can not personally value it until we have personally struggled to obtain it.  Taking shortcuts or cheating in order to obtain the same result will never return the same degree of joy. 

I like to say that Joy is in the Journey and in the final destination. The intensity of joy that we have in the final destination depends on the intensity of the sacrifice required of us to arrive there.  The greater the sacrifice, the more intensely we value it.  The level of ability to value something defines our level of ability to experience joy.   The greater the sacrifice, the more intense the joy.  

Listen:  Overnight by Amy Grant (feat. Sarah Chapman)

But it's important to note here that the sacrifice needs to be voluntary throughout the entire experience.  It can't be forced upon us.  It can't be made against our will.  And that is the hard part.  Most of us have an automatic reflexive and self-defensive response to pain and sorrow after we experience so much of it.  To actually accept the pain and sorrow and be able to carry it is not always within our present ability.  This is similar to not being able to sustain a muscular contraction against a weight and against a duration of time that is beyond our current capacity and endurance level.

One example of this is what Jim Caviezel said about his experience in portraying Christ during the final scenes of his life.

"And let me tell you, I was on that cross. Many people who looked up there, I may be playing Christ, but a lot of times I felt like Satan. I had obscenities wanting to come out of me. It was so cold it was like knives coming through me. I had hypothermia. I don't know whether you've dealt with that, but on one day of hypothermia I was so cold I could barely get the lines out. My mouth was shaking uncontrollably. My arms and legs went numb. I was suffocating on that cross. In the mean time, you watch people have coffee and laugh. They were very indifferent about what I was going through" (The 700 Club).

In one interview that I watched a few years ago, Jim Caviezel said that even though they were only acting and he was being "fake" whipped and "fake" pushed around, he wanted to defend himself, curse them, abuse them back.  He couldn't stop the feelings from welling up inside of him yet his desire was "I don't want people to see me. I just want them to see Jesus" (The 700 Club).   

Yet we know that we can grow muscle, at least to a certain point, through incremental trial.

Have you ever realized that we can’t fail unless we set a goal?  We have all experienced the frustration of failure.  It inevitably happens in all journeys to some degree.  Maybe we’ve started the journey to achieve a particular goal a million times before only to meet with a lack of results. We journey, sweat, and toil but still the result remains out of our reach!  We can’t see where the pathway goes from here.  It feels like we’ve reached a dead end, a wall, an impasse.  The process to obtain our desire seems to be a mystery that we’re never going to figure out. 

That is so discouraging.  This kind of failure makes me want to curl up into a ball under the covers and never come out again.  It kills my motivation to progress and to set goals.  And when I get to this place it is just not enough to hear, “You just need to keep trying.”  Blah, blah, blah...
Blah, blah, blah...
I know I need to keep trying.  And I will get up again...soon.  Sometimes I just can’t do that immediately. 
When I finally receive motivation to do it, it is because I’m beginning to see things from a different perspective.  Sometimes just holding steadfast in the process I was already engaged in is the answer but usually for me I need to make at least a course adjustment in my thinking in order to get going again.  This new perspective is always the result of “going back to the drawing board.”  

My “drawing board” is the place where my Cause (Exemplar, Provider, Teacher, Evaluator) resides.  I need to talk to him all about it.  I need to study his journey again--the road map he has given me--searching for additional clues.   

 I often hear the words of a song by Seals andCrofts (“Get Closer”) come into my mind when I feel so frustrated about my journey and can’t understand why I haven’t obtained my goal yet:
 There’s a line
I can’t cross over
It’s no good for me
And it’s no good for you.

These words seem to be coming from my Cause.  I think the line he means is the line of value, the line where it's me who has to sacrifice in order to get what I want.  I have got to journey to obtain my goal, I have got to experience the pain and sorrow from doing that, otherwise I won’t be able to value it as much as I NEED to value it in the end.  He can’t give that to me.  I’m sure he would if he could.  But the reality of it is that I have to journey, strive, sweat, toil, work, REACH to obtain it.  There is no other way.

I’ve learned that it’s my job, my responsibility, to identify that line.  I have to at least be asking the questions and be open to the answers.  That takes humility because usually I’m thinking I’m already doing the best I can.  Finding out that I haven’t been doing everything right is humbling.  And the longer I journey, the more I realize that there isn’t going to come a time when I’m doing everything right until I actually arrive at my desired destination.  Sometimes that’s such a bummer to hear. 

But when I rise up again, with hope (it always comes back even when it seems impossible in the moment), I’m ready to consider once again that joy is in the journey.  I actually DO NOT want my desire to be just given to me.  It’s part of my inherent character to NEED to value what I obtain.  I can't stand when things are value-less to me.

One note of caution here that I always need to add when speaking about the general principles of grace and works.  Journeying is not about doing it all by myself with no help from any other source.  It's not about all works and no grace.  But neither is it about all grace and no works.  We have to do something.  EVERYTHING testifies of that including these two scriptures:

"For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
James 2: 26 

"For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."
2 Nephi 2:25

Even if I have not reached my final destination, the next milestone is not so very distant.  Reaching the next milestone means that I will understand things from a whole new perspective when I get there.  It means I will have learned something new. 

Each of these milestones tends to resolve a certain conflict that has held me back from being able to experience a greater level of joy.  When I reach them I gain a vantage point that enables me to see not only my pathway but everything in my life from a higher level.  And that brings me a kind of Joy that no other source has to offer.