Friday, September 16, 2016

Life Is A Highway…So Say Geronimo!

Life is a highway but I don’t want to ride it all night long. Here’s why:

When I went on that road trip mentioned in the previous blog post, I dropped my son off at college and then headed south to visit my mom and stepdad.  I was on the highway for a long time.  I was envisioning my destination. I was sure my mom would have dinner ready, a nice cozy room for me to stay in, and it would be good to be out of the car. I was motivated to get there as efficiently as possible.  That was my goal.  I like to drive fast but I also strive to yield to the speed limit laws so when the sign says I can go 80, I want to go 80.

Listen:  "Life Is A Highway" by Rascal Flatts

Driving Obstacles
The first obstacle between me and my final destination was the distance.  I had to endure through the sacrifice of time, vigilance, and pressing on that gas peddle to be able to achieve my goal.  Really not too bad of a sacrifice considering the efforts my predecessors made crossing the same distance.  The second obstacle was to stay within the law—obey the speed limit as well as the other rules of the road, one of my favorite being: Stay to the right except to pass.  The third obstacle was the other drivers on the road, all of whom had their own destinations and there own way of getting there.  Some drove faster than me and thus over the speed limit and some drove slower than me and under the speed limit.  Some of the slower drivers liked to stay in the fast lane even though they weren’t passing anyone.  Some slower drivers liked to get in front of me just as I was about to pass a semi.  And that kind of stuff happened over and over again.  It wasn’t just a one time experience.  And of course it happens repeatedly every time I take a road trip.  I’m sure it’s the same for everyone else.

These other drivers and their different ways of driving present multiple conflicts for me as I’m focused on my goal:  getting to my final destination in the most efficient way possible.  This is because  I have another goal that is more important to me.  It’s to maintain Charity. It’s to love others and do good to them, regardless of how they treat me.  My commitment is to Paradoxical Living (see  blog posts Paradoxical Parenting and World Peace). So I wondered how I could maintain that commitment.  And what were my motives for trying to keep this commitment on the highway when nobody I knew was around?  

...Except God.  He’s around and is the one I’m mostly concerned about so I somehow had to figure out how to deal appropriately with each little internal irritating conflict I was having.  My goal above all sub-goals is to make my temple—my body and spirit—a sacred place where God himself would desire to dwell.  Nourishing irritating feelings and persistent unkind thoughts spawns bad habits and creates an environment in me that he may not be so comfortable in.  And without him there, life is not the same. So you see where my motivation to learn how to deal fairly and charitably with all these unknown drivers on the road (who I will probably never see again in my life) is coming from.

Every time I was caught behind a slow driver or was being tailed by someone going faster than the speed limit, I had a choice to make.  I could allow the jerk in me to come out. That’s certainly the response that comes natural and easy to me in the moment.  I could have manipulated whatever variables within my control to get in front of others.  I could have tailed other people as close as I dared to communicate to them in a rude (and dangerous) way that I wanted them to get out of my way or that I didn’t like how they had done the same to me a minute ago.  I could have a me-first mentality all the way from Colorado to Provo and then from Provo to St. George.  I could have spread selfishness all the way across two states.  I say spread because we all know what we are tempted to do when someone treats us with selfishness.  It’s like a virus.

If I choose the above action plan, I use this reasoning:  I have somewhere to go.  I have to get there.  I don’t like to be in the car longer than I have to be.  These people are in my way.  They don’t know how to drive.  I do.  But the issue is, I’m a little too smart to get away with this reasoning.  Or the Spirit that hangs out with me is.  Never fails, if I am reasoning that I have somewhere to go, I immediately see that SO DO THE OTHER DRIVERS!  So amazing, isn’t it?  Everyone is on a journey to obtain their own goals.  And somehow, someway we’ve got to put up with each other as we cross each other’s paths or travel along the same roads for a while.

Life is a Highway is a fun song but I think a song that better describes my Life-Highway experience is Geronimo by Sheppard.

Read on to see what I mean.

What is Charity?
The other response I could have to the “other people on the road” is to maintain Charity towards them.  This is about not tailing them when they are in front of me and going slower than the speed limit.  It is about giving them plenty of space and waiting for them to move over when they get the chance.  Usually they can’t move over anyway because a semi is in the way or it’s a two-lane highway.  So what good is tailing them?  And if they choose to get in front of me before I pass the semi, then let them.  Slow down and remember they are on their journey too.  Here is an opportunity to give them a hand.  I’ll voluntarily break and allow them to go in front of me when their blinker comes on.  I can do that. It’s just a small thing.  Yeah, it is uncomfortable, but every effort makes me into a different person—someone who has the capacity to bear the weight of others’ goals AND/OR problems, ignorances, mistakes, selfishness, imbalances WITHOUT crumbling into selfishness myself.  To be able to do this, I have to remember that this is my main goal, not the other.  It means more to me than getting to my nice warm and cozy dinner, family, and bed.  I don’t want to arrive at my destination having littered the road with unkind deeds and having a virulent irritation for all humanity sprouting up in my heart.  What kind of reward would I be to my family when I finally got there if that was the way I got there?  What kind of environment in my temple would I be making for God if I did that all the time?

“But [Jesus] answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” ~Matthew 4:4

Make this leap!

My real goal is about dealing with every conflict that comes my way with success.  I stay in the Safe Place, meaning I don’t lose the Spirit.  I assist other people to do that as well.  If I’m rude to them, even if I think they’ve been rude to me first, I become a pawn of the adversary’s to tempt them out of the Safe Place. A lot of times we think people are being rude to us on purpose but they are sometimes just doing whatever they’re doing out of ignorance or innocence. And sometimes we get angry at ignorance. We call it negligence. That only spawns hatred of humanity, which ends with us becoming one of the humans we hate.

"Wherefore, he has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him." ~2 Nephi 9:25

Bombs away!  Can you feel my love?

When I maintain Charity towards others who drive evidently selfish, it’s not that I have warm fuzzy loving feelings for them throughout the whole experience.  I don’t. It hurts.  It annoys. It is a workout for my heart to not respond in kind. I accept this workout. I know why I’m feeling this pain. I’m sacrificing for my fellow men in general. I know God understands it when I’m working through the irritation. In fact he's been there and probably quite a bit. He just doesn’t want me to give way to it, agree with it, nourish it, and act upon it.

Make this leap!

Some people choose to reduce the intensity of this workout by making up excuses in their minds about why the other driver was so selfish. Maybe they are on the way to the hospital or some other emergency.  Maybe they just didn’t know. Yeah, that helps to some degree and sometimes it’s true.  But my intelligence does not allow me to trick myself into believing it is the case in every situation or even most situations.  I know there are in existence many drivers who drive selfishly because they are selfish and they don’t give a crap about anyone else.  I just can’t make myself believe that everyone of them has some kind of medical emergency or they have no idea what they are doing.  So when I maintain Charity towards drivers like these the love I have for them comes from my actions.  I will allow them to get in front of me.  I will wait for them.  I will be patient with them.  I will not respond in kind.  I won’t flip them off or ride on their tail or make ugly faces or shake my fist at them.  I will remain patient.  Under no circumstance will they see a trace of the struggle I’m having inside because of what they did.  I will maintain my countenance so they have no idea what’s happening inside of me.  Let's just be clear here:  This is what I'm striving to achieve.  Not what I have yet achieved.

"Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." ~Matthew 6:16-18

Make this leap!

That’s how I love them.  I’m not thinking, “Oh you poor soul, God loves you!  Go in front of me.  You are a wonderful human being.” No. I’m thinking, “I get it. I’ve been there too. Running late or just prefer to drive fast and thinking only of your own destination. Not there yet in being able to figure out that all of us around you want to get to our destination as efficiently as possible too.  I’ll deal with this. I will not fan the flame of my irritation. I’ll just wait for it to pass through me. I hope you learn sometime soon that selfishness is not the best strategy to obtain what you want.”

Can you feel my love?  Make this leap!

If I am forced to endure the lawless driving of another vehicle on the highway for extended periods of time after I have been patient, I objectively look for a way to get around them or away from them.  I don’t do it to communicate how angry I am with them.  I do it matter-of-factly.  I am saying, “Go ahead and proceed the way you are if that is your way of driving, but I’m just going to go along my way too.  Pass on the right.  Bye!”  Of course if they are way lawless and dangerous, I should report it to the highway patrol so this person doesn’t end up crashing into someone else.  In other relationship scenarios, I could most likely open the communication channels up more fully before having to call in “the authorities.”  Thankfully, since I’m keeping myself in the Safe Place instead of losing it, I can listen to the Holy Ghost to make that kind of discernment-decision.

But we all know that we get into scenarios where we can do nothing to pass the person and are stuck behind them seemingly forever.  In this case we have a greater degree of adversity to bear. Just objectively knowing this is a very difficult trial to endure gives me greater ability to deal with it.  Fighting the natural man response process will only make me stronger.  I turn to the Lord in faith.  I plead for his help—to help me endure to the end of this trial and to help me get out of it soon.  Then I just endure as long as is required because I trust he won’t allow things to try me past what is good for me. 

“So say Geronimo!”

Obviously these kinds of conflicts do indeed happen on the highway.  But the metaphor is that life is a highway and the interactions we have with other drivers are symbolic of the interactions we have with everyone in our lives: our spouse, kids, relatives, friends, neighbors, community members, coworkers, etc.  And while we all have a final destination to get to—our happiness and comfort with family and friends—bee-lining to it at the expense of others is not the best way to get there.  Why?  Because we’re being watched.  God is watching us and all his holy angels.  They are keeping a careful record.  Our final-final destination is with all of them as well as our present family and friends.  And the type of person we have become along life’s highways is the type of person we are at our final destination.  Who do we want to live with there and who will want to live with us?

I know my heaven is with people who have developed their Charity to a similar level that I have by doing what I’m struggling to do on life’s highway.  And heaven is “through the curtains of the waterfall!”  The kind of spirits that attend us now are the kind of people we will dwell with eternally.  Even if no one on the highway sees or cares too much about how much I “make this leap!” for them, I know God sees it.  I can feel his increased desire to dwell with me when he sees it.  My family and friends feel the difference in their interactions with me.  Perhaps if I can master this Highway Charity with the Savior’s help, I will eventually sing, “Life is a highway and I [do] want to ride it all night long.”  If he’s going my way (or I’m going his), then yeah, I do “want to drive it all night long.”  But for now...

“We can make this leap!…Through the curtains of the waterfall…So say Geronimo!…Bombs away…Can you feel my love?”