Candy blogs: Brush your teeth! Don’t go over the speed limit! I have to get an A in that class! Wear a helmet! Practice, practice, practice! Stop at the red lights! Exercise! Read more! Eat right! Live within your means! Schedule a regular date night! Spend time in the word! Pray without ceasing! Don’t miss church! These are some of the messages that constantly ring in our ears. They tend to make us feel boxed in … trapped … a slave to discipline. Why can’t we just do whatever we want to do?!
What is the point? Let’s look again.
Brush your teeth! When you don’t feel like brushing your teeth, do you go ahead and brush them because your parents told you to or you dread getting a lecture from your dentist or hygienist? Do you step it up the week before your six month appointment? The dentist will most certainly lecture you about poor home care but not because he/she loves to lecture you. They are very concerned about the health of your mouth and teeth. They want you to avoid the pain and expense of not taking care of your teeth. The health of the mouth affects the health of the entire body in many ways.
What’s the point? Look again. Brush your teeth for the enjoyment of healthy, pain-free teeth. Brushing your teeth consistently over time can prevent physical pain and paying big bucks for major dental work.
Don’t go over the speed limit! When you’re speeding down the road, you are most likely looking in all your mirrors to make sure there isn’t a police officer near by. And when you spot one, there seems to be a sudden desire to abide by the speed limit. Are they turning around?! Is it you they’re coming after?! When you’re speeding down the road and you come upon a car accident, you are suddenly more aware of the dangers that caused that accident.
What’s the point? Look again. Speed limits are for your safety and not just another rule to follow to keep you from doing as you please. They are set according to the road, the traffic load, the conditions, the lay of the land. Someone has gone down that road before you and left a safer trail to follow.
I have to get an A in that class! When it comes to education, it’s usually the grades we focus on. And whether it’s parental approval or accomplishing a goal or qualifying for another educational program, we are driving for that A or B. “What do I have do to get an A? What are the specific requirements?” Read this many pages, write this extra paper, participate in this lab, do this much extra credit. Check, check, check. All kinds of guilt and disappointment and self-condemnation can come flooding in if we don’t get that A.
What’s the point? Look again. Grades are simply a reflection of what we have learned. The requirements for each grade are set accordingly. To earn a grade in a class is not just the checking off of requirements. It reflects that you have or have not learned the material. An accumulation of adequate grades, of learning the required material over time then earns a degree. A degree (usually) leads to a career. A career (usually) leads to a fulfilling life. One can earn a degree with a series of average grades or excellent grades. The degree is granted in either case. A degree earned with higher grades reflects more material learned, more knowledge gained that is then available to be applied in real life for the benefit of others.
Schedule a regular date night! I hear you. “Yeah, right. We’ve got one kid not sleeping through the night yet and another still in diapers. We’ve got a mortgage and two car payments.” or “We’ve got our kids in every sport plus piano lessons. We’re running from practices to games to lessons to recitals to scouts to church and back again.” or “My job has me working 60 hours a week. I’m too tired to go out again when I get home.” or “We’ll have time for that when things settle down.”
What’s the point? Look again. There are seasons in our lives. If we choose to have a family, there is the “before kids” season, the “kids” season and the “after kids” season. When we first chose to marry, we could see our 50th wedding anniversary happily ahead. But often in mid-life and the empty nest couples find that they have little in common and conversation is difficult if not centered around their children. The years remaining to 50 can seem long and unfilfilling. A regular date night won’t guarantee a lifelong marriage but it is a significant factor. Time spent alone together, regularly, over time gives a couple a better chance of surviving the empty nest syndrome. Always putting off this important ingredient of marriage to sometime in the future “when things settle down” puts the relationship at risk. Things never settle down. Better to nurture as you go along and come to mid-life as comfortable, familiar companions.
I believe looking for the point behind actions and attitudes, looking again and doing good and right things consistently over time are part of living an intentional life. Living our life just getting by with the minimum requirement, playing by joyless rules or how much we can get away with leaves us flat and two dimensional. We easily settle for good enough. How much better is a rich, joy-filled, intentional life driven by hope and excellence and purpose under the wise and loving authority of the Holy Spirit.
What is making you feel boxed in or trapped in your life? What is the point? Look again.