Thoughts of Death on the Day of My Birth
On the morning of my birthday, still lying on my bed, my thoughts were on the idea of death.
I’m going to die. I thought to myself.
It’s not the most exciting thought to start your birthday with, and it’s definitely not the most reassuring thing to think about the day before a flight. But there it sat in my head:
I’m going to die.
That is always a sobering thought.
There my phone was ringing and beeping with greetings, celebrating my being born, yet there I was being reminded that every day is one more day to make a difference, even as it is one less day to live.
I remembered something I always tell the people I advise:
“You don’t ever want to be that person standing by a coffin, wishing you did what you knew in your heart you were supposed to do for that person, and knowing you will never get the chance.
Don’t wait for tomorrow to love the person you’re supposed to love today.”
I wrote more about this in an old post Goodbye Constants.
So I reminded myself and recommitted, “David, don’t wait for tomorrow to love the people you’re supposed to love today.”
Not far into the day, I received a call from a colleague. During the discussion that got heated (which I am ashamed to admit is not foreign with me), he called me a fake. That I have this image of this great guy but I’m really so full of mistakes, so full of flaws, and that I’m not as smart as I pretend.
Not exactly what you want to hear on any morning, much less your birthday.
As I thought about it, and I do take criticism seriously, I realized that the reason why it was so very painful to listen to him say those words are…
…Because he was right.
He was right on all points. He pointed things that I could not deny. I do have this image that I’m a great guy but I really am NOT. While reading through some of your messages and letters I many times catch myself wondering who you were describing. It surely wasn’t me.
I’m not successful, nor wealthy (not by any standards), nor accomplished. I’m not as smart or as savvy or as wise. I’ve had to close businesses, I’ve had to restructure debt, including credit card debt, had to fire, retrench, apologize, repay, rebuild, and cry on my knees. I have been most terrible in my relationships, particularly with the females who I was supposed to have loved. My thoughts on relationships and ladies are more the lessons I learned from my mistakes. If I knew them then I would probably be married.
(On second thought, maybe not.)
I am full of flaws. I am hot headed, impatient, impulsive, tactless, insensitive, proud, lustful, insecure, fearful, judgmental and critical. In short, I do not love. I think my schedule is better than everyone else’s. I think my techniques are the best. My pride and fears keep showing up in all sorts of ways and scenarios, they’re impossible to deny.
And, when I look at a lot of my choices, he was right again; I have made so many stupid choices. Someday, my kids will read my Moleskines and say, “Yup. Dad could be stupid.”
It’s more painful to hear the truth than a lie. But it is necessary.
It’s more painful to be told I’m ignorant. But until I realize my ignorance I will never have the drive to learn.
It’s more painful to be told I’m running in the wrong direction. But I need to know this so that I can turn and run home.
It’s painful to be told that I’m wrong and making wrong decisions. But I need to learn to seek discernment.
It’s more painful to be told that my life does not love others and mostly just loves myself. But I need this if I am to stay humble and go back to God’s love.
It’s more painful to hear the truth, but the truth is what is necessary for growth.
It is especially painful to hear the truth from people I’ve done so much for because my pride tells me they should be more understanding.
But the truth remains true though delivered wrongly, and humility means asking God, “What truth are You showing me through this?”
He later texted me, “Happy Birthday! I didn’t know!”
I shook my head and smiled to myself. We humans are a funny lot.
It was good for me to recognize the painful truth, even if it is my birthday week. Our Father gives us the most amazing gifts.
Reflections On Fake
This morning I continued reading from a book Mr. Butch Bautista recommended to me entitled: The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin S.J.
It’s a very accessible book full of insightful and practical ideas on growing spiritually in our crazy world. I definitely recommend it.
I’ve been reading from two other Catholic authors, G.K. Chesterton and Peter Kreeft, and I’m learning so much from their perspective. I’ve thrown in some Plato for good measure, and I find myself in constant reflection.
To reflect simply means to honestly bear your soul to a mirror that shows you your true state.
I don’t always like what I see to be honest. I’m always asking God, “What do You like about me?”
This morning I tried the Jesuit practice of examen:
-Gratitude: Recall anything from the day for which you are especially grateful, and give thanks.
-Review: Recall the events of the day, from start to finish, noticing the following:
1. Where did you feel God’s presence?
2. Where did you accept or turn away from any invitation to grow in love?
-Sorrow: Recall any actions for which you are sorry.
-Forgiveness: Ask God for forgiveness. Decide whether you want to reconcile with anyone you have hurt.
-Grace: Ask God for the grace you need for the next day and an ability to see God’s presence more clearly.
I was particularly stuck with the question “Did I turn away from God’s invitation to love?” and the explanation one Jesuit gave:
“More often Jesus condemned those who could help but didn’t bother to do so. Sin is often a ‘failure to bother’.”
“Sin is a failure to bother.”
It is the kindness I should have shown but didn’t because of impatience.
It is the forgiveness I should have extended but didn’t because of pride.
It is the embrace I should have given but didn’t because of fear.
It is the apology I should have sent but didn’t because of entitlement.
It is the good I could have done but didn’t because I could not be bothered to do so.
To be a fake means to NOT be who you truly are.
We were created in God’s image to love, yet here I am not loving, not forgiving, not speaking truth, not being patient, not being kind, keeping a record of wrongs, not protecting, not hoping.
Here I am being a fake.
What has made me a fake is pride: I don’t want to be who You want me to be.
What keeps me a fake is pride: I don’t want to admit that what You have for me is better than what I have for myself.
Reflection helps bring us back to God. It helps remind me, “This is who you are, David.”
I think I shall examen more.