It’s been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder but, sometimes, it just makes me wonder: What’s been keeping a person away for so long?
Was it something I said?
Or something I did?
As a coach, I am trained to listen for two things: The story and the truth. The story is what we say to make ourselves feel better (or worse) about a situation. The truth is rooted in, not perception, but fact. And the fact, in this instance, is that the mind can get pretty carried away without something real to keep it grounded.
I was reminded of this just yesterday when I received an e-mail from a friend who I had not talked to for most of the summer. I’d thought about reaching out to her on several occasions but, because it was her turn to call, I stubbornly decided not to. Immediately upon reading her e-mail and learning about the challenges she’s been facing since we last spoke, I realized two things:
1. I was the person in the wrong.
2. Good friends don’t keep score.
Why is it that what bothers us most about others is the very thing we are guilty of ourselves? Sometimes I think the world be much simpler if we never had to spin stories to hide our hypocritical cores.
The story I spun about my friend was that she had lost interest in our friendship. The reality is that silence does not mean indifference. I, of all people, should know this after taking time off from writing following my father’s death last June. In the six years since publishing my first newsletter, this is the longest that I’ve been away from my craft—and all of you; but with an obituary to write, a slideshow to create, and an overwhelming amount of other projects to tackle as my brothers and I started the long process of cleaning up our Dad’s farm, I knew in my heart that it was the right thing to do.
What wasn’t right was my decision to also take the summer off from God. It’s not that I didn’t want to spend time with Him: It’s just that with everything that was going on, spiritual disciplines always seemed to be the last thing on my mind. And as the dog days of summer wore on, it became clear that the longer I went without studying the bible, the farther I felt from God.
If out of sight is out of mind, then out of mind definitely leads to lack of heart. It’s the one time when absence makes the heart grow, not fonder, but fussier as we lose all compassion for others.
I often joke that I get along great with people as long as I’m the only one in the room. What I don’t say about this philosopy is that it doesn’t account for God. Although it doesn’t always feel like it, silence doesn’t mean absence−just that He has chosen not to comment on our behavior.
I definitely had moments that left God speechless as certain relationships and circumstances left me ranting and raving like an emotional toddler. To make sense of these situations, I listened to self-help audio tapes while driving to and from Nebraska. One batch that I checked out from the library included the title ‘One Month To Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life’ by Kerry & Chris Shook. Although I never got used to the narrator’s deep voice (think James Earl Jones from the Lion King), I was glad that I stuck with the guy for long enough to hear him challenge listeners—myself included—to never give up something that we can’t go a day without thinking about.
What can’t you go a day without thinking about? Do you know?
I asked myself this question in early July and already it was apparent that I can’t go a summer without Jesus. And as someone who was away from home for 47 days last summer, I speak from experience when I say that if you’re feeling far from God, it’s your actions and not your location that needs to change. It felt good to return to my pre-summer ways when life settled down enough to pick up where I left off in my bible. As soon as I did, I was welcomed back with these words from Psalm 16:
5 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
How comforting it is to know that, no matter how long or far we travel, our lot is secure as we keep our eyes on the Lord and our behavior in check by putting a little more Jesus in our day.