“God is more interested in your character than your comfort; God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that’s not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character.”
Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life
When I was in my twenties, my birthday was a great reason to go out and party. In my thirties, I spent birthdays thinking, “I thought I’d be somewhere bigger doing something better by now.” Now that I am in my early forties, I see in hindsight every poor decision and mistake that kept me from bigger, better things — and I’m not sure that’s what I want any more anyway.
I’ve spent much of my life at a desk. Other than my early years as a waitress or barkeep, my mind has been occupied by some assignment or project at a desk. These work tasks kept my mind occupied, even after work hours. For all my life, it seems that my brain was focused on something external.
This two-lane farm and garden lifestyle, as busy as it is, involves more manual tasks. Tasks that hands can learn to do themselves, without the direct attention of the mind. The brain is allowed to roam according to its own will, skipping and wandering through a lifetime of memories, situations and plans that haven’t followed through.
Such time with your own mind, facing yourself, can be rather disconcerting. Things easily overlooked when you are in a hurry through life appear with sharp clarity. When you focus solely on a goal ahead, there are so many details we don’t or won’t see.
The Rick Warren quote above was part of a recent email forward I received from my mom. I found it to be an affirmation and a challenge.
It seems my life has been spent on the road less traveled. I don’t see that it was ever a conscious choice though. It feels more like I was never able to merge into the traffic flying along the four-lane beaten path. Every time I tried, even if I made it, I was quickly bumped off at the next nearest exit.
In fact, so many decisions in my life were fueled by a desire to get on the beaten path, or prove I was road-worthy enough to travel the beaten path. Who wouldn’t prefer a smooth paved path without pot holes and road blocks and clear signage?
It would be more comfortable than this two-lane life I have come to live, I’m sure.
But God is more interested in my character than my comfort. In my life, this has surely been apparent.
I feel I have an abundance of character. Those who travel the beaten path of the interstate only see a blurred vision of the world they travel through. I, on the other hand, have traveled winding paths, traversed through deep dark hollows, and on occasion, have been moved by the sight of a heart-stopping majestic view. I have often said my life has been a roller coaster. Sometimes you feel breath taking joy, sometimes you hold on for dear life, and sometimes, you just want to throw up.
I think it’s time to give up my attempts to merge onto the beaten path. As a car, I’m now a classic, and I feel like I’m stuck in 4-wheel drive anyway. I’ve spent all my life thinking if I could just merge onto the beaten path, I’d be happy.
But now I see, I have too great a taste for off-road travel to speed along a straight line any more. I have denied myself happiness because I have never given up my attempts to merge and be accepted on that well-beaten path.
These past few years of increased manual labor has left my mind to wander through the memories that built my character. To be honest – I’ve had enough character building — thank you very much.
But these past three years of increased manual labor have allowed my mind to wander through those character-developing memories, and I see that in my search for happiness, I have not developed holiness.
Holiness comes from sacrifice. From service to others. From selflessness, generosity, empathy, love. And while I have experienced all these things in life, they were not a main focus of it. They were not priorities. My priority was to merge onto the beaten path so I could be comfortable and happy.
And yet, as a result of our decision to change to a two-lane life style, we’ve had greater opportunity for sacrifice and service. We’ve had more options for selflessness, empathy, friendship, and more time to realize that these things, though not exactly comfortable, are the paths to joy and happiness.
This lifestyle of self-reliance isn’t always comfortable, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. But, this year, I find myself no longer regretting the time I’ve wasted in the past. I’ve nearly lost the urge to merge. I’ve found my own place and purpose, and there is so much to do.
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