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Reader Voices: Pushing beyond a self-centered life without resentment

By Mel Borup Chandler

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, July 24 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

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There have been times when life seemed to be a pressure cooker — a never-ending treadmill that just kept going endlessly and attempting to step off would have been difficult and perhaps even catastrophic.

All of us seem to have similar episodes lasting not days and hours, but weeks, months and even years.

Stepping off really never was an option, but in our minds and bodies we seek peace and rest wondering when that day will come. If you are like me, during those difficult times, I beat myself up thinking, “How could I have let things get so out of hand that I found myself in this difficult predicament?”

During those times, friends, bosses and even spiritual confidants and leaders recognized my stress and discomfort and chastised me for not taking it easy or slowing down and remembering to take better care of myself. I berated myself for not having the hours in the day and the self-discipline to schedule regular time with my wife, family, personal prayer, exercise and leisure activities.

We have hindsight is 20/20, but in the moment it is completely useless. There is a time a season for everything. These experiences are not without value. We learn that indeed we do need to take better care of ourselves, learn better time management and to give ourselves room to slow down, to savor the moment and the time we spend with others, our mates and families.

I realize that all of the duties and demands that robbed me of time, those pressures of life that kept me from peace and rest, formal prayer and deeper more meaningful interaction with others, were not all bad. In fact, there were beneficial aspects and lessons to be learned.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why?” when someone is on their deathbed, they never say, “Gee I wish I had spent more time working, more time playing golf, more time away from my wife and family.”

They finally “get it” (what is really important) and acknowledge it.

In popular culture, I hear people say, “No regrets” and I think to myself, how sad. I believe there is value in regret. The sacrifices we make in life, when we deprive ourselves making sacrifices for others, also have the possibilities of moving us to a deeper understanding, a deeper spirituality, a greater love and maturity and sometimes it does not seem it was freely chosen.

At the end of John’s gospel (see John 21:18), Jesus says to Peter, “When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst wither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shall stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.”

Jesus tells Peter that the duties that now follow upon his commitment of faith and love will rob him not just of his time and leisure but the plans he had made for his own life. Duty robs us of our supposed freedom, our time and our very life.

When I was a small boy, my mother was often so busy, it seemed impossible to get face time with her. She worked at home typing dissertations for doctoral candidates at the university. As kids, even though she was haggard and busy, we discovered that when she went to the bathroom we could line up sitting on the bathtub and just say “Hi” or whatever was on our mind. Even though the pressures of her own home and the constructs of her personal world bound her feet, we made her make time for us, even though she was unable to herself.

God has put us here on earth, not just to recreate and enjoy, but to serve others and to give our lives over to unselfish duty. Our own private happiness and even our private time are not really ours at all. Once we accept this premise, perhaps without even realizing, we give our lives over to service and the duties that are innate with our marriage, family, church, society and even to charity consume us for long periods of time, take away our freedom, our rest and relaxation and even the time we should spend ideally in prayer.

But at the same time they push us beyond a self-centered life. They take us beyond our own agenda. If we can learn to accept these personal intrusions without resentment, we can see more clearly God’s plan, and even though at times it seems our symbolic belt or girding is pulled as was Peter’s, against our will, it can lead us to a deeper, more mature place.

Mel Borup Chandler and his wife Sandra lives in Newbury Park California Newbury Park Stake. Mel is a lifelong member and his wife is a convert to the LDS Church.

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