Our children are ours for such a short time really. Or maybe it just seems like they are ours because we love them so. Maybe they always belonged to the universe, to a future we will not see, to their own stories more than they ever belonged to us. But, for a while, we hold them, love them, teach them, comfort them, and give them all we have to give. And then we let them go.
Khalil Gibran puts it beautifully:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
How important it is to be the “bow that is stable”. Our steadiness helps our children as living arrows find their arc, their trajectory, their brilliance. Our steady hands help our children take flight.
There are sure a lot of people who have all the answers and are only too happy to explain the world to you at length. Puffed up chests, throats clearing, outstretched fingers to point you to the truth as only they can best explain it to you.
But do they have all the answers, really? Isn’t there much about which we must proceed on faith rather than knowledge?
What if God himself were to frame the questions? Then how would these know-it alls fare?
Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. (Job 38) He said:
2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?
12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,
and their upraised arm is broken.
16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.
19 “What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!
Ah, not so smug now, are they, those knowers-of-everything? What anyone knows is but a speck in the vastness of all there is to know.
Maybe a bit of humility is in order.
Even as each day is unfolding, taking shape, and then morphing just as we think we understand it, our future is unknown. Possibilities exist; nothing is set in stone; anything can be.
You do not need to stay trapped by old mistakes and regrets. You do not need to wallow in yesterday’s disappointments. You are not defined by what you used to be.
Today is a new day. Tomorrow is full of possibilities. Rise up and step ever forward into the promise of what is yet to come.
There’s always a critic. Someone to point out what you did wrong, how you should have done it, what you missed. That may be just a fact of life; they’re everywhere. Sadly.
But if those critics stop us from creating, from expressing our opinions, from being unique, that’s unacceptable. We each have our own song to sing, our own art to create, our own way to play. And we must be unwilling to have that creative spirit smothered.
How empty it must be to spend all your time on the side line criticizing someone else instead of creating yourself. Why listen to those sad unfortunate souls? We need to step into the arena and let our creative spirit take shape instead.
As Teddy Roosevelt said:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Yes, you will err. Yes, you are subject to criticism if you try. But just stepping into the arena is a success. Let your gifts see the light of day.
Who are your heroes? It is really an enlightening exercise to sit for a minute and ponder this question. Are your heroes, perhaps, people who fought against injustice, spoke out when they could have remained silent, ran into danger to save others, had a vision for the world that transcended the accepted theories?
It tells us something of ourselves to consider our heroes and perhaps points a way to where we might use our voices or actions to better the world.
No matter who our heroes are, though, it is unlikely they acted fearlessly. It is far more likely that they understood the dangers, were afraid, but did it anyway because it was important.
We can, too.
What goal are you setting for yourself?
Are you taking steps to realize it?
Whether it’s eating healthier and exercising or having more discipline over your actions– perhaps being kinder, holding your tongue, or practicing patience– practice makes perfect.
Just do it.
Until it becomes a habit so ingrained that you can’t imagine that you ever did things any other way.
So you’ve made some mistakes. Maybe lots of mistakes. Maybe the same mistakes over and over.
Welcome to the club. The club of people who’ve made mistakes. A club that, if we’re being honest, embraces all of humankind since its inception.
Maybe it’s time to stop beating yourself up about the mistakes you’ve made. Maybe it’s time to let yourself try again. Maybe, and this one is perhaps the most difficult, maybe it’s time to stop pretending that you haven’t made mistakes. That’s one mask that will just get too heavy to wear for much longer.
So you’ve made mistakes. The trick is to learn from them and to, hopefully, make different mistakes next time. And to learn from those, too. And so on.
It’s too easy to forget that we are of this earth. Our agendas and business suits disguise us. Our tasks distract us.
But we are sensuous beings, of the earth and for the earth. We, like the tree frog, are part of creation. How lovely it is to remember that, to appreciate our moment of life in the grand scheme of things, to feel the wind in our hair and the grass under our feet. To drink deep of this moment when we are here.
We are here.
Loss is hard. Whether it is of a spouse, a child, a friend, or a pet. We carry a hole with us where that loved one was. But when we sit and consider that relationship and dwell on the things about it for which we are grateful, the loss hurts a bit less.
Smiles replace tears. Warm memories flood our senses. Laughter surprises us. We remember ways we’ve grown or blossomed because of that relationship. Gratitude replaces hurt or anger or grief.
We remember that, yes, we had to say goodbye, but how lucky we were to say hello.
Our hearts start to heal.
It’s not about the sex. If you listen to the radio or watch television or go to the movies or read the news or see an ad or pretty much interact with the world in any way, you might deduce it’s about the sex. We are bombarded with songs, stories, movies, advertisements, news stories about sex, rarely about love, less still about intimacy. But it’s not about that.
It is about being naked though:
How many people are painfully lonely in this world because they are afraid to share their real selves even in their closest relationships?
How can we build intimacy? Probably more trust, more honesty, more respect, and less fear, less suspicion, less division. Intimacy can be built with others in any of our relationships, no matter age, race, gender, nationality, or other differences if we come to those relationships with honesty, integrity, and respect. More intimate relationships provide people safe harbor and make the world a less menacing place.
Of course, the foundation for it all is trust and respect. Think of all the wonderful relationships that can blossom in a garden of trust and respect!