Between school and home, as a child I remember hearing at different points about the importance of being true to one’s word and having integrity. Whenever a situation occurred where someone had lied or behaved in a dishonest way, the overriding message was, “It’s always best to be honest. Never be afraid to tell the truth.”
At first glance, honesty was calling the cashier’s attention to the fact that she gave me too much change from my purchase or admitting and owning up to my mistakes rather than trying to hide them. However, as I grew and experienced life throughout the years, it became clearer that honesty is the lynchpin necessary for meaningful relationships. Without it, trust and intimacy cannot grow between the parties involved.
Most days, I honestly have no idea where I’m going. In college, I had a pretty clear vision of where my life was headed; but of course, life never goes like you plan. Now in my forties, although I’m still surprised when things don’t work out as I expect, I sense a shift in my soul towards accepting a more limited vision of my future.
I've wanted to follow God ever since my babysitter told me the story of Adam and Eve, using flannel-graph images stuck to the back of fuzzy orange couch straight from the seventies. "God loves you," she said. "He made you. You're his child." It was such an easy concept for me, at four, and I threw myself into following God with my whole heart. I even dragged my parents along.
The problem was, once we became Christians, my world quickly began to shrink. Music went first, when my dad destroyed all the "secular" music that had facilitated hours of joyful father-daughter dancing. "They're singing about bad things," he explained. God is pure.
Admiring zeal, or intense enthusiasm, is a mixed bag. The zeal that exudes from anyone can be easily admired when we are in favor of his or her desired outcome. The Olympics are on the horizon, and it’s common to rally behind the intense effort of these athletes as they work towards reaching their dreams. We marvel in statements like, “What passion they have for their craft!” “How dedicated they must be to compete and train, day in and day out for what they really believe in.” This is all good, but it’s important to note how sheer determination alone is not enough to win unanimous favor in the eyes of the people.
“I think we can overdo the whole ‘authenticity thing,’” said Lutheran minister Nadia Bolz-Weber at a conference I was attending. “Like I can be real clear about who I am, and be in your face about it, and then later—I’ll change my mind.” I’ve been turning this idea over, and holding it alongside an op-ed in the New York Times titled “Unless You’re Oprah, ‘Be Yourself’ Is Terrible Advice.” The author, a professor of management and psychology, described the ways authenticity can be taken too far, can be overdone at the expense of sensitivity to others, and that expressing what you think and feel at all times can be a detriment to success in the workplace.
When I see or hear the word "honor," three things come to mind almost immediately. All are from childhood and have remained with me through the years. First, I think of the commandments handed down by Moses and often learned as a child. "Honor thy father and mother." Then, I think of honoring veterans of various organizations who have served, taught, and protected so many people—many of whom they may have only met briefly or not at all. Finally, I think of invitations with the phrase, "The honor of your presence is requested."
It was a typical painting party with varying degrees of talent. People had gathered to enjoy company in a creative way. And typical to each occasion, the accompanying loads of baggage came in the door. Baggage that whispered to some, “You’re not good at this,” to others, “You will fail.”
I set up the room with intention. The night progressed, conversations unfolded, moments were shared, and encouragement and honor for where people were in the process was given.
We looked for symbols in the unexpected accidents, admiring the developed talent of some, and enjoying the new creative experience for others.
What a gift it is to wake up and enter the day slowly. I work at home, and even though I hold to a fairly strict schedule, I grant myself the luxury of taking my time to awaken; a mindful beginning to what will surely be a busy day.
As the sun creeps over the hilltop, shining its first light on my little house tucked into the hillside, I notice its reflection on the bedroom window. This invites me to reflect, too. I think back over the day that just passed. I ponder the day that is yet to come. I watch the light expand across the wall and its gentle movement invites me to deeper reflection.