Did you ever play that game with your friends in middle school or high school in which you seemingly "tested each other's faith"? Hang on, maybe I just haven't worded the game in the same way you played it.
After watching a movie that is out in the theaters right now and rhymes with "A Wyatt Space", I asked Dave if he would sacrifice his life if mine was in danger. "Of course!" was his response. "Wait", (here comes the caveat---wait for it) "what exactly is the danger and how much is it going to hurt?" (seriously, you can hear my eye roll from where you are? That is impressive).
We ask the question in all seriousness about how much money we are willing to spend on one of our dogs if they are in dire health. Don't every play that silly game----Dave and I had always said, in our early years of marriage, the threshold would depend on the age of the dog, but likely the bar would be somewhere around a few thousand dollars to "save" the dog. Cue the entrance of rare lymphoma in K.C.
K.C was our first Yellow Lab in 1996---you know, the one who broke the mold for all Labs before and since, was beloved at the elementary school where I was principal for being a therapy pet, and could go fetch a particular toy by its exact name---("Go get Fred Flinstone" and off she goes. "Go put Pugsy back" and there it would go, back in the toy basket). The second she was diagnosed and the vet asked if we wanted to try a chemo treatment, we said, "Of course!" No matter that each pill was going to cost $100.
So, back to middle school and high school (because I know you are all dying to return to that phase of your life, complete with perhaps a bit of acne and a modicum of understanding how awkward life in social situations could be). In middle school and high school, I belonged to a group called Campus Life, one in which we supported each others' walk through getting to know Christ. Every so often, a kid would ask, "If God is a loving God, He doesn't want me to suffer, right?" At which time, the Campus Life leader begins wishing and hoping he was instead sitting in the dentist chair preparing for a root canal with no novocaine, while two members of the group are just thinking about how adolescence is torturous enough---what more suffering could there be? The Campus Life director would tenuously, oh so tenuously, answer, "God doesn't want any of His children to suffer", to which the kid who asked the question would say, "Then is it okay for my mom to steal money from a bank if I get a fatal illness and she can't pay for it?" Oh yikes! Campus Life director bells are going off, sirens blazing, but alas, no, there was no "text your fellow Campus Life leader to find out what they were saying". But, wait, there's more. That one question set off a cacophony of questions, "If I accidentally run over a dog with my car, should I shoot it to put it out of its misery?" "If one of our friends from another religion asks us to jump off a roof because we are 'saved', should I do it?" and more just like that and worse.
So, what is our "limit" to what we bring to every spiritual, work, or relationship situation in our lives? Do we have a line we draw in the sand---"This I will not do"? How much risk are we willing to take to fight for what we believe is right and our true truth? Each of the apostles tells their story of Jesus laying down His life for us. I have often wondered, as an educator, what that story is meant to tell me about a vocation I simply didn't choose but rather was chosen for me...by God. I could no more have chosen a different vocation than education than I could make a hole in one on the golf course. Dave just says, "If you just keep hitting the ball in the right direction, that is good" (I so wish I was joking about that, but it's the honest truth---that's just how great a golfer I am becoming). In early years of teaching, I made deals with my students with Severe Emotional Disorders---basically, if they could make it through a week without punching someone else or throwing a desk across the room, I would take them to the bookstore and out to lunch on the weekend. Was I sacrificing? Some might call it that. I would call it "survival". If I could teach these beautifully damaged children how to act in public without stealing, hurting someone or getting me fired, I could maybe, just maybe, teach them how to read. Then, a practice drill (other than a fire drill or storm drill) might be, "What do we do if someone has a meltdown and throws a chair at you?"
Now? Educators know the stakes seem to be higher. Parents, would you lay down your life for your own children? Well, I can guarantee you that most teachers with whom I have worked would give the same answer---"Of course, without a doubt". Cindy (who manned the front office for 30-plus years at the school where I was principal) and I used to joke, saying, "If someone comes in this school with a weapon, we are the first to go (she was on the right side of the entrance and I was on the left side of the entrance). While we didn't often wear our track shoes to school, she and I bolted out of the school together one day as we watched a guy, walking with what looked like a weapon and swaying from side to side as if he wasn't completely lucid, head across our school's front yard toward the kids and coach on the PE field across the road. In my mind, I picture as twin-super-ninjas, but in truth, I believe we simply followed him (after calling 911 to get a resource officer to our school---we didn't have one then) and got Coach Hill to get the kids to one corner of the field where the suspicious looking guy might not see them. The dude finally jumped a fence and the local law enforcement folks found him and took him away from the school area (like relocating a rattlesnake---a little off-topic, but we have a guy in our neighborhood here in Tucson who will, at the second you call him on the phone to tell him you have a rattlesnake in your yard or, God forbid, your house, will come "relocate" said snake. Where? To the 15th tee box of the golf course. Wait, what?? Apparently, that is where the desert for the rattlesnake community begins. I say, "Why don't we just move their little community a tiny bit further in the distant desert area?")
I think what it means for me to bring my whole self to my community and my relationships and to other people doesn't necessarily mean I loan money to people who have been offered a job and simply don't want to take it because it doesn't suit their desires (true story that just happened to me this week---I said "No, if you need the money, it sounds like there are jobs being offered to you. It all seems to depend on whether or not you want to sleep in a shelter, a cheap apartment, or your car". I promise I was not being sarcastic in any way, I only was serving to be the mirror for someone else who couldn't see the choices they were making might not be optimal, but I wasn't going to co-sign their "crazy".
I can't take on all the ills of the world, I simply can't. What I can do is ask myself, "Am I willing to put myself in a vulnerable position, for instance, with my staff if I am a principal, by telling them I am not perfect and want to learn alongside them? " I can ask myself if I am doing everything I know how to do to be the kind of person God intended me to be, just for today. I can ask myself if I am bringing my whole self to every relationship, particularly the ones with my Higher Power, Dave, our pups and the pups we rescue and foster, our friends and family, my colleagues and my clients and students with whom I work.
What am I doing today to stretch myself---to take a risk I might not normally take---in the area of relationship-building? I hope you know that I enjoy sharing my weekly self with you, the reader, and covet your thoughts about my writings and musings.
Now, I'm going to go ask Dave if he loves me enough to go dig in the desert for more of those pink, sparkly, or purple golf balls with which I love to play. :)
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