See Part 1 here.
See Part 2 here.
See Part 3 here.
See Part 4 here.
See Part 5 here.
See Part 6 here.
See Part 7 here.
See Part 8 here.
See Part 9 here.
See Part 10 here.
See Part 11 here.
See Part 12 here.
In part seven, I talked about how I felt like I failed to a degree. I went on to explain that I didn’t intend to go to the graduation because my mother’s care had been seen to. I still hated the idea of not going. I still felt like I wasn’t doing what I should.
I did some research into scripture to see what would best apply, and what I found was Colossians 3:12-17.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all the wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
My guilt led me to resent the texts and phone calls I got in regard to my niece’s graduation. But then, while talking to my sister (my niece’s mom), I learned that there weren’t many people actually going to the graduation. There were surgeries and leave conflicts. My mom was and is still fluctuating in health. None of the reasons are the point. The point is, this wonderful young woman was about to end the act of her childhood and begin the act of her young adulthood, and there weren’t many people coming.
That’s when I decided to call in a few favors, buy a ticket, and go.
I’ve seen that wonderful young woman, Saleah, from the moment of her birth until this day and, if God blesses me, more. The fact is, I was wrong to resist it in the first place. I had reasons, but I wasn’t having faith at that time. I was letting doubt and fear rule me more than anything. It didn’t eliminate my responsibilities. I couldn’t just not go to work, so what I ended up doing was flying down one night, attending the graduation, and flying back the day after. It was an exhausting three days, but I would’t trade them for any other way they could have gone.
I had fear and doubt in my heart rather than kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
If I’m being honest, those are traits my mother wants us to have, but my siblings and I don’t have. You want the excuses? OK. We were raised to be antagonistic. Not by my mother, but by the man who broke our family in the first place. That divorce split the family once, and another divorce split the family again. Somewhere in there, I (to ensure I accept responsibility) and my siblings developed this strange habit of competing when we should be uniting. It could be as small as what most would call common sibling rivalry, to as big as directly blaming one family member for something to elevate above him or her.
I understand this doesn’t put my family in a very good light, but this isn’t intended to make us (or me) look good. It’s a testimony, and in this case, it’s a confession. If I’m not the worse offender of this, I’m at least as guilty as the next. We bicker. We fight. We doubt.
I’m wrong for my role in that. I’m wrong for judging and resenting when that’s not what scripture demands of me. Humility isn’t something I do well, and this trial has humbled me because I need to be humble. It’s shown me how patient I can be when I never want to be patient.
To be clear, we’re not a family that argues and throws things at one another every time we’re in a room like a bunch of strange cats. I also won’t go into great detail of what does happen because this is supposed to be a confessional on my end. So what do I do? I judge. I resent. I blame. Should we as christians hold one another accountable? Yes. But letting someone know they’re not following scripture is far different then stomping on them to elevate myself.
The Bible is explicit and clear on how children should behave. The fact is I wasn’t obeying. How did God show me just how wrong I was? My love for my niece. I had in my mind an image of her graduating with nearly a dozen people watching. When all the circumstances that limited people’s ability to be there (in some cases physically), my reasons seemed pretty insignificant.
I present to the world both the image and name of this wonderful young woman I’m so proud to have watched grow up. She’s smart. She’s kind. She’s compassionate. She’s humble (mostly, I mean, she’s 18..so..) and she’s honestly one of the most gentle souls I know. I was there the day she was born, praise be to the Lord; and I was blessed by His grace to be there to watch her graduate. I got to tell her how proud I am. I got to hug her (several times). I got to play with my nephew. (The boy’s name will not be uttered by me until he graduates high school.) I got to (sort of) hear her sing (part of the choir) for the first time. I’ll cherish those memories. What a fool I was for even considering missing the chance.
What saddened me is that my refusal cost me something. I imagine if I had answered my sister’s call, the family wouldn’t have worked out what they did to care for my mom. The fact is, my mother was taken to the house in Yuma (three hours away). So I got to see my niece graduate, and that made me so happy. However, I didn’t get to see my mom. She wasn’t in Phoenix. By the time these things had been determined, I’d already bought my tickets and gotten all the support I could just to make it so I could be away from work for the two days I missed. There wasn’t any way to then add more time to drive down to Yuma.
I didn’t get the chance to talk to my family. Honestly, even when I flew down, I had a heart more full of resentment than the required list above.
I learned from this, praise be to the Lord. That lesson cost me. I still have hope that my mother’s appointment (July 7 is a huge day for us, please keep us in your prayers) ends in the best way possible. There’s still a long road to recovery if that happens, but it has to start with good news on July 7. But I had this glorious opportunity to be a source of support for my family, and I balked. I knew it five weeks ago, and I feel the consequences of it now.
I needed to set that tone to make sure that I demonstrate my role. This is how I humble myself, by pointing out how I was involved. What wrong did I have in this situation? One thing I’ve known for a long time:
Everything is my fault. I’m not alone in my accountability, but I have at least some responsibility for my role in things.
I’ve had that mindset for about four years now. So when I find myself in a situation I don’t like, and that desire to blame or resent creeps in, I humble myself by pointing out my role and my mistakes. I’m of the opinion that if people reflect on their own actions, everything will improve. I can’t immediately recall a single time when pointing out someone else’s shortcomings ever fixed the problem. There are times, I believe, where you must inform someone of their wrong (accountability is still a thing). But once the individual is notified of his shortcomings, the only other thing to do is help or be quiet. Be humble. Be compassionate.
I implore you all to consider the consequences of my actions the next time you find yourself at odds with a sibling. Try to remind yourself of your own responsibilities rather than point out those who aren’t holding up their end. What does it matter? Do the shortcomings or failings of one member of a family permit me to be negligent in mine? Do they allow you to be negligent in your duties? It’s easy to blame. It’s so tempting to say, “Look at what he’s not doing!” or, “Look at what she did wrong!” Maybe it is bad. But where is the humility in that? Where is the compassion? Is it kind to drag down a sibling just to elevate yourself? Is it gentle to ridicule or judge someone?
These are my crimes, and I repent. As God wills, as His strength allows, I’ll focus on those qualities whenever I deal with my family from this day forth.
Questions and Revelations
Why not just take more time?
Like I explained. Things shifted while I planned my trip. I used money I didn’t have and leave I couldn’t take during a time my coworkers actually needed me just to pull of the two days I took. (I flew down after work one day, which ended in me being awake for essentially 24 hours straight.) Had I known, I would have planned differently, but that’s just not the way it happened, and I still want to be sure I have some leave in the books in case something more urgent and related to my mother’s immediate health happens. I certainly hope it doesn’t. This phase of the treatment is over, and I ask that you pray it’s also the last round of therapy before the doctors pull out the remainder of the tumor.
Why not explain more about the other members of your family?
Because that would be a direct contradiction to what I said I wanted to do. It’s not for me to point out everything. I’ll say this, there were honest barriers that prevented everyone from being able to attend, and the fact is, had I simply answered the call when my sister originally asked, none of these other obstacles would have been nearly as restrictive. I could deflect and hedge, but the fact is we need to stop that. I need to stop that. It doesn’t matter what others could have or should have done. It doesn’t matter what didn’t or did happen. What did I do to put myself in this position, and what does the Bible say I should do?
I wasn’t even in that place on the flight to Phoenix or back to Baltimore. That temptation to resent or judge was so strong. It made me feel better to think on everyone else. But we’re not supposed to feel better. If you disagree with that, then at least agree we’re not supposed to make ourselves feel better by pointing out our perceived (which may or may not be accurate) shortcomings of others. It wasn’t until I searched for and found those verses that I found the perspective I should have had from the beginning.
If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog. I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.
Thanks for reading