January 17, 2020

In the last few days, I have thought about several conversations I have had throughout the week.  The conversations were about, the nature of humanity, are naturally good or bad, can people change, and if yes, what makes change happen.  I have also wondered, after talking with a couple relatives I have not seen for a long time, how have come to be the person who I am.  In some ways, I am the oddball in my extended family.  How did that happen?

The bigger question I had was, do people change because of their beliefs, or do their actions and experiences change their beliefs.

In the context of these questions I will share one of my experiences.  In the weeks after I started dialysis in 2001, folks would come to me and ask how I was doing and I would respond, “I guess I am doing okay.”  My tone and attitude when I offered that response indicated, I was having a hard time and looking for attention and sympathy.  After a couple of weeks, I heard my mother in me.  I loved my mother, but she often was rather anxious and pessimistic about matters of health.  This is not who I wanted to be.  I wanted to “live” with joy and not be held captive by anxiousness and fear.

So, I resolved, even if I wasn’t quite there yet, to be positive.  From that time on, when someone asked me how I was doing, I responded, “I am doing well!”  I responded with an upbeat attitude and a smile – even if I wasn’t really how I was feeling.  And do you know what happened.  My attitude changed. 

It was kind of odd.  I was beginning to feel better.  I was still on dialysis for a lost five more years, but I began to see and feel my blessings.  I can not help but think if I continued on the path of self-pity and attention getting behaviors, I would have never come to recognize my blessings.  I was alive.  I was working full time.  My health challenges helped me to be a more compassionate pastor.  Diana and I were able to adopt Leah during this time. 

So, which comes first?  Beliefs and attitudes or behavior?  I am not sure.  Perhaps my behavior led me a more faithful response to my beliefs – to be grateful and appreciate God’s love and actions in my life.  Or perhaps it was my belief that God calls us to live joyfully, that helped me “confess” my selfish and unfaithful way of living. 

Perhaps, the lesson is it does not matter. Perhaps they go hand in hand, and one helps the other.  Live faithfully.  Do not be held captive by that which denies God’s love.  Live in love and joy.