We are not a terribly observant lot. And we are not because we are focused on speaking into life instead of letting life speak into us. We have our well-oiled agendas, and we have honed our biases to a razors-edge. We know what we want, and we’ve effectively tied those wants to a rather harrowing sense of entitlement. Therefore, it’s not that we ‘want’ those things. Rather, it’s that we’re owed them (in our minds anyway).
We presume that life is ours for the taking, so we pillage it until we’re starved by the very choices that we thought would feed us. We force-fit our tiny rubrics over this immense existence of ours until we’ve confused the box we’ve created for the existence we failed to mimic. Our running list of demands is relentlessly demanding, leaving us on a myopic hunt for what we want instead of finding out what life wants to give us.
We tediously create calendars filled with empty duties, and then we foolishly let those calendars empty us. We’re running with no clear place to which we’re running, which leaves us running in circles, running in place, and running on empty. We chase whatever grants us the accolades of others so that we might feel good about ourselves. We heed the trends, follow what’s vogue, walk in step with whoever’s walking around us, and we end our days exhausted realizing that whatever we were seeking was, yet again, not found. No, we are not a terribly observant lot because we’re far too occupied with that which is occupying us.
The Right Priorities to See the Right Things
It’s really rather simple. The essential things that we need are not things that we create. Our arrogance gets the better of us and we think that we must create what we need. If we don’t, we believe that we are eternally doomed to live out our lives in perpetual peril due to the supposed absence of those things. And to add insult to injury, we believe that somehow we are endowed with the superior ability to create those things. Yet, we’d be terribly wise to humble ourselves a bit and realize that the fundamental things that we need were already there meeting our needs long before we ever recognized our need of them. They’re there. We just have to watch and learn.
When we don’t watch, we don’t grow…at least in ways that are healthy. Life naturally abounds with rich lessons, bold ideas, life-altering principles, cautions and warnings, lessons and lectures. Preemptively interwoven into this ingeniously crafted existence is everything that we need to be everything that we are. Indeed, life is the perfect tutorial. We don’t have to create anything. All we have to do is watch and learn. But to do that, we have to ‘watch’. And that is a skill that most of us need to hone.
What I’ve Learned by Watching
Recently I wrote a letter to my two children on the eve of their respective birthdays. And as I wrote this letter, what I realized in the writing was that I was simply sharing what I had learned by watching. We won’t learn everything, for life is far too vast for that. In the watching I discovered that while I haven’t learned everything, I’ve learned what I needed to learn.
Life is not about learning everything. Rather, it’s about learning what’s essential for ‘now’. In life’s grandly choreographed dance, what’s essential for ‘now’ will automatically and quite seamlessly build upon what’s essential for the future.
And while I’ve not honed the skill of watching sufficiently, I’m learning it. Not perfectly by any stretch, but enough to glean some precious lessons. If we avoid all of the pitfalls discussed above, and if we commit to watch, we will begin to learn a few things such as this:
- At their core people are good. They may not see it and they may not act on it, but there is always great good somewhere within them.
- I must meet people where they are at and not expect them to meet me where I am at. This is the art of relationship.
- Revenge never works. I must rest in the fact that God is the “Just Judge” and that I can leave it to Him to perfectly right every wrong.
- If I let God define success I will truly be successful, for my definitions of success often represent my lack of vision and my disparaging tendency to be selfish.
- Sometimes my successes come quickly and at other times they are terribly slow to arrive. It is not my place to determine the speed at which they arrive or if they arrive at all. My place is to keep forging ahead no matter what.
- Perfection is impossible. Therefore, I do not strive for perfection. What I strive for is to give one-hundred-percent of myself in everything that I do. If I do that, I have asked everything of myself I can ask.
- If I rise above what people do to me and consistently strive to be the ‘bigger man’ despite the cost to me, I will never become what I dislike in others.
- There is always hope, even when I can’t see it. And if I act on that truth, there is no obstacle or challenge that has the power to defeat me.
- If I put others first, I will never find myself being last.
- Life is not random, as there is a phenomenal plan for my life that was laid out before the beginning of time. And if I seek it out and then live it out, I will live the most powerful and robust life imaginable.
Embrace What Life Shows You
Finally, when you watch, accept that what you see is in fact what you need. There will be times when life will teach us what we’d prefer not to learn. It will take us on routes previously unknown to us. It will demand the best of us knowing that comfort will bring out the worst in us. It will say ‘yes’ to places where a frightened world says ‘no’, and it will say ‘no’ to places where a selfish world says ‘yes’. But to learn both that which is comforting and that which is not is to meticulously round us out as people in ways that few are rounded out. Let life set the agenda, write the curriculum and be the teacher, for it has both precious and phenomenal lessons standing ready for you. So…start watching.