Sunday, June 3, 2012

As it Seems

 Well in this life you must find something to live for
Cause when the darkness comes a callin'
You'll go back to where you were before
Cause this life is as
Fragile as a dream, and
Nothing's ever really
As it seems...

                I have a lot to muse on of late.  My son’s graduation. Getting lost and getting found again. Sunflowers. Elderberry jam .The Biblical hero Samson. Growing up and growing old and dying. Figuring out who we are and why we are here and what is really important in life. Realizing that nothing is really ever as it seems, but also knowing that the important stuff lies beneath the surface. Only ten percent of an iceberg is visible above the water; ninety percent is beneath, where no one can see. That ninety percent cost 1500 lives on the Titanic. And it wasn’t because of one long gash in her side; it was because of a series of small gashes. Greek and Shakespearean tragedies are made up of men with single tragic flaws, but in reality we all have many small ones, some more obvious than others.

                I watch the show Toddlers and Tiaras. Yes, I admit it. I am morbidly fascinated by the entire concept. The fact that it is shown without any commentary so that one can draw his own conclusions notwithstanding, the editing is cleverly contrived to show people at their worst. Take, for example, the mom who said, “I live vicariously through my four-year-old daughter.” Gotta give her credit for her honesty. Some episodes make me smile, some make me cringe, and I have cried over several. I have felt outrage and horror, but mainly what I feel is pity. The irony of this “reality” show is that these people live in a world that is utterly unreal. It is plastic, it is counterfeit, it is as shallow as it gets. How sad. These mothers truly don’t realize what they are doing to their daughters. They make their lives all about appearances and about winning. They are not concerned, by and large, with character, although there are a few exceptions. They dress their cute little girls in skimpy clothing and paint their faces with makeup. And, let’s face it-how many really gorgeous children grow up to be stunning adults? Not many. Most people just look ordinary. What will happen to these girls when they hit their teens?  I shudder to think of it.

                The Biblical hero Samson was strong and brave. He was also lustful. He wanted to marry a Philistine girl because of her looks. He allowed his flesh to rule him continually, despite the vows he had made to God. In the end, it brought about his destruction. When we abandon good character in favor of what appears wonderful, we often end up in a place we didn’t really want to go. It was true in the Garden of Eden and it is true now. So many times the things we go after turn out to be meaningless, and the enemy is a master of that kind of deception. We put our trust in the things of this world-looks, popularity, money, gadgets. We think if we can just have that one Thing, we will be happy. In reality, there is Something that is eternal and abiding, but we miss it in pursuit of the stuff that is fragile as a dream. The stuff of earth. We worship it instead of its Creator, Who made everything good. Who makes everything beautiful in His time. I am reminded of The Little Prince: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”  Those little “divas” on Toddlers and Tiaras have not been taught that “pretty is as pretty does”. I am not impressed by anyone who is merely a pretty face-child or adult. The most beautiful people, to me, are the ones whose goodness of heart is apparent in their eyes. The ones with a light.

                Elderberry jam is a delicious thing. I just ate some for the first time on Friday evening. However, from what I have read about elderberries, they just don’t taste that good on their own, with no sugar added. They are bitter. People are pretty much the same way. Left to their own devices, we do not tend to always do what is right or kind. Were we to act on instinct alone, we quite possibly could have a society resembling the island in Lord of the Flies. That’s why we need law and order. It’s also why God has put into us a basic sense of decency that hopefully overrules our baser impulses, but until our spirits are regenerated it cannot come to full fruition. Children must be taught to be selfless and obedient, despite what some people may say. Yes, we are all born with a basic personality, and some people may be naturally more compliant, more gentle, more kind than others, but those qualities still must be nurtured and encouraged. We are all born with a sin nature, even though very young children cannot sin on a conscious level. All one has to do is watch Toddlers and Tiaras, or the dreadful Supernanny, to see what happens to children who always get their own way and are never corrected or disciplined.

                My daughter’s horse, Legend, is scheduled to be gelded this week. Hopefully, it will make him easier to control. He is a sweet-natured creature but he is also a victim, right now, of his own hormones. Some days he willingly takes the bit; some days he runs away. He doesn’t want to be made to do anything that wasn’t his own idea. Neither do we, really. We become frustrated when things don’t go exactly as planned. On our way home from the beach the other day, after stopping at Sweet Home Farm to buy jam and cheese, we made a wrong turn and ended up taking the “scenic route” home. It was annoying, but then we passed an amazing field of sunflowers which we wouldn’t otherwise have seen. And, as our kids pointed out, maybe we would have gotten into a wreck if we had gone the usual way. Perhaps so. Only God knows. We must trust that His way is best. We cannot always look at things as they appear on the surface; there is nearly always Something that is deeper, bigger, and greater.

                So, what do we live for? How do we fight off the darkness that comes with disappointment, disaster, loss, failure, and death?  We just have to understand that, if nothing is as it seems, then God must be working even in situations that appear awful. If what we think of as “good”, like physical attractiveness, is really not all that important, then quite possibly our answers lie in the things that are small, or unexpected, or unlovely. God makes all kinds of people into heroes. He uses small and weak things, unforeseen events, and tragedies to mold and shape us into who we are supposed to be. Taking the road less traveled enables us to see so much more than if we simply try to remain status quo. If you open up an ugly brown geode that resembles a mudball, you will find on the inside a glittering treasure. Nothing is as it seems.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

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