Jonah 3:1-5, 10 • Psalm 62:5-12 • 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 • Mark 1:14-20
This week's short Mark reading packs a punch: immediately. Twice in the six verses, people respond immediately. In the short book of Mark (only sixteen chapters), the word immediately is used 45 times.
In the context of this story, an immediate response is required of two fishermen, standing there casting their nets into the sea. They could follow Jesus right then, or they could keep fishing for the rest of their lives, as their ancestors had done for probably hundreds of years. It was a good occupation. Somehow, though, the chance to follow Jesus motivated them to choose a whole new life.
When they chose to take this new direction, of course, they had no idea what would really lie ahead. None of us do. The life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a useful example. At age 14, he decided to become a pastor. Although his family was not particularly happy about this choice, they respected his decision. Turned out, as an adult involved in the resistance to Hitler, that the role of pastor allowed him to use the cover of ecumenical work to communicate with the resistance movement across Europe. The choices he made early in life influenced everything he was able to do later, serving God in many ways.
All of us have immediate choices. They may be major changes – dropping everything and going a different way in life. Or they may be small, almost imperceptible tweaks, at first – observing oneself and managing one's life differently. I would call these process goals, as separate from achievement goals. Not that achievement goals are less valuable: au contraire! Achievement goals and the detailed working out of how to get to them can make a difference for individuals and families. The problem is that without attention to one's internal processes, achievement goals may have little chance of success.
The person who learns emotional self-management has many more options available to her than the one who continuously allows her less mature self to run the show. The person who works to become more responsible for self and appropriately responsible to others has a different life trajectory than the one who stays stuck in the over or under functioning pattern he grew up with. All of this begins with becoming more self-aware. Self-awareness, the opposite of self-absorption, leads a person towards a bigger perspective, a more reality-based view of oneself and one's life.
The prospect of the road described here can be a little dismaying. Platitudes like no one said this was going to be easy are of little help as one faces one's own anxiety, reactivity, and resulting general confusion! At this point, I have found three ideas useful. First, the choice is clear: keep repeating the same patterns, or not. Second, on being yourself: for some inspirational music, try Billy Joel's My Life. The lyrics, either way it's okay you wake up with yourself, say it all. Yourself is what you do have to work with. Finally, some good news from the sciences. Brain plasticity is real; one can rewire, creating more flexibility for living. Practicing within one's own family can help. The key to the benefit plan? Start immediately.
Morning: What are my goals these days? What gets in the way of starting on them right now?
Evening: When was I self-aware today? What difference did it make?
Psalm 62:5 For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.