It is not easy to follow Jesus, who resisted the temptations in the desert wilderness. It is not easy, ever, to hear the voice of one’s own, tempting, shadow self and choose something else.
I recently had personal experience with this, and I want to tell you about it, as a kind of Lenten confession. And because for me it was an experience of grace.
Next Sunday is my birthday. And on that day, all four of my husband’s adult children are coming over – not to celebrate me at all, but to present my dear husband Ivan with a great surprise. Ivan’s older son David lives near a planetarium in North Carolina that is undergoing renovation. By his generosity, David is going to endow the planetarium with enough money to name the new rotunda of this planetarium after his father, the eminent astronomer, Ivan R. King. And the gift will be made by the whole King Family, all of whom will be gathering at our house Sunday afternoon to make the announcement to Ivan. He will be pleased and absolutely delighted. And I am also pleased. For his work in astronomy, he deserves this honor and recognition.
But instead of being happy for him, I have been pouting around the house, grumbling under my breath, for his kids coming on the very day that will just ruin my birthday. It is MY day, and they should not be there. I should be celebrating with MY family and MY friends. And on and on.
Mutter mutter mutter.
Well, it is Lent, after all, and as I sat at my computer preparing for Ash Wednesday and choosing the readings for that day of repentance, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the computer screen. And as I looked at it, a voice inside my head said, “Judy, is this the kind of person you want to be?” I thought about it. Do I want to be mean-spirited? Do I want to pout and spoil what might be the biggest surprise of Ivan’s life? I will have had lots of birthdays—76 of them. How many times will all four of his kids come to honor Ivan in anticipation of his 90th birthday, later this year, with such a beautiful gift?
What kind of person am I? What kind of person do I want to be?
When I considered the questions, the anger melted, and I realized I wanted to be the kind of person who graciously welcomes my husband’s offspring and welcomes his celebration. I want to be the kind of person who says, “It’s not about me – or at least, not all about me.”
The reflection faded, and I returned to work.
This stuff really works!