Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.
Date: Fri 2/6/2004 8:39 AM
Well, the mushy, red, slurpy, and flowery month of February is upon us. Valentine's Day is fast approaching. And although I don't do the "on demand" candy, flower, or love card scene, I've been thrown ever so slowly into a cupiditous mood by my e-friend, Steve Mendelle, in Brisbane. In a message he had sent me, he had focused on something Elisha had said to me: "You really don't have a choice, you know." He told me to look at Exodus 24:7 and think about the meaning of what she had said. I did. Exodus 24:7 passage reads: "He (Moses) took the book of the covenant and read it aloud to the people. They (the Hebrews) replied, 'We will do and we will listen.'"
That passage has really sent me deep during the last few weeks. Strange isn't it. The Hebrews made what seemed to be an impetuous vow of "we will do." At first glance, this seems a little a strange since most of us are taught to think things out first and then act. What do we usually do when faced with a choice? We first think about it, mull it over, weight the pros and con, decide whether to do or not to do. Think about it. In this passage, the Hebrews seem to be so careless, almost cavalier. How did they know that they would be able to carry out that which would be commanded of them when they did not yet know what was required? They didn't. It's like embarking on a journey without first looking to see where you are headed and what equipment you need and what training you must get. It's the reverse of the natural order of acceptance, isn't it. Or, is it.
In a Valentineish way, this passage reminds me that when Susan and I said "I do" to each other, we did the very same thing as the Hebrews. We had no idea what we would have to do. We had no idea what we had taken on. I mean how the heck did either of us starry-eyed, young lovers know what forms or what course "better" or "worse" would take; we had no clue what "in sickness" and "in health" had in store for us. We were heading into the unknown on a path we had to blaze as we went. But, it was an unconditional and firm "I do" vow; it was a promise, a trust, a dedication, a commitment. Now I realize it was a credo to each other: without hesitation or condition, we'd each be there for each other and with each other. We heard and accepted the offering of the other, but we really could not understand the "I do" until we did it. It was only when we lived the spoken "I do" did we understand the extent to which it was a demanding agreement bound by obligation, responsibility, and perseverance.
Saying the words was easy. Floating down the aisle with both of us feeling "we can do this" was easy. Being able to pull the words off, being able to live them, being able to live up t them, however, had more of a challenging messy-ness than we realized. It was a constant test, a challenging test of perseverance and stretching and changing and growing, both individually and together. Not every time was peachy-creamy, not everything went well and good, not everything was straight and smooth, not everything was easy and safe. It was neither mistake-free or risk-free. It's not a messy-ness for the faint-hearted. The past thirty-eight years we've needed a lot of brooms and dust pans to clean up the mess we made and/or walked into. We had a lot of those hard, rough, challenging, testing, less than lovey-dovey and kissy-kissy patches of "worse" times. We've had a lot of those long bouts of emotionally draining and physically tiring "sickness" times that you don't see in the picture albums. We have been in the valleys together, in the shadows together, hurt together, sacrificed together, agonized together, feared together, lost together, cried together, clenched together, mourned together, experienced growing pains together, rafted life's water water together, struggled together, gritted our teeth together, clenched fists together, grimaced together. There were times we were shaken to the core. But, every day, consciously or subconsciously, we remembered our "I do." We worked everyday, worked hard everyday, to work our way through, over, and around the challenges. Together we weathered what at times seemed like the unsurvivable perfect storms; together we faced and faced down adversity; every day we fell once again and deeper in love together. We have ventured together, discovered together, healed together, played together, grown together, reached the mountain peaks together, laughed together, celebrated together, smiled together. Every day together we nursed "sickness" to "health" and made "worse" times "better" ones.
Exodus 24:7 and our vows mean 24/7: twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It's the ever and always and unending trust and a yielding to that commitment of trust. By trust, I don't mean a "head trust." I mean a "heart trust." It's not blind faith; it's a seeing faith. We obligated ourselves to an affirming, no exit "do" rather than an iffy, fraught with exits "try." It's almost a surrendering, unconditional obedience to that "I do" that must occur in order to figure out what it really means. That's what Yoda was telling Luke about "The Force;" that's what Moses was telling the Hebrews; that's what Susan and I were saying to each other; that's what Elisha was telling me.
Do not think for a moment, then, that I could have chosen to deny Elisha. If I did, I would have violated and nullified my credo. She would have likely felt rejected and gone back to a life of rejection. She was right. I did not have a choice. When you have a reflected upon and articulated credo, a stated purpose, a sense of mission, a vision, to which you have committed yourself, you have to surrender all control. You have to choose no longer to be able to choose. In my case, my teaching credo is: I will be that person who is there to help a student help himself become the person he is capable of becoming. My purpose is to cultivate people. To be that person, I must do whatever, whenever, and wherever.
It's like being a Ruth: wherever my credo goes, I will go and do. It's a commitment, an unlimited commitment, an open-ended commitment, before you hear the details and the particular application. It's not calculating; it's not self-protective. No hesitation. No doubt. No weighing of pros and cons. No self-serving evaluation how much you can bite off, how much is possible, what can be done, etc, etc, etc. No self interest. Nothing to cool off the ardor and dampen the enthusiasm. It is a promise, and not a promise meant to be broken. No excuse is good enough. No rationale is acceptable. No explanation can be offered. The promise is more than words. You see, I do not see my credo as a "sometimes" commitment. It's not utilitarian. No credo can be selective and still be meaningful. It's a 24/7, an Exodus 24:7, promise. It's a serious promise to getting up every morning determinated you're going to go to bed filled with accomplishment and satisfaction; it's an unswerving consistency and constancy to purpose; it's rolling up your sleeves, digging in, and going to work; it's being intuitive, curious, creative, flexible, sensitive, understanding, and effective; its reaching for those challenges others shy away from; it's shutting off all exit doors; it's the difference between possible and impossible; and, its the opportunity to accomplish something of enormous value, to stand taller, to grow stronger, and be pulled higher. It's a commitment to be unique to another person's quest for his or her own uniqueness. It turns cliches, truisms, bromides, and platitudes into truths. It transforms the trite and hackneyed into originality and freshness.
It's not a question of choosing what's convenient or comfortable or even safe. You know, you just don't put a dent in the universe with convenience, safety, guarantee, and ease. Sure, the tests and challenges are extraordinary. So, are the accomplishments.
Make it a good day. --Louis-- Louis Schmier firstname.lastname@example.org Department of History www.therandomthoughts.com Valdosta State University www.halcyon.com/arborhts/louis.html Valdosta, GA 31698 /~\ /\ /\ 912-333-5947 /^\ / \ / /~\ \ /~\__/\ / \__/ \/ / /\ /~\/ \ /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\ -_~ / "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\ _ _ / don't practice on mole hills" - \____