So you’ve probably heard a lot of talk about a book entitled The Benedict Option. Every time I scroll Facebook, there are a few articles written by great Christian thinkers about an apparently great Christian thinker who has bundled his great thoughts into a good looking book with that snazzy title. I sometimes think I should be keeping up with all of this great thinking in between caring for my Mom, cooking, laundering, multiple doctors appointments, medical procedures, more medical procedures, shopping for food, cranking out blog posts, finishing up other writing projects, and squeezing in every ounce of free time I have with Eenie, Meenie, Miney, and Moe – my four grandkids.
I love to sit and think and read and figure life out. But alas, time has been sparse when it comes to reading heady books. Much of my reading lately has been lighter, because my concentration level plummets when I’m 1.) brain fogged, thanks to certain health issues, or 2.) surrounded by twelve old people on oxygen in the cardiologist waiting room, all of them peering at me as if to ask, “Whatcha’ readin’?” Or probably more accurately, “Could you be out of place, honey?”
I am out of place, due to my age. I’ve been sitting in waiting rooms with the elderly since I was ten and the only times I’ve found relief of that awkward placement were the times I was ordered to Texas Children’s Hospital at age 12, 13, 15, and 17 to get to the bottom of what ailed me. I remember finding relief in correct placement there, with kids ages 0-18 in the waiting rooms, and hospital halls filled with toddlers running around with heart monitors strapped on their scarred up, taped up chests. Some were from India. Some Russia. Some Missouri, New York, and Old and New Mexico.
Texas Children’s was where the desperately sick from all around the world flocked to in order to be healed by the best of the best. I personally went there because of a flat out admission by my doctor that my problems were too complex for him, and I suspect others were there due to the same reason. If healing was not found for the lot of us chilluns, we were going to die … a phenomenon that was powerful enough to bond us, even though the only manifestation of that bond was a knowing look or two thumbs up flashed at one another as we passed in the halls.
Being involved in desperately needed healthcare at such an early age tends to instill a seriousness in you that other kids lack. It makes you a little more inclined to ponder the most important things in life and maybe just enjoy the simple things in life, rather than spend a lot of time thinking so hard you bust a brain vessel (how’s that for drama?). Or fret about world everything – hunger, war, politics, peace …
Somebody has to be carving time out to think deeply, and I am grateful for those who do. Without the Einsteins, C.S. Lewises and Wilberforces, life on this terrestrial ball would be worse than it already is. And somebody has to go out there and be the hands of Jesus, work at saving toddlers and teens at Texas Children’s, foster abandoned children, counsel the suicidal, clean public toilets and pave roads and flip burgers.
But all of the above and more are not options for me. I am not a great thinker. I just enjoy those who are from time to time. I have not been blessed with good health, and the result of that is that I am not a worker bee – at least not comparatively. And then there’s my personality vs my health predicament. I have great expectations. Intense inner drive. Big dreams. I’m internally driven to carry out huge plans, but the vessel that should be helping me carry out those plans is broken, making it impossible to fulfill expectations or make dreams come to fruition.
What happens when our dreams and plans fail? What, then, is our option?
Well, since it’s hip to dub everything an option these days, I’ll call my proposal to dealing with failed plans the Micah 6:8 Option:
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
In the muddle of my mind, this often gets translated to:
Cook like Rachel Ray. Homemake like Martha Stewart. Write a book in New York Times bestselling author style. Defend the unborn!! Finish painting projects. Volunteer for everything at church. Make personalized quilts for Eenie, Meenie, Miney, and Moe. Take the mom a meal whose kids have been puking all winter. Adopt a baby. Read The Benedict Option. Get out there and DO!
Why does it sound so simple but fleshing it out is so difficult?
Because muddled minds and straying hearts make it so. God values a broken and contrite heart. He knows I am but dust, save for some titanium cardiac hardware that’s been dysfunctional for over a year. He knows my stomach and intestines haven’t been able to accept much food for over seventeen years. He knows about the (thus far) unexplained right-sided tremors, pain, weakeness, and spasticity. He gets it. He’s ordained it. So what am I trying to prove?
If I do, do, do, does that make me holy, holy, holy?
No, no, no. A thousand times, no.
A broken and contrite heart opts to live out Micah 6:8 – in whatever circumstances.
I am not, nor have I been most of my life, living in circumstances that gives me warm fuzzies. Or even cold fuzzies. I have been known to dream about becoming a nurse or a politician who tries to write heady books – or something else that allows me to actively remedy as many injustices and hurts of the world as possible in grandiose ways. My circumstances, however, have led me on very different paths. And here I am, tootling around Orchard House every day, attempting to be a caregiver for my Mom whilst being in need of some caregiving myself. It’s kinda weird. And yet, who’s to say that I am not opting to do exactly what is required of me by being a caregiver, a mom, a grandma, a wife, and (hopefully) a darn good medical patient?
For example. Can’t I do justice by teaching Miney it’s not kind at all to shove Meenie into the dirt? And doesn’t teaching Miney this truth also take care of my responsibility to love kindness? And doesn’t taking the time out to help Miney and Meenie to also do justice and love kindness exercise humility? And doesn’t writing to you about the situation exhibit humility? I mean, I just admitted in front of all y’all the fact that my grandchildren smack each other around. I could be prideful and claim the angelic-ness of Eenie, Meenie, Miney, and Moe – and back up that claim with pictorial proof.
Point is, I don’t have to be a big wig surgeon or a politician or anything fancy at all to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with my God. I can practice the Micah 6:8 Option anywhere. From a death bed, if that’s where the Lord summons’ me tomorrow.
It’s possible to think and plan too much, and lose touch with the fact that the heart of the problem is always a problem of the heart. Or to create options that are overly complicated and therefore unhelpful. Or to over plan, or make such lofty goals that we lose sight of the overall, more important goal of Micah 6:8. Plenty of verses say planning and goal setting are wise. But it doesn’t make one righteous. We are to plan – but with humility, knowing that the heart of man plans his ways, but ultimately, the LORD establishes his steps.
So when your plans get re-routed, don’t be mad at your Maker, as if He’s thwarted the best options for your life. Your lot, whatever it is, is the best option for your life. And perhaps one of the best plans we can make is to be ready at any moment to set aside our own plans once Providence steps in and rearranges. Because at some point in life, Providence will do just that.
Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly. And whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31).
It’s that simple. And that hard.
Now if you’ll excuse me, as I was writing this, a book came in the mail, titled Alive in Him, by Gloria Furman, another great Christian thinker. A few weeks ago, it so happened that I agreed to be on Gloria’s book promotion team, due to an uncommonly energetic few hours, which resulted in me opting to do something fun instead of merely tootling around Orchard House loving kindness and stuff.
Also as I was writing this, a short review of The Benedict Option came across my Facebook feed and I was forced to read it (forced, I tell you), and now I’m so curious I can’t abstain from ordering it.
Clearly, a weak body weakens the willpower. But thankfully, I am weak with an Amazon gift card in my grubby little hands. Brain fog or not, here I come, Ben Op.