Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Matter of Life and Death

Have you ever seen the movie Oscar?

No, it has nothing to do with the Academy Awards. I’m done on that subject until next year.

It’s a comedy starring Sylvester Stallone as a Prohibition-Era gangster named Angelo “Snaps” Provolone who, on this particular day of his life, is setting in motion his plan to go legit in honor of the promise he made to his dying father, a cameo made by Kirk Douglas. The day is full of interruptions, miscommunications, opportunistic lies leading to misunderstandings and comical errors. It’s good for quite a few laughs.

Anyway, many of the interruptions from various members of his family and staff get his attention with the phrase, “It’s a matter of life and death!”

What they really mean is: I really, really need to talk to you right now and so I’m going to exaggerate to the Nth degree because it’s the only way to get your attention.

Seldom is that phrase uttered when it really means a matter of life or death.

Getting a late start to your morning, dealing with slow-moving traffic, punching the time clock a few minutes after nine o’clock are not matters of life or death.

Forgetting to mail that letter or program the DVR or pick up the dry cleaning are annoyances, but not matters of life or death.

Even a heartbreak, an unexpected firing, or betrayal by a trusted friend – even those are seldom really matters of life or death. They hurt… drastically… but… life goes on.

Things are rarely as bad as we feel they are at first glance.

And there’s usually a silver lining somewhere in the clouds, a rainbow in the storm.

Things are flip-flopped.

On one hand, we make mountains out of molehills, aggrandize minor events believing the balance of life and death rests precariously on the edge of that mistake or disappointment or win or promotion or new pair of shoes.

These are the petty distractions that keep us from seeing the true, lethal threat.

Because on the other hand, convictions run short in our modern culture where an attitude of “anything goes” is rampant. Shoulders shrug too easily as people turn a blind eye to major distortions of the Truth and blatant sin. Where life and death are really in question, we ignore and excuse as if we didn’t know any better or are afraid to point it out.

How do we get turned back around to live in the right direction?

For me, mistakes or setbacks or errors make my stomach churn. Less than an A, not quite perfect, saying “oops” even once – it’s more like pit of snakes, arachnophobia, and self-flogging with a bone-chipped whip.

That sort of sounds like mountain out of molehill. Sort of. I’ll let you call it.

Although I might not admit it, I am constantly making minor moments into life or death matters. The worry and stress that causes clog me up mentally and spiritually, distracting me from truly important subjects, stunting my creativity so I don’t write (a.k.a. derail my purpose), and keep me from seeking God on both the minor and major issues.

Whenever worry strikes, I need to step back and evaluate.

Is the mistake or error or setback really a matter of life and death?

It’s the old adage… don’t cry over spilled milk. Sure, you need to clean it up, but crying over it won’t do any good.

I’m not thinking about this for my own well-being, though. I’m not trying to soothe away some mistake or error without “cleaning it up.” I’m actually thinking about how I treat others when they’ve erred, sinned, or made a mistake that affects me. Do I treat them like they’ve just signed my death warrant? Do I react like a psychopath and make them feel like they killed my puppy or something?

Or do I forgive?

If Jesus can forgive when His own death loomed eminent, how could I not? (Luke 6:37)

Besides, we all know people who are actually facing life/death situations. Do we really need to react adversely to anything less?

So, whether I’m confronted with my own shortcomings or the consequence of someone else’s actions or just an unstable circumstance, I hope I can determine that which is truly a matter of life and death (then address it) and that which is water under the bridge (and let it go). (John 8:36)

Thanks for visiting Dry Ground! Tomorrow is truck-packing day!


Susanne Dietze said...

Lori, what a great post. I am constantly turning minor, forgettable things into matters of utmost urgency and terror. Sigh. Thanks for the reminder!

Best wishes on truck-packing day!

Anonymous said...

So true! We just had a little devotion in our small group about worry...focusing on the what ifs. .. which leads to making things so big that don't need to be.

Thanks for this post! Happy packing tomorrow and safe travels!!

KM Wilsher said...

Man. did you know moving is up there with divorce and jog stress in top stressful things. I can't imagine you and your Daniel moving time after time :))

Great post. I am there.
With ya tomorrow sister!