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Archive for June 28th, 2009

Why NOT Me?

When something bad happens to us, one of the first thoughts we have, naturally, is usually “Why me, Lord?” As Tevya, the old man in Fiddler on the Roof moans, “I know we’re the Chosen People, God, but can’t you choose someone else part of the time?”

Yet a key ingredient of leadership and maturity is to be able to say “Why NOT me?” I have a friend, Samantha, who rolls her eyes when she hears testimonies on television about how God spared someone from a burning building, or a horrible plane crash, a pile up on the freeway, or when their town is literally destroyed by a tornado. “Does that mean that God didn’t love the people that were in the crash?” The incredulity in her voice betrays her attempt at masking the very shock of this notion.

The very idea that God blesses only the good and punishes only the evil leads immediately to the question “Then what did Jesus do to cause Him to die so young and so painfully?” God is much bigger than our understanding of good and bad, and has an eternal plan that none of us grasps totally. In fact, the willingness to enter into whatever God wants is one of the hallmarks of strong spiritual leadership.

Jesus told the story about a wealthy landowner who entrusted his vineyards to a certain group of people. The landowner sent emissary after emissary to the far country to see how his land was faring, only to have them return with reports of being ignored, mistreated, and even beaten and stoned. At this point I can just see Jesus, as the landowner’s eldest son, stepping up and saying “Father, why not send me?” [Parable of the Tenants – Matt 21, Mark 12, Luke 20]

David also uttered these words when all the other Israelites were trembling in their tents as the giant Goliath boomed out his insults and challenges. “No one else is willing to go out there. Why not me?” [1 Samuel 17]

The why-not-me question applies equally to the blessing side of the equation. If you study some of the most successful athletes or entrepreneurs, you will undoubtedly find that at some point they looked at other people who were experiencing success and said “Why not me?”

A year ago Samantha’s mother went to visit an art gallery in Sedona, Arizona. After she marveled at how lucky the woman working there was to live in such a beautiful part of the country, the woman said, “Why don’t you move here?” Grace immediately replied that she didn’t think she could afford to move and live there. The woman laughed, and said “Do you think I’m made of money? Not hardly, but one day I decided that this is where I wanted to live, so I just did it, I moved here. You can, too.” Then she gave Grace a list of real estate offices to visit in Sedona. On the way home Grace kept saying to herself, “That woman lives in Sedona, why not us?”

She went home to Midland, praying the whole way, told her retired husband what she wanted to do, and they just sold their house of thirty-eight years and closed on a house in Sedona.

I have been doing many mental exercises lately to keep my mind limber and open to possibilities and to stream my conscious thoughts and see what emerges. One of them is to look at people that are doing more of what I really want to be doing and realizing, “They are doing this. Why not me?” This is not done with the wrong heart. There is no jealousy, envy, or ill feelings toward them because they are doing these things. Mostly it is about recognizing that we are not born in a caste system, and that we are able to enjoy the benefits of life to the fullest.

Jesus was in effect a walking invitation to a Great Banquet. He is the only requirement for attendance. The person wanting to go only has to accept the invitation. “Moses is going. David is going. Queen Esther is going. Jeremiah is going. The Twelve are going. Of course, Mary will be going.

Why not me?”

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