There is something to be said for nuggets of wisdom. Few people experience epiphany at the end of reading “War and Peace”, but instead have moments of clarity in just that — a moment. I know believers and pastors who will spend hours diving into the details of a single sentence or verse of Scripture and pull out of it huge amounts of life-changing wisdom.
“Gracious speech is like clover honey — good taste to the soul, quick energy for the body.” – Proverbs 16:25 (MSG)
But we’re not excavating nuggets of Scripture – or fortune cookies – today. Instead, I thought it better to find 5 easy phrases for men to remember and return to to keep themselves on track. These come from a well I dip into often, whenever my mental and spiritual bucket runs dry.
“Surrender resentments” – Sexaholics Anonymous Manual.
When I first heard this at an SA meeting, I rewrote it in big letters in the margin of the book. When you feel like you are always failing, you are inevitably going to divide the world into two kinds of people – both of whom you hate. First are the people who you blame for your problems and the second are those jerks who you resent for succeeding while your world falls apart. And the resentment for both of those groups just grows and grows, like a tumor in our soul.
If we want to live a Whole Donkey life, we have to give those resentments up, hand them to God and pursue our success without the weight of them hanging onto our legs. The only one out to get us is God. And He wants to get us because He wants to wrap us up in love.
“Ora Et Labora” – Saint Benedict.
I am constantly threatening my wife that if I get a tattoo, this is what it will say. In Latin, Ora Et Labora means Pray and Work. It’s so simple that it’s easy for us to forget. As men, if we do these two things – and do them both with effort, diligence, integrity and earnestness – we can make our lives a whole lot better. And notice that prayer comes first, which is another easy mistake to make.
This is really a great thing to say at the start of the day. What am I going to do? Pray and work.
Maybe I should get that tattoo after all.
“Service Before Self” – United States Air Force.
Originally, I put “It’s not about you” in this spot, but that didn’t seem classy (or manly) enough. Instead, the USAF provides a weighty phrase which is one of the service’s three core values. There are so many pieces of wisdom that remind us that putting others before ourselves is one of the most important things we can do in order to live life more fully and in a way pleasing to God.
J-O-Y – “Jesus, Others, Yourself” – is a phrase we remind our kids of often. And, of course, there is the Golden Rule, in which Christ himself teaches us to put the treatment of others – the service of others – foremost in our minds. God has whispered this ideal in the ears of many and learning how his Son lives it is irreplaceable.
“Do or do not, there is no try” – Yoda.
But let’s get this straight, men, all of these phrases mean nothing without action. Even if action means taking a first uncomfortable step is what is going to take us from a halfway life to a whole one. We started last week talking about how some simple actions can begin to get us unstuck. Without action and results, there is only empty promises and good intentions. And we all know where good intentions get us.
Somewhere even less hospitable than the swamps of Dagobah.
“I’m not going back, I’m moving ahead; Here to declare to You my past is over…” – Israel Houghton.
Who else is a sucker for great works in great worship music? As someone who has struggled with regrets and unforgiveness of self, the words of Israel Houghton’s “Forward” always killed me. But the tears released on Sunday mornings, while our worship team wailed on this song, meant that I was getting closer to something real.
God forgives. The past is over. If you are reading today looking for someone to tell you that, here it is. Move ahead with the whole life and keep these words close as a reminder every day of what you should remember and the pain you need to forget.