The old farmer picked his words carefully. This was important stuff.
“It’s a hard life. You’re either in all the way or you’ll be out soon enough.”
Almost sadly, he nodded his weather-beaten and graying head. as he considered his own words.
I was standing at my work bench, toiling at a repair job. I’ve often wondered why that seems to be an invitation to customers to open up about their life. Perhaps, the fact that they don’t feel the pressure of a constant stare–or maybe it’s just easier to talk to someone when you know honest labor is being done. Whatever the reason, this wasn’t my first such conversation today.
A mere half-hour before, another aging man had stood and said the words going through my mind tonight. We had been talking about a family relationship which had come to an abrupt end. I guess I should say, he had been talking about it. I was listening as I worked.
“The product wasn’t as advertised,” was his gloomy pronouncement.
The man he was discussing had been talkative, and even seemed to be forthcoming and honest in their conversations. Nothing had prepared my friend for the disappointing conclusion which would end the relationship mere months later.
Not as advertised.
I have bought such merchandise. Cars that became lemons. Kitchen gadgets which disappointed in every way. Telephone service which was non-existent when needed.
I understand the concept.
But, as he said the words, in a flash of illumination, I realized something else:
I embody the concept.
I am a walking, talking example of the principle in action. What you see is not what you get.
I’m not proud of it. In fact, to divert attention from my shame, I’d love to drag everyone around me into the mud in which I wallow.
I did it tonight.
We were sitting at the local restaurant, our old friends, along with the Lovely Lady and I, and the conversation just seemed to come around to the point. Not content to bear the blame alone, I suggested that we all are guilty of false advertisement.
I even mentioned that I had been disappointed in someone I held in very high esteem, so I was sure that no one was exempt. Somehow, I guess, spreading the glare of the spotlight to include others besides me is a little comforting.
As if that excuses my sin.
I have struggled with this guilt for much of my life–this realization that who I am in the deep, dark secret place of my soul is not the same person promised by the facade which has been carefully erected, piece by carefully crafted piece.
In a way, today has been a day of epiphany. Sort of.
I have a morsel of wisdom to share. It could change life as we know it. Well, maybe not, but I’ll share it anyway. In a moment.
I have come to the conclusion that I will never be as advertised. Never in this lifetime.
That realization is not going to stop me from advertising. Nor will I allow it to stop me from doing one more thing:
I will continue to attempt to make the product match the description.
Over the last couple of years, I have, of necessity, undertaken a fitness regimen. I exercise an average of six or seven hours a week.
I hate it.
That is to say, I hate it before I begin. Nearly every single day, as I prepare to depart for a run or a bicycle ride, I complain to the Lovely Lady.
“I don’t want to do this.” The words are the same every time.
But every time, I walk out the door.
I force myself to do what I do not want to do. I have a goal in mind and I overcome my temporary desires in favor of the long term results.
To the folks sitting in the park, I am just another fitness nut. Anyone knows that fitness nuts love exercise. Why else would they do it?
The motorists who have to dodge my bike are certain that I love riding on their road, causing them to slow and creep around me. What a shock it would be to them to realize that I am focused solely on completing the number of miles I have determined I must cover to meet my goal for the day or week.
I hate exercise.
The visible exterior may be of a thin, physically fit man, but a fat, lazy couch potato lives down deep inside.
Oh. I promised a little morsel of wisdom, didn’t I?
There is less of the fat, lazy couch potato living inside of me than there was a year ago. Less of him than a month ago. One might even be able to detect that he has shrunk a bit from just last week.
The reason is–I make myself do what I don’t want to do in order to achieve what I must achieve.
The same principle applies to what is happening in the deep, dark secret place inside me.
The same principle.
We do what we don’t want to do in order to achieve what we must achieve.
I won’t argue dogma. I’m not a doctrinal scholar. But, I know that God’s grace has given me new life, not so that I can continue to feed the secret person deep inside, but so that the finished product can someday match the public promise.
I can’t do it alone, but I do have to work at it. Every day.
The Apostle knew this. He assured us that the One who began the work will bring it to completion. The man who wrote those words is the same one who told us he brought his body under discipline on a daily basis.
Sounds like an exercise regimen to me.
The old farmer was right. It is hard work.
And, we’re either all in or we’ll be out soon enough.
Time to head out the door again. I’d love to have some company along the way.
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.”
(Philippians 2:13 ~ NLT)
“The secret of life is honesty and fair-dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
(Groucho Marx ~ American comedian/actor ~ 1890-1977)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.