Sit Ups or Set Backs… January 18, 2012

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In Philadelphia

 
I woke up a 2:00 A.M.  I went to the bathroom and the jaunt stirred me enough that I decided to turn on the television to unwind a bit. I landed on PBS–a special biography about George Armstrong Custer. I’m kind of a sucker for those types of shows. I’m always curious when we have the advantage of looking back on somebody’s life who has already passed on, and reviewing the twists and turns and what caused them to select the particular path that brought their name and journey to the forefront.
 
I was greatly impressed, as I viewed the show, that George just didn’t seem to have any capability of knowing the functions of a sit-up and a set-back. It really got me musing over whether MOST of us have an inclination to comprehend our experiences as either opportunities to learn something or as chances to cease and desist for a season from a particular practice or idea.
 
George was a soldier. He was a soldier in the sense that he liked to go into battle and kill people. He was not a soldier because he could tolerate hanging around the fort, polishing his boots, filling out paperwork or evaluating the technique on particular marching styles. Actually, he may have been one of our first reality stars. His natural abilities might have not taken him any further than Monroe, Michigan, or a brief stint in the army–but because there were wars everywhere and people to kill, he learned to do so by remaining impetuous, a bit arrogant and certainly bull-headed.
 
For all of us must understand, even in the midst of a successful adventure, there are little warnings that come along to tell us that some of our selections should be reviewed and changed. It’s one of the problems I have with the doctrine of self-esteem. If I always have to think of myself as “excellent,” or even “good,” when do I ever stop and reason, “Could this be better?” If I am always supposed to maintain a staunch appearance of “all is well,” what happens when the factors around me begin to suggest that maybe something needs a bit of revision?
 
This is why I love spirituality. Spirituality invites a friend, called “Spirit,” to come into our lives to remind us of three important things:
 
1. We are mortal.
2. We make mistakes.
3. Mistakes can be corrected.
 
I just feel, sometimes, that if you’re not tapping that spirit which emotionally prods you to seek out new horizons, you’ll be stuck looking at the same old sunset every day. That was George. Many mornings came into his life. He was court-martialed for disobeying orders and taken out of the army for a whole year without pay. He left behind a part of his troop at one of his battles, causing them to be slaughtered by Indians. He was constantly under attack by those around him for his belligerent attitude and conceited mannerisms. He actually went to live among the Indians for a season and enjoyed the lifestyle so much that he adapted large portions of their thinking–wore buckskin and hunted buffalo–but still ended up despising them as individuals.
 
So you see, several times life came along and gave him a sit-up–gentle nudges by circumstance to inform him that repentance was necessary for him to continue to be successful and valuable at the rate he desired. I call it a sit up. “Sit up and take notice.”
 
And if you tune your spirit to hear the sit-ups in life, you can avoid an awful lot of set-backs. Because those who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the need for revision and do not respond well to the sit-ups get a second warning–called a set-back. That is when your mistake is so obvious that other people begin to point it out to you. Then you will have to spend your time in the corner, like a scolded child.
 
But God is so good that even in the midst of set-backs we can once again find ourselves, do some reconstruction and start over. Not so with George. There were plenty of sit-ups, telling him that he was too self-involved. Ignoring them, he was then introduced to a series of set-backs, which very well could have been the basis for some character growth and discovery, but instead, he maintained his self-esteem, which “steamed” him towards his failure at the Little Big Horn, where for some reason he thought two hundred of his soldiers could fight off two thousand very angry Indians.
 
As I watched the program, I found myself becoming melancholy. I wondered if I was having empathy for George Armstrong Custer, or whether the impact of his stupidity was rattling my own soul to acknowledge the sit-ups that are coming my way, and to take the set-backs I’ve encountered and use them more wisely.
 
For instance, my traveling partner, Janet Clazzy, had to go to the post office yesterday, and discovered that the closest one was located in a perfume store.  (Yes, a perfume store.)  She walked in. It was crowded. But rather than complaining about the situation or finding it bizarre, she took the opportunity to buy some perfume for herself–because she suddenly realized that she was nearly out, and in just a few short days would require the stuff. So rather than complaining about buying stamps in a perfume store, she took a moment to discover how it might just be the love of God prompting her to take care of something she already needed.
 
I know that buying perfume in a store is not the equivalent to dodging arrows from the Sioux, but my insight here is this: if we tune up our ears spiritually, we can tune down our difficulty in the world.
 
If Custer had noticed his sit-ups–those warnings that come along, telling us to “sit up and become aware of our inadequacies”–or even responded positively to his set-backs–those times when people around us punish us for our obtuse behavior–he certainly could have avoided being dead in the black hills.
 
Can I learn from this? Can I take a moment to be aware of when my personality isn’t jiving with the present flow, and sit up and do a little bit of new mechanics on myself? Or will I wait until other people intervene and I’m set back–and from my position in the paltry, I am able to reconnoiter a better way?
 
I guess the message is, if you find yourself buying stamps at a perfume store, take a moment and wonder if you need perfume. To do that, you have to stop complaining about being in a perfume store buying stamps–because God can’t give you what you want if you insist on doing everything the way you are.
 
After all, if you could get it with your present plan, wouldn’t you already have it?
 
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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

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