Thorny…. June 29, 2012

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It was really a sweet, precious thing to do.

Last year, a lady who attended one of my presentations went home, grabbed her calculator and figured out from the facts I had provided in the evening’s dialogue that after my forty years of travel, based upon the normal amount of mileage to achieve that odyssey, that sometime in the middle of September, 2011, I would have journeyed my one millionth mile.

That’s a lot of scenery, folks.

When I started out, I did it with more brawn than brain. I possessed much more determination than the ability to determine what was always right and wrong. I was convinced that lifting all my own burdens was much more practical than soliciting fellow-lifters. Time marches on.

Now I find myself in the position of the Apostle Paul, who candidly told his readers that he possessed a thorn in his flesh. Although I have to admit I find his phraseology a bit too elusive and eloquent for my taste, I can appreciate the sentiment and share in the need.

I have always had a thorn in my flesh. Even when I thought I was superman, leaping tall buildings with a single bound as I traveled across the country, there was the obvious visual of being an obese man, lugging my hot, sweaty body through ordeals as I panted my way to completion.

I was never ashamed of it. I continued to play tennis, exercise and take on physical feats beyond the scope of my size until about ten years ago, when my body asked for a renegotiation of the contract and a deeper discussion of terms. Somehow or another, I needed to use my brain more than my brawn, my spirit more than my muscle and my inspiration to replace my perspiration.

Now I arrive at engagements with a full heart to share, but requiring other noble souls to help me get my equipment in the doors, set up and back out into my van afterwards. Once again–I am not ashamed.

I wouldn’t have it any other way–because I will tell you of a certainty, the most devastating concept propagated in the common drivel of everyday human philosophy is the doctrine of self-sufficiency. It is contrary to everything we know. It is counter-productive to relationship. It is without meaning or merit. Yet people will still insist that they don’t need help; they don’t need assistance; they don’t need ANYBODY to achieve their goals.

Matter of fact, we think that if we just had one more apple’s worth of knowledge we wouldn’t even need God.

It makes us unattractive. It makes us childish and oblivious to reality. I will be frank with you–I am a talented man with great humor, a soul for my fellow-humans and the God who made them. I am also completely incapable of achieving my own aspirations without the aid of others.

Paul said this was a “thorn in his flesh.”  But if it is a thorn, then like Jesus, I will wear it as a crown. If it is a weakness, then I blatantly display it as evidence of the value I have found in interspersing my efforts with those of others. If it is a sign of incompletion, then may I post the notification that when you enter the highway of my life, beware of road construction.

Here is the formula that makes us powerful in our lives on this planet called earth:

1. I have an idea. Please do not show up to the party without at least a bag of chips. Have an idea; don’t view yourself as worthless. Be prepared for your idea to change, grow or even diminish, but have an idea. The greatest turnoff to the human ear is “I don’t know,” closely followed, in second place, by “I don’t care.” When I arrive to see you for the first time, I will come with an idea. We will feast on the energy of possibilities.

2. I have some talent. Humility is not insisting that you are incapable, but rather, being capable and insisting that others bring their package along, too. I have a talent. I would never bore you with these daily writings to merely promote my fantasies or preferences in life. I have a gift and I have a talent. It is not the ONLY marvelous treasure available, but it is a few coins in the fountain. I would not bore you by trying to pretend that I am without means. I would not anger you by arriving at the party without favors. I have a talent.

3. But as you can see, I need your help. I do not have the ability to show up and dazzle you with every facet of my entity. I require your involvement. I show up absent of totality. I need your help. For me, I arrive with my spirit intact, my mind electrified, my heart engorged–and my joints creaky. Thank you for helping me. I send thanks to all of those souls who have taken an extra moment to literally lift my burden and allow me to share a thought or two that might have lifted theirs.

If you want to become annoying to the human species, continue to preach your message of self-sufficiency. No one is. Self-sufficient, that is. The best we can hope is to have an idea, bring some talent and be honest about the “thorn in our flesh”–and admit we need reinforcements.

I guess it’s what the Apostle Paul meant by the “thorn in his flesh,” although he insisted that God’s grace was sufficient. I would have to disagree. Sometimes God steps back and allows human beings to take over the divine space. It is very classy of Him. It is extraordinarily intuitive of Him on our behalf–to understand that we need to be a part of what’s going on. Because attempting to be the whole makes us weary in well-doing. I am not weary because I understand my weaknesses and display them with pride.

So let me be the first one to admit that I am a man with an idea and talent who has an obvious need for help. After all, it is a great American tradition. Abraham Lincoln, who suffered with Marfan Syndrome and was probably assassinated only months prior to the condition taking his life, still humbly had the ability to take his country-lawyer ways and stop our nation from severing itself in two.

Franklin Roosevelt, stricken with polio, still lifted himself to a podium to decry the injustice of Pearl Harbor and launch our country on a mission to destroy tyranny.

Weakness is sexy. It is our way of saying that we only become complete when paired.

I have a thorn in my flesh. After a million miles, my body aches. But like the weeble, I may hobble and wobble, but I won’t fall down.

   

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