My 65th birthday came with some astonishing self-revelations. I expected to somehow feel older. And I did. I expected to get Medicare jokes. And I did. But I didn’t expect to discover that I don’t know myself very well. I didn’t expect to begin wondering what makes me do what I do. I wondered about why I make choices, act certain ways, and don’t act in other ways that I think I would.
For instance, why do I look at and use my cell phone while I am driving? Distracted drivers are dramatically more likely to be in accidents. The statistics are overwhelming. Do I think I am “above” the statistics? I don’t think so… but I do it. And then I try to stop for a while… and then…what? I mean, I can listen to the radio. I like Sports Talk most of the time. I could listen to Pandora or CD’s or Christian music. But I look at the phone, even when I know it is stupid.
There are other times I do things I don’t understand. I really believe God is more powerful than me. I believe prayer matters. I believe He is a lot more capable of making life-changing things happen in my life and in the lives of others… but I tend to “do” more than I tend to “pray.” Now, I often resolve to pray more… and am actually 5% better at it as I write… but why? Why? What motivates me?
Recently I have been pondering the Temptations of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel. I found myself asking, “Why did He make those choices? How did He see through Satan’s very reasonable temptations?” Turning stones into bread when one is hungry seems harmless… or even helpful. Displaying one’s power in order to gain a following or assuming power for the purpose of beneficent ruling – both seem very helpful to the Messianic cause.
Jesus was offered a binary choice – you are hungry therefore turn these stones into bread. Yet, somehow He knew that the choice was far bigger. He knew that the issue was not food, but continued dependence on the Father rather than on the Evil One. But how did He know? How did He make the right choice? How did He see the larger perspective? How did He act on it?
When I told one friend about my phone addiction, he said, “Oh that’s simple… you have an efficiency addiction and always have to be accomplishing something!” That made me mad – mostly because I think he was right. So why do I worship efficiency? And why can’t I see the choice to read a text (which I do at stoplights only!) as a part of my efficiency addiction?
My conclusion is a simple one thus far. Jesus listened to His Father – every day, all day. Jesus had his “coms’ (communications) in. He was dialed in to the Father, so that He could do what the Father said to do and say what the Father said to say. He listened – closely, purposefully and dependently, aware that life was only found in that connection and the life that flowed from it.
Listening comes from a commitment to dependence. Listening comes with space and purpose and intent. Listening doesn’t come easily. I am hoping I can get 5% better there too.
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.