Say what you will about the old TV shows: They were naive. They weren’t completely honest. They were sentimental. All of that may be true, but at least they attempted to foster the best of our hopes and dreams rather than pandering to our lowest desires. One such show was “Father Knows Best.” Robert Young played the dad and the comedy was gentle, but the show focused on a good natured father who really was a source of wisdom and example for his family. So, yeah, it may have been a bit unrealistic, but at least dad was the hero instead of the buffoon or the tyrant so often portrayed in today’s media.
Call me a bit nostalgic, but shouldn’t we desire the highest ideals instead of a false and narcissistic “honesty” that glorifies darkness? St. Paul was right when he told the Philippians “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8
It’s this missing the point; this skewed focus on lesser things; that takes our lives down the wrong paths. Losing the ability to set our sights on proper priorities and ultimate destinations sends our lives spiralling out of control and soon we look around and ask the question “How did I get here?” It’s a lesson I learned as a boy working next to my mawmaw in her garden. She showed me that the only way to get a straight “furrow” to plant our beans or cabbage, or whatever she was planting at the time, is to pick a point at the end of the garden and move toward it. If you looked down at your “plow” and the ground just in front of you, your “furrow” would be all over the place. It was only picking out a spot at the end of the “furrow” and not taking your eyes off that spot ahead of you that you’d stay straight! Turns out what’s true for planting a garden is also true for living a good life.
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Luke 12:13-15, 22-31. The Lord is teaching those following Him about just this very truth: It isn’t in focusing on your immediate success or possessions or achievements that is going to make your live fulfilling. It’s picking out that ultimate “spot” at the end of your life that will make your life straight!
Here’s the section to focus on today: And which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider. the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass which is alive in the field today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O men of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be of anxious mind. For all the nations of the world seek these things; and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things shall be yours as well. Luke 12:25-31
So, worrying about all these lesser goals is just like looking down while you’re plowing a field: your row is going to be a crooked as a dog’s hind leg! Your life is going to be filled with worry and disappointment and jealousy and anger and all manner of spiritually poisonous illnesses. Foolishly being gripped by this short-sighted living means you’ll never know the freedom of generosity, of peaceful trust that God knows what you need from day to day, and that unhurried confidence of knowing where you are ultimately going. Looking how God takes care of His world is meant to show you that God knows what you need as well! Do you see the power in this spiritually mature perspective? This means that every event, no matter how pleasant or how difficult, is ultimately a moment where you can learn, be shaped by, and assisted in your ultimate destination. And all you have to do is refuse to fall into the short-sighted trap of looking down at the moment rather than keeping your eyes on your final destination. After all, your Father knows what you need from day to day and He loves you even more than you love yourself. And His love is so much more trustworthy than any self-love we may have!
Today, why not memorize this morning prayer that has been such a wonderful tool for so many to help them keep their eyes focused ahead and not looking down on all the events that want to capture you and send you off in the wrong direction? It’s the Morning Prayer of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow:
Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day, reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that come to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all things are under your care. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day and all that it shall bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray Yourself in me. Amen.
Today, let’s set our focus ahead on our final destination and allow our Father to gently transform us into the person He knows we can be. Father really does know best!
P.S. I am so grateful to Fr. James and Kh. Linda Ellison for being my guests last night on Faith Encouraged LIVE. We spoke about Grief and just how our faith informs us how to pass through grief well. It was a very helpful program for me and I pray it is helpful to you as well. If you missed it, all you have to do is go to http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/faithencouraged/good_grief_real_grief_and_christian_hope and you can listen for yourself. Why not share this link with someone else who may be facing a time of grief? They will thank you for your thoughtful concern. Have a great week this week.