I love language, the whole idea of it. When you really stop and think about it, it’s flat-out mind reading. Very mysterious indeed.
Aside from the inner workings of how language works, I’m often amazed by some of the truly odd things that we get away with saying to one another.
Idioms are particular culprits. For instance, it’s always seemed peculiar to me that anything would be dubbed “cute as a bug’s ear.” Bug’s aren’t especially cute in real life, in my estimation. And even if they had ears, it would seem those ears wouldn’t be any cuter than the bug from which they protruded.
Another that has struck me as suspect lately is the idiom “preaching to the choir,” used to mean that one already knows or agrees with something just spoken. But since when does becoming a member of a choir somehow induct one into a club of people who are so upstanding that they’ve surpassed the need for continued moral guidance? In my experience, choir robes just seem like a convenient prop for hiding nips, knives and girly magazines.
Well, I am about to preach to the choir. It is a choir of one. It is a choir whose sole member is me.
Two weeks ago, I went walking along the power lines with my new friend Dave. We made our way along a trodden dirt pathway which lay in the middle of an area otherwise overgrown with all manner of jungle-like plants. It had rained the day before, and the earth under our shoes was still damp. In places, there were even sizable puddles that necessarily separated our side-by-side chat as we navigated around them, one on either side. The sun was warm on this open path. But soon, the road forked. We decided in favor of the right-hand path, which led into a shady wooded area.
The coolness there was welcome. Until I realized that large puddles plus shade equaled swarms of mosquitoes. Not wanting to seem like a big cry baby, I continued walking and conversing pleasantly with Dave. But the deeper we went into the woods, the bolder and more blood-thirsty the mosquitoes became. What started as a brush of the hand every so often became a dance of sorts. Once I reached full jig, it was decided that we should probably turn around.
Emerging from the forest, I kindly told Dave that I would remember our nice stroll with every darned one of the welts that now peppered my neck, back, shoulders and arms.
So far so good, where the “choir” was concerned. I had managed to focus on the positive.
Later that night, having counted seventeen bug bites on one shoulder alone, it was a bit harder to focus on the positive. More irritating than the shoulder was the fact that both elbows had multiple bites, which had swelled to the point that fully extending my arms became difficult. Still, with frequent and liberal applications of cortisone, I was doing all right considering.
It was that same evening, venturing out to meet up with one of the young guys I mentor, that I saw the first firefly of the season (at least the first for me). There it was, its greenish-yellow beacon flashing as it flew past my knee in no particular hurry.
The moment was not lost on me. It seemed much too early to have seen a firefly — not even quite summer. And I felt rather lucky, more in the magical sense than the strictly fortunate one. It was another choice of focus, I thought. In that moment, I chose to focus on that firefly rather than the mosquitoes.
Alas, here is where the preaching must commence.
In the course of my days and weeks, I offer a lot of advice (which is not surprising, given the title of this blog). And I wholeheartedly believe the things I “preach,” if you will. But there is a perception that, because I write about such things, I must therefore always be putting them into action as naturally as breathing. And that is just not the case. I can’t tell you the number of times I re-read my own blog posts, or chapters from my book, and think, “Oh yeah, I’ve let that one slide.”
In the case at hand, I told myself that I was going to take some time to share the wonder of that firefly through a blog post that night — both for the benefit and enjoyment of others, and as an exercise in personal quiet reflection.
Recall that I said this was two weeks ago.
I just got … busy. And I am passionately against being too busy to stop and enjoy life in its moments! Still, there I was, sitting in the choir and ignoring my own preaching.
Coincidentally, I’d also realized during this two-week stretch that I had not been asking people’s names as often or stopping to voice my appreciation of them as much. I was very tired, you see, from all of the busyness.
And, come to think of it, I hadn’t done anything new in weeks, either. Yes, new things (good and not so) are always happening around me, making their way into my space. But I had not been intentional about taking time for adventure and imagination.
I believe in all of these things. I think about them. And I’ve experienced the benefits of them first hand. I’d simply gotten away from them.
So here I am, also playing the part of the preacher to my very own choir of one. I hope the sermon hits home, as both a gentle reminder and an encouragement. Living life intentionally doesn’t just come easily to some while remaining elusive to others. Living life with purpose takes discipline and diligence.
What one thing have you been meaning to change, to remember to focus on, to reintroduce to your days? Don’t just sit in the choir vestibule, nodding your head and saying, “Amen!” Decide now to start “happening to life” again, instead of sitting by, being content to merely let life happen to you.