Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wife Rule #143: We're Just Normal Folks

Despite the way I sometimes gush over the many virtues of my wife on this blog (and they are real), to be totally honest, my wife and I are both pretty regular folks. I don't mean to belittle her in any way by saying that. It's just that there will always be many--probably millions--of people who are smarter, more talented, better looking, more wealthy, more influential, more admired, and so forth and so on, than us. And at the end of the day, I recognize that our time on this globe will come and go and only a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the people in this world will even have known we were here.

I'm okay with that.

I was talking with an old friend last week who, during the course of the last decade since we have had any contact, has lost his faith. He no longer believes in the same things I do. He claims he no longer believes in God. We were talking about life and goals just a little, and he spoke of "trying to leave his mark" on the world. I suppose that when you deny the reality of an afterlife, there's no purpose left in this brief life but to "leave your mark" here. You're born, and just a few years later, poof, you vanish forever. No wonder he clings to the notions of worldly honor and importance, no matter how short-lived.

I understand how he feels, just a bit. I have been there. In the ambitious vanity of youth I once thought I was really something, and must be destined for something really great. My wife caught just a little of that bug in her earlier years, too. We were both high achievers, and the thought of just being "normal" wasn't really in the cards as we each looked toward a future of limitless possibility.

But with our youth largely in the rear-view mirror now, we have something that usually--okay, often--all right, sometimes--drives such ambitious (and to be brutally honest, selfish) thoughts from our minds: we have each other. We have a common goal and through experience, a much deeper understanding of our Heavenly Father's plan for families. According to the knowledge in our heads and in our hearts, nothing else really matters.

And I mean that: nothing matters in this life except doing all that is necessary to get our family--our personal family first, followed by our extended family, and finally the worldwide family--back home to God.

So why, during even our brightest moments of eternal clarity, do the vain ambitions of this world still linger in the wings, waiting for their chance to take center stage again? Why the hunger for the temporal, when the eternal hangs in the balance?

Do you remember the story of Jacob and Esau? Though they were twins, only one could have the birthright and the accompanying blessings and responsibilities. Esau came out first, with Jacob only moments behind; but the birthright belonged to Esau. It was Jacob, however, that valued the birthright and what it truly meant as the one to take on his father's name and role and care for the family. So he devised a plan to assist Esau in forfeiting the birthright: he simply waited until Esau was hungry enough, and then offered to let Esau "sell" his birthright for a mess of pottage. And Esau took him up on his offer, giving away a priceless right and responsibility for a moment of temporal gratification (see Genesis 25:24-34).

A mess of pottage. A meal. A quarter-pounder with cheese.

But isn't that all that this earth life is? Even the most famous, the most influential, the most wealthy, and the most powerful people in this world die, usually within mere decades of the flowering of their personal empires. When they do, their earthly power and wealth vanish instantaneously as they take their last breath. It is, all of it, nothing more than a mess of pottage.

God created this world to be the place of testing and trying for His children, with the sole purpose of allowing us to exercise our agency to choose Him and His plans for us over all else. He sent us away from home, out into an enticing world of distractions and temptations, so that we could have the chance to truly "test our metal." His plan calls for the extension of family ties into eternity, that we may emulate Him in every respect, "grow up" to be like Him, and carry on His work forever. He knows what true joy is, and He knows that it can only be attained by living the kind of life He lives. Of course He wants to share that with His children. He wants to give us the birthright. Will we take it, or exchange it for nothing, for pottage?

So what if my wife and I are perfectly, remarkably, normal? It simply doesn't matter. The scope of our potential together--and the potential of every single husband and wife in God's plan--is infinite. Infinite! As infinite as the life of the soul is, so is the joy of those who attain the purposes God created them for. As infinite as the love of God is for His children, so will be the love that a single couple can attain to, and share, and shower upon their own eternal families, worlds without end.

And best of all, there isn't just one birthright. The blessings are there to claim for all who will. So in reality, there is no competition. There is no shortage of reward. There is no reason that every one of God's children cannot have what my wife and I are striving to obtain. Jesus paved the way for us all. The way is open and free for all.

So when we "get in our right minds," of course we are happy to be nothing more than normal, average folks. There is a spark of divinity in normal, average folks that given the right care, will fan into an all-consuming fire of purity and goodness and light and life that knows no bounds and never ends.

Eternal life--merely an extension of the best parts of family life we enjoy here on earth--was made for normal folks like us.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Wife Rule #142: Give It Up (Or, Rumination on Socks)

The Sock War is raging: the battle's begun,
The odds stacked against me, it's now six on one.
The front is our home; sock-mines litter the field.
Each stocking a stinking, curt weapon to wield
Against my poor saneness, forlorn and alone,
The casualties mounting, and no one has won, yes,
With casualties, no one has won.

Why bother with socks? Reason gives them no sway.
My cotton-clad feet stand aloof in display
Of sound sense and judgement, of propriety while
Their barefooted, bohemian, naked-foot style
Prevails in our household; itself not a crime
Were it not for the sodden, soiled socks left behind, yes,
The sodden, soiled socks left behind.

They cling to the couches, flung carelessly there.
They clump in the cracks of our best reading chair.
They litter the hallways, the closets, the stairs.
They migrate great distance, though never in pairs.
They pile up at doorways, for who could suppose
Wearing footwear outside? For that matter, why clothes? Yes,
For that matter, why-the-heck even clothes?

Look here, there's a stocking; another is there.
Look around and you'll see dirty socks everywhere.
(Except when we're rushing to leave, and we're late;
Then each stocking's mysteriously missing its mate.)
And the laundry rolls on in its regular round
But when folding and pairing, no pairs can be found, yes
When pairing no pairs can be found.

So the war rages on, with no allies for me;
Even my normally-sensible wife won't agree.
With her love of the breeze, her zest for aeration,
Her sympathies lie opposite my frustration.
So the foot cannons fire, fetid fumes fill the air,
And surrounding me lie littered socks everywhere, yes,
Surrounding me, socks everywhere.

I'm simply outnumbered. I've lost. I'm too few.
What's a sensible, sock-wearing man now to do?
So I'll lay down my weapons, emerge from my trench,
And remove my own stockings, unleashing my stench.
And to prove my good will, though they'll faint from the shock,
I'll run up the white flag:
My old, smelly sock.
I'll give them my old,
Peeled-off, partially-rolled,
Dingy white, golden-toed,
Thinning, soil-stained, brown-soled,
Filled with stenches untold,
Chilling sight to behold,
Filthy squeamish,
And greenish,
And covered-with-mold
Give it up for my old, smelly sock!