I recently took a class in finance. NO, Don’t run yet! This article is not about finance! Take your breath and keep reading. Anyway, in this class I learned something important about finance that, for me, suddenly translated into just about every other situation in life; especially fellowship and breaking down walls. It’s about making an initial investment and I see it as the entry point to every other article in this series.
The investment theory
Just as a comparison (really, don’t run away); in finance the initial, personal investment goes something like this:
1. Save back $1,000,
2. Pay off high interest debt,
3. Build a full emergency fund,
4. Save for retirement,
5. Save for other goals.
6. Do steps 1-3 at high speed
So, even if it hurts, as it probably will; take care of the first steps right away. And down the road a bit, that initial investment will give you a buffer in an emergency; like job loss, health issues, etc. Those steps will eventually bring relief and the whole system will get progressively easier.
A click in the old brain
About a day after taking that class, a thought hit me while I was trying to clean up our home...
I was overwhelmed, taking more time than I had to render our mess into a manageable state. We don’t let messes build up out of laziness. We leave a small mess here, another there; just out of sheer exhaustion. And in a small living space, those little messes add up quickly.
Grace and I both work 2 jobs. I work the first 11+ hours of my day taking care of Jewel. Then, after Grace gets home from her difficult job, she watches Jewel all night and I work on this ministry until somewhere between midnight and 2 am or later. If you know what a full time, taxing job it is to care for a child; good for you, enjoy the love. If you haven’t had a child in your life yet, good for you; enjoy the privacy, sleep, free time and sanity. But with a toddler there is almost not a single moment of rest.
We don’t sleep much. We don’t rest much. We don’t get more than an hour or so of personal time a day. We have Christ with us and that gives us strength and joy; but it is, by far, the most demanding physical and mental drain I’ve ever known. So when coming back from a long day of chores, etc; It’s easy to just throw bags of traveling toys and groceries on the counter then move on. Same goes for a pile of receipts, a book, the clean pile of clothing, etc. It builds up and becomes overwhelming fast. Why? Since it’s frequently beyond exhausting to add one more task, we’re often not making the initial investment of putting something away immediately.
So what was the click in the old brain?. It's about how this translates into other areas of life, especially breaking down walls.
Examples of worthy initial investments
Take parenting for example; If I need privacy, say (hhehhemmm) in the bathroom, I have two choices;
1. Do what’s easiest for me and just tell the kid I gotta go, then leave her to whatever she’s doing and hope she’s fine while I have a bit of privacy. If I do it that way, it’s a crap shoot (pun intended). She might be fine. She also might be crying for Daddy while I’m... well let me tell you; it’s a bit comical, but fun it is not!
2. I take 5 minutes and set up a routine. Put on some music she likes, then build a small fort for her on the bed with some books and stuffed animals in it. We talk about being a big girl for a minute and then off I go. It’s much less convenient for me. Think about it; would you want to set up a fort every time you go #2? It takes an initial investment, but it works.
How about adult relationships? Is it not best to take the minute to call your friend every so often, even if it’s not convenient? Is it not best to give a gift now and then to someone who does the same for you? Even when it’s not easy to do those things, they’re an initial investment that pays off both immediately and later on.
The most important initial investment
Put God first and everything else will fall in line. I’ll say it again, put God first.. and everything else will fall in line. I haven’t just heard it. I haven’t just said it. I’ve lived it and I’ll testify to it’s power all day long. In this article I won’t get too deep, because I wrote about my experience here.
The initial investments that are more specific to this article
I’ve basically highlighted them in the previous articles in this series. But here’s where it all comes together; the best examples of what initial investments we can make to persistently break down walls:
1. Stop filling in the blanks; that natural human instinct to gather too little before judging others.
2. Check your tech. Your body, mind, social interaction and self concept belong to you, not that little rechargeable screen in your pocket.
3. Overcome self talk. The billboard does not have the right to dictate who you or the people around you are.
4. Think before anger. Think before hate. They’re two of the biggest open doors to the enemy and they don’t belong to us.
5. Blow right by the deception. The more you understand something, the less it can hurt you. That includes things that hurt you because you’re falsely convinced you understand them.
6. Be a conduit, not a Scrooge. Quite simply put, none of us are more important than the next person. None of us are truly self sufficient. None of us are immune to life’s worst.
None of the above are easy. But, just like the other initial investments in life, making the ones that break down walls will bring both immediate and long term benefits. There are dark, uncomfortable, unknown passages on every one of those paths. What will happen if I leave my survival up to God? How do I possibly act out of love when I want to destroy someone? What will happen if actually talk this through with my opponent? But I know from experience that these things can bring relief and benefit that goes far beyond the rewards of staying in our comfort zones.
God the Father, Myself the father
Grace and I recently took Jewel to her first play in a tiny theater, a children’s play. She spent the first half clinging to Grace and I like pet hair on a new black shirt. There were loud noises, loud voices and a spider that saved a pig from baconhood (it’s a word now). But the second half, she started it with a few smiles. She went back and forth between clingy to peeking out, wide eyed frights to excitement and personal investment. And by the end, she wanted to hang out on stage and touch everything.
At the beginning of the play we had a choice; leave and solidify the comfort zone for Jewel or stay and break her bubble. The latter would leave her with a new and encouraging experience. It wasn’t comfy, but the end result was a bright moment. High fives, smiles and hours of great conversation ensued. The alternative? Just comfort. I see my own experience in the same light. I see God putting me into change and new experiences the way Grace and I brought Jewel to that theater.
God presents me with consistent choices between comfort and long term rewards. I feel the dark, unknown spots that make me want to give up. But then I stick with my challenge. I hold on to the many personal examples; how God has never once let me down when I've made it through my challenges.
When it comes to my choosing the tasks on the list above, those that break down walls between us; I always find myself as the smiling child at the end of the play; reveling in the rewards of newness and even bigger comforts than the ones I’ve left. Most importantly, breaking down walls leaves me in a stronger relationship with God, and a deeper, more complete place in the webs he weaves.
Links mentioned above
My Toddler's Version of Privacy (tiny, funny video) - It's not just about setting up a fort when I need privacy. It's about answering constant questions through a door.
Putting God first (article) - The most important initial investment we can make.
God's Webs (Crayon Webs) (90 second video) - The more we align ourselves with God, the deeper he puts us into his web.
Being a Conduit (article) - You can't have an input without an output.
Walls, (1/7) - Filling in the Blanks (and Series Intro) (article) - Series intro. We feel the need to understand our situation to move on, but often times that need backfires.
Walls (2/7) - Technology (article) - We can end a relationship during a TV commercial break, or eat a meal with others while almost never looking up from our phones.
Walls (3/7) - Self Talk (article) - If the influence was as innocent and ineffective as it seems, it would have died off before we ever knew it as everyday life.
Walls (4/7) - Anger and Hate (article) - None of it makes any sense or benefits anyone. And the glue that holds it all together is deception, the kind the Devil uses every day.
Walls (5/7) - Deception (article) - If you can convince your opponent the real you doesn’t exist, you can stand right next to them with a smile on your face and hand on the controls and no one will say no.
Walls (6/7) - Money (article) - Is it bad to be wealthy? The question sounds simple enough, almost as if there should just be a “yes” or “no” answer. But in truth it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Walls (7/7) - The Investments That get us Out (article) - would you want to set up a fort every time you go #2? It takes an initial investment, but it works.
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