At year’s end, we expect to hear and sometimes make New Year’s resolutions. One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to pay attention and not forget vacation schedules. Each week columnists have editorial deadlines for the Focus. The problem occurs when the deadlines are moved up to allow The Focus staff to finish early and be with their families during the holidays. This is certainly reasonable, but in the busyness of life, I forgot to write my essay last week until the night before it was due! Coming up with a thousand word essay on the spur of the moment is not advisable.
The word resolution derives from the word resolve, meaning to make a decision. Becky and I have been happily married forty-three years, and I’ve learned a husband should resolve to sometimes avoid offering advice. My wife is a beautiful woman and an accomplished manager of our home. Once, in an effort to overcome her frugality, I “encouraged “ her to buy some new underwear, joking that some of my nursing home patients had nicer undies. Mark Twain once observed that humor is the highest art form. And some humor, even if well intentioned, falls on deaf ears.
Similarly, husbands should avoid no-win situations or prepare for the dreaded conundrum, “Does this dress make me look plump?” Becky has maintained her figure, and is neither fat nor plump. However, I’ve learned that women see the world differently than men. As an example, lots of men see pregnant women as attractive, whereas women see something different in the mirror. Fellows, my New Year’s advice is to avoid the no-win situation of painful honesty versus a lie by truthfully observing that for example, “The blue dress looks nicer on you.”
In the last several weeks, I’ve written about different kinds of love. From four decades of personal experience and a medical career of counselling patients and couples, I can certify that marriage encompasses many varieties of love. And in my opinion, The Golden Rule underlies virtually all successful human relationships. In antiquity, the negative or prohibitive axiom was, do not treat others in ways you would not want to be treated. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus changed the famous axiom into a positive context, advising us to treat others as you would like to be treated.
I love pithy quotes and observations on the human condition. Corrie Ten Boom survived the Nazi death camps which claimed her family. Undisputedly, she has walked the walk and has therefore earned the right to talk the talk. She said, “Forgiveness is not an emotion, but an act of the will.” We should all reflect on this in our relationships and especially in our marriages because there are times when forgiveness is necessary and, most importantly, another aspect of love.
My formal education and training was in science, but my continuing informal education has been in the humanities. Of all the professors who broadened my educational horizons, scholar and lay theologian C.S. Lewis stands out. Expanding on Jesus’ Golden Rule, Lewis said that we should act lovingly even when we don’t feel it, and by so doing we will become more charitable and more loving. I believe this is an excellent resolution for the New Year and the recipe for successful interpersonal relations and a better marriage.
Another of my mentors is writer Philip Yancey. I’ve read a dozen of his books.
And, whereas C. S. Lewis’ thoughts are deep and his prose is tough, Yancey is equally thoughtful and his prose is beautiful and friendly. Resolve, in this next year, to read out of your preferred genre, and try Yancey’s “Soul Survivor.” You will not be disappointed.
Recently, I was challenged by Yancey in his essay, King David’s Spiritual Gift. Most know the story of the shepherd boy, David, who slew Goliath and went on to become king of Israel around 1000 BC. David was a leader, a warrior and a spiritual writer. Half of the one hundred and fifty Biblical Psalms are attributed to David. Though David was God’s man, he committed adultery with Bathsheba and orchestrated the death of his consort’s loyal husband, Uriah.
Humans place a hierarchy on sinfulness. Most would agree that murderers and child abusers are more loathsome than petty thieves or those who break the speed limit. A friend once shared with me his vision of God’s bird’s eye view of human peccadillos. He imagined God looking down from the top of the Empire State Building and seeing people walking around on 5th Avenue. From this perspective all our human attributes and failures might seem comparable.
Yancey imagines David’s infidelity and deceit as part of his “outer life.” Whereas, David’s inner spiritual life, as reflected in his Psalms, revealed a contrite and humble heart which God deemed worthy.
None of us can discern the thoughts of others. We may see in their actions their “outer life,” but none knows what beats in the heart of a man’s inner life. This doesn’t mean that Nancy Pelosi and Trump are not accountable to men for their actions. It does mean that we cannot see into the soul and that “Vengeance is mine…,” said the Lord in Deuteronomy 32:35.
So, next year I will pay my speeding ticket if I break man’s law. However, in my inner life (my heart, mind and soul) I resolve to stay true to the Master in this coming year and always.