Let it be known that quite recently, on the 18th day of September in the year 2017, I, Jason Fox turned 45 years old. How this happened is a matter of basic science, but it still feels rather odd given that my inseam remains several inches greater than my waist. Like most men who aren’t complete narcissists, I thought I’d have done more by now. Done what, exactly, I’m not entirely sure of anymore. I think I had some dreams or goals back in the day, but God has a way of treating one’s to-do list more like an Etch-a-Sketch than a recipe. At least that’s how it’s been in my experience – your results may vary. Mysterious ways and all that.
Not that I have a big bucket of jackola to show for my time thus far on earth. Although my wife being awesome has very little to do with me. And my kids being awesome has, at most, half to do with me. But probably less. Still, credit is a fluid construct in these instances, so I’ll take whatever oozes my way. Even if “oozing credit” sounds like a leading economic indicator of a pending recession or the world’s worst clown-metal band.
I have, however, managed to obtain a certain amount of wisdom in the past four-plus decades. Which, of course, is much different than knowledge. I have plenty of that. Perhaps too much as I rarely know what to do with most of it as I haven’t played Trivial Pursuit in at least 20 years. Then again, the more I know the better I write, so perhaps I don’t know nearly as much as I actually need to. But I digress.
I’m writing this simply because if I were to succumb to a steak, cheeseburger, or donut-based tracheal obstruction before the earth spins a web of one more day, there are a few things I would like my kids to understand. And hopefully practice when the occasions arise. Perhaps some of these are obvious. But if you take a look at the world around us, I’m not sure anything is obvious anymore.
The Golden Rule has nothing to do with quid pro quo. Christ’s admonition in Matthew 7:12 is to “do to others as you would have them do to you” (NIV), not “do to others as they will most assuredly do to you in return.” Don’t worry, you’ll still reap what you sow. But not necessarily in the way you expect or from the person you think. Just remember, you’re supposed to model the living God, not a two-bit wheeler-dealer.
When everyone wants to be first, follow. When no one wants to be first, lead. With apologies to Ricky Bobby’s dad, sometimes being last is precisely where you want to be. Always put others ahead of yourself. Sometimes that’s as simple as holding the door open (even if it means a family even bigger than ours gets to order first at Culver’s). Sometimes it may mean sacrificing your own fun to bring someone else joy. Do it anyway. It may be the nicest thing anyone has done for that person all day. Conversely, when others are too nervous, indifferent, or just unwilling to something that needs to be done, step up. Do the hard thing or the scary thing as long as it’s the right thing.
Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey. Life’s just a little bit less frustrating when you remember this. Also, flush.
When it comes to material things, the world owes you precisely jack squat. Sorry, kids. Yes, you have received and will continue to receive numerous blessings – the love of your parents and family, the love and forgiveness of your Creator, ice cream on a fairly regular basis, etc. But these are all gifts to which you have no natural claim. The rights you do have involve many important freedoms, but they don’t include a gift card to Amazon.
Be generous. Just because the world owes you zip doesn’t mean you should return the favor. Quite the contrary. Be your brother’s keeper. Because nothing says “hypocrite” like a stingy Christian. You are already immensely blessed, so spread the love and your time and your money.
If you can’t handle the small, you’ll never get a shot at the big. Well, you might still get a shot at the big, but you won’t have a clue what to do if you’ve skipped over or never learned from the small. Use everything as a chance to educate yourself and a chance to prove you can handle more. Remember, the least you can do should be much more than the least you can get away with.
Assume the best about people until proven otherwise. Anything less is cynical and sinful. If the only thing you know about a person comes from gossip, you literally know nothing about them. Also, stop gossiping.
A corollary to the above: If someone once proved otherwise long ago, assume they have, in the interim, changed for the better until once again proven otherwise. Your dad was not always the towering ode to sleepiness you now love and harass. Back in the day, I was a bit, shall we say, stubborn. And not in a good a way. And I worked with certain people who were equally stubborn. We did not always get along in the spirit of patience and graciousness to which at least I had been called. Such was life. But today, when I see one of those people on Facebook or, well, it’s always on Facebook, I don’t assume they’re the same person they were 15 or 20 years ago. I assume they’re better (or I assume my previous assumptions were wrong to begin with – same effect). In turn, I hope they return the favor.
In almost all things, quality trumps quantity. Even with donuts. Also, quality is usually better than quickly, as this rambling post demonstrates. But if you can produce something of quality quickly, don’t undercharge for it.
Have an exit strategy. This is easier to illustrate if you (Simon) have just squeezed your way between a set of stairs and the wall, but it applies to most things in life. Getting into something is always easier than getting out, so either plan your literal or metaphorical route in advance or make sure what you’re diving into is worth embracing for the long haul.
Forgive as easily and instantly as possible. To do otherwise is to act as if you are wiser than God. Besides, life is hard enough without dragging the weight of the past behind you. And no one will ever wish you were more bitter. Trust me.
Liberty demands responsibility. You were granted a tremendous blessing by being born in these United States. Our country has not been, is not now, nor ever will be perfect, but it is by far the freest society in the history of the world. Use that freedom to do good, seek justice, and live your faith boldly. Few in history have been so fortunate. Similarly, as a follower of Christ, you are free from both the power and punishment of sin. Again, use this freedom wisely. To do good. To seek justice. And to live your faith boldly. And do so even if your constitutional freedoms somehow, someday cease to be.
Be observant. You learn about life by keeping your head up, your eyes open, and your phone (once you’re 18 and paying for it yourself) in your pocket. It’s hard to make the world a better place if you have no idea what in the world is going on.
Your perspective may be based in truth, but that doesn’t mean it’s the whole truth. You’re just a person. You are not omniscient. So even when you’ve wisely discerned a truth about something important, that doesn’t mean you understand that truth, situation, or occurrence from every possible angle. Be willing to learn. Be prepared to be challenged. Be on your knees and pray for clarity.
Listen to your mother. Do this and all of the above will probably take care of itself.
Seeing as how I’ve already reached tl;dr levels of verbiage, I’ll end here before I devolve into proper shaving techniques or why you shouldn’t stop in the middle of the hallway. Any hallway. Ever. And let’s hope my love of red meat continues to be injury-free for the foreseeable future.
The bike in the photo was given to me on my fifth birthday. I managed to sell it to a restorer of such antique conveyances shortly after this photo was taken. The vintage pasty legs, however, remain pasty.