Peace, Joy and French Fries

4 min read
27 Jul

I've signed up for a plethora of "self help" programs lately.  From thinning my waist line to boosting my confidence, each promises success.  

I believe it was Dr. Henry Cloud of the Boundaries.Me fame who said that term is one of the stupidest he's ever heard.  Imagine you're drowning.  What are you going to do to "help yourself"?  Can you throw yourself a life preserver?  Can you pull yourself back up on the boat?  No?  Ridiculous!  Even though the category is quite expansive, self-help is an oxymoron.  

Oxymoron like jumbo shrimp or a definite maybe.  Uhm, if I need help, inherently the fact that I need it means I can't do it myself.  Oh my gosh, I'm reminded of a book my kids had when they were little.  Well actually it was Eli's book and he loved it.  The protagonist was Ernie from Sesame Street.  The title was I Can Do It Myself.  

The premise was now Ernie, a big boy could put on his own clothes and shoes, etc...  I would read the description and 3 yr old Eli would say loudly, "I do it myself!" and by golly that is what the page said. 

"Ooh, such a big boy!", I would respond... and he was really cute.  Until we were late getting somewhere and I needed to do "things" for him to speed it up a bit.  He'd give me that curmudgeon old man glare, not appreciating my assistance.  "Okay sweetheart, you do it yourself".  Ten minutes later... 

Out the door we went, pants on backwards and the shoes on the wrong feet.  But Eli stood proud and accomplished! He did it himself!  Never mind the pants were binding and his toes hurt as the right shoe went left and the right one left.  He wobbled like Stan, the skinny comedian from the 20th Century duo, Laurel and Hardy... lol  

Would I consider Eli's favorite book at the time a "self-help" book for toddlers?  Uhm, no, that's ridiculous!  In a way though, I suppose it was.  Encouraging little ones to be independent and "Do it themselves!"  No matter how many times we read that book, do you think Eli would have magically figured out why his pants and shoes felt better when Mom put them on him? Maybe, maybe not.  See, Eli DID need help from someone other than himself.  But that's okay because he was just a toddler, surely grown women don't need interventions.

So I get these great ideas that I'm gonna help myself, this way there aren't any witnesses.  I some how become convinced that "I do it myself!" I push others away, including God.  In the words of a wise sage, Dr. Phil, "And how's that workin for ya?"  

I honestly don't know for awhile.  I hold my head up, feeling accomplished.  "I'm smart enough to figure this out" is what I tell myself.  Meanwhile, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, I'm still walking around with my pants on backwards and my shoes on the wrong feet!

Finally it gets through my thick head, I need help.  Real assistance, not just a book.  Books are wonderful no doubt, but a book can be read, reread, meditated over and taken apart piece by piece and still NOTHING changes!  It isn't in the learning, the reading that change occurs, but in the doing.  The Bible even says in James 1:22, "But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."

Dr. Cloud made this profound statement in one of his teachings I watched last week, "people feel like they've accomplished something just by considering it." Imagine going to a fast food restaurant and reading the salad option on the menu. Because we contemplated the salad, we "feel" we did a good thing and order something fattening.  

I've realized when I'm opening up the mail, I'll read the contents about the ministry and the request for financial support.  I agree with their cause and think I can spare a few dollars next pay day.  So I put the letter in the bill pile and feel pretty good about supporting such a great cause.  When payday rolls around, I pay the bills. I see how little money remains until next pay check.   Then I throw the financial request in the burn pile. 

What? I'm a good person!  I considered it, didn't I?  Meanwhile the 503c buckles under the financial pressure. 

So let's say a goal would be to have more peace and joy in life.  Just like my car, my body is a container to hold commodities.  If my car was out of gas could I just go to a Tony Robbins website and repeat wonderful empowering statements?  "Car, fill up with gas!  You now have a full tank of premium gasoline!"  Does anyone think this will work?  So why would we be any different?  I can say a hundred times, "Tracy, fill up with peace and joy!"  That's not gonna work any better than my car's fuel tank filling up with gas because I say so. 

No, instead I have to take my car to the gas station, take the handle out of the gas pump, put into the opening of my gas tank and squeeze the handle.  

So how do I take my body to the peace station?  How do I take my soul to the joy station?  Where's the handle to pop open the door to my heart?  Here's where the physical realm and the invisible realm part ways.  We can't use the physical realm to address emotional and spiritual lacking, even though the latter can effect the former.  Never the less, I don't think I can manufacture something that doesn't initially exist.  

Like forgiveness for example, I can't give what I don't have. Right?  There are some people who haven't asked for forgiveness, whatever the reason.  I don't expect them to be able to forgive me if I have offended them because they've never received it.  It's frustrating for sure, but understandable.  

Can the same be said for peace and joy?  If you don't have it on the inside are you able to display it externally?  I don't think so.  You can make people laugh, tell a funny joke or make a funny face.  But when real community is sought after, can you be there?  Can you hold, hug and cry with someone who is in a real painful season in their life?  So many of us don't know how to be with someone when they're really hurting, so we pretend we don't know it's happening. 

Something that really amazes me is when I go help my aunt or someone else with a burden they're carrying, I get energized, even if I was struggling just getting there.  Volunteering for The Salvation Army's Soup Kitchen and usher duty at church is also fulfilling.  Isn't it just like God to set things up backwards?  If you want more of something, give what little you have away.  It doesn't make sense to the physical mind, and yet, this is how it works.

If you need more peace or joy, get yourself off your mind for awhile.  Go help someone else and in doing so, you will help yourself.  It's kinda like the brain tricking itself to think that if it contemplated the salad, meant to send in a donation, we don't have to and still think we've done a good thing.  (The path to hell is paved with good intentions.)

This real path is visible and wrought with good works.  Stuff we actually can see and can take inventory.  Accountability, being part of something bigger then us, is awesome.  We can be connected to each other and to God.  It is in giving of our time, energy, talents and money that has the potential of filling our joy and peace tanks.  

When we have meaning and purpose, our hearts can rest from worry and anxiety.  It feels good to know that because I exist, I ease the burden of another living creature, albeit human or not.  What are you passionate about?  Do you have local ministries in your area that could use help?  How about the Humane Society?  What about your local school or church?  Is the soup kitchen or crisis pregnancy center looking for volunteers? 

Even in this current sequestering, you could call or knock on your elderly neighbors door to see if they need anything.  Maybe do their grocery shopping or cut their grass.  See if they are lonely and would like company.  Sit outside, six feet apart and enjoy an ice tea or soda.  You'll be amazed how these little acts of kindness are like little trips to the "Peace and/or Joy" Station.  

So friend, when you need help, go help someone else.  When you're running low on peace and joy, go give the little you have to someone else.  Show up, sign up and give a contribution to a cause you believe in.  And by all means, every once in a while, order the french fries.  

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