Life has tests for us. Like those in school, they come in categories. There are the pop quizzes, little tests that give us a running idea of how we are doing in life, and provide daily opportunities to score, or lose, points. Then there are the periodic tests whose scores weigh heavily on the final grade. And there are the final exams which can make or break us.
The continual, everyday quizzes pop up in many ways - being patient with the constant demands of little ones, being appreciative of the kindness of our spouses or significant others, treating co-workers, or more importantly, subordinates, with respect. These continual tests are important and directly influence the quality of our lives.
Then there are the tests that come along periodically. When those grown little ones want to live away at college, for instance, do we let them fly away or insist they live at home, simply because we are not ready to let them go? When an employee finds another position, do we genuinely wish her Godspeed or resent her leaving? When we perceive that someone has wronged us, do we forgive or do we harbor resentment?
Then we have the final exams, such as how we score on those ten rules written in stone. We can't say we don't understand what is expected of us, the rules have been around for millenniums, and they are quite simply stated. I love those new billboards that ask one question, such as "What is it about Thou Shalt Not that you don't understand?' They are signed simply - God.
I'm pretty clear on these levels of tests, although I have a few questions about them, such as wondering if we get bonus points when we follow the rules because we want to be our highest selves, rather than because we're afraid we'll get caught? After all, those ten rules in stone are succinct and we all know pretty much whether we are following them or not. But I struggle with another kind of test, one that I've had a few times in my life.
It may be that we just encourage a loved one not to drink and drive and she is then angry at us. But what if we cannot stop her and fear she will kill herself and/or others? Do we call the police? What if she is an airline pilot? What if she is arrested, can never fly again? These are the kind of tests whose answers are not as clear cut as the ten rules.
I've been struggling with this question of whether or not I am my brother's keeper for years. I have no doubt that I should help someone in need to help himself, but I struggle with what I should do when I observe significant wrongdoing. To date, I have followed my conscience, trying to keep in mind that self-righteousness must be avoided, as we are all imperfect, just in different ways. I am also a believer in the premise that all evil needs to flourish is for good men to do nothing. Finally, I keep in mind the saying, "Let go and let God," which is good advice, but brings to mind the story of the man who passed a beggar on the street and was repulsed. He looked to the heavens shouting, "God, why haven't you done something about this poor wretch?" A booming voice answered, "I have done something about him, I've just called him to your attention!"
How do we know what to let God take care of and what it is that he has just called to our attention? It is not an easy test, perhaps it is the hardest, but one on which we need serious reflection and prayer. I want to pass. Don't we all!
Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - The Shopper Magazines and Doctor to Doctor Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 39 years.
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