While ironing the small gaggle of wrinkled clothes that had accumulated over the past few days, I watched an episode of Wife Swap earlier this evening. In case you are not a fan of reality tv (though I don't understand how anyone can fail to be mesmerised by the tragedies and joys of others' lives, albeit a carefully orchestrated and edited version of reality), this is not a kinky show with sexual overtones. They simply take two families that are very different, have the wives switch places and assume each other's daily tasks, and then see what drama ensues. The first week is spent living by the rulebook that the resident wife has written to the visiting wife. The second week, the visiting woman gets to introduce a new set of rules, reflecting what she believes is lacking in the current family situation. Can you see the potential for volatile situations yet?
Tonight's episode was about one woman who spent most of her time cultivating her art and personal creativity to the neglect of her children. While she wrote in her journal, the kids were expected to fix themselves breakfast. Of the 4 bedrooms, only one was allocated for the two girls and one boy. The other 3 were for the parents' use. The wife drove the only vehicle while the rest of the family had to get around on bicycles. The children were told not to disturb her while she painted, and their fun consisted of breaking crystal rocks with golf clubs in the back shed (and the parents thought this was a wonder of resourcefulness and commended it).
The other wife spent all her time promoting and catering to her two sons who spent 11 months of the year traveling in a family motocross stunt show. This wife said her life was all about her son's wants and needs; she proudly acknowledged this as her identity and stated that parents need to sacrifice for their children.
This made me think of the tension I sometimes find myself in: that pull between investing in yourself and investing in others; between a life of sacrifice and the pursuit of all that you were meant to be; between cultivating your abilities and giving your life for another's dream. One of my friend would say that there is a balance to be found between the two extremes; the writer of Ecclesiastes would say there is a time for everything. Some would say sacrifice is always the higher call, the way of love. But I have seen people lose their very selves by always placing themselves in the servant role, choosing the easy way of passive submission instead of taking a place of uncomfortable leadership, no matter how badly it is needed. I have also seen people so intent on serving their own vision that anyone who gets within 10 feet of them is caught up in their swather of inflated self-importance which demands and harvests every one's sacrifice but never offers its own.
I am not a big believer in balance. I read through the Bible and see a God of extreme justice and extreme mercy, of judgment that makes one cringe and love that leaves one breathless, of peace that swallows all confusion and war to end all wars. The concept of balance may be a reasonable one, but I do believe I serve a higher god than being reasonable.
Jesus walked through life with great purpose. He did not back away from who he was and what he was called and equipped to do. He did not turn aside from it for a second, no matter what was happening around him, whether people cheered or ridiculed or betrayed him, he walked steadily toward his goal. But this journey was strewn with service and sacrifice, greater than many of us will ever dare. This walk was not passive and weak, but humble and strong, sometimes offensive and violent, always inspiring followers while often inciting fear. This marriage of self-realisation and self-sacrifice seems to be a conundrum until ones realises that the prefix "self" is the very problem. It has very little to do with self. It is about giving your whole person to Love and letting that largeness make more of your life than you ever dreamed possible.
This is a picture of The Forks in Winnipeg, where the Assiniboine and Red Rivers meet.