I came across an interesting article the other night, and it moved me. It has stayed on my mind; more in my heart, really. It has made me think hard and long on the “what if’s” of life, about the warning signs I missed or ignored that, if heeded, would perhaps have taken me on a different path. It made me think of countless “maybes” and endless possibilities.
But I am sure I’m not the only one who goes on these wild goose expeditions. We retrace our erratic footsteps and wonder, once, if not a thousand times, if we had taken a different road, how life would have played out.
How silly! I know.
This is the gist of the Broadway musical “If/Then,” which played recently at the Fox Theater in downtown Atlanta. I missed it. It was written and directed by the same team behind the mega hit “Next to Normal.” So I don’t understand why it didn’t do well on Broadway. I would have been willing to bet that the storyline alone could have guaranteed SRO. But it didn’t. Strange.
Anyway, “How I Saved My Marriage” is a blog of sorts written by Richard Paul Evans, author of “The Christmas Box” and numerous other bestsellers and published by Huffington Post, an American online news aggregator. It is, as it says, “dedicated to my sweetheart.” It is a worthwhile read, especially for people with marital woes.
For those like me who are way past that age and stage of delicious anguish, it still drives home a couple of lessons very relevant to how we spend the rest of our lives.
The author candidly writes in the first person, describes how he and his wife struggled, how their personalities didn’t match, and that “the longer we were married the more extreme the differences seemed.” He writes that “encountering fame and fortune” didn’t make the marriage any easier.
Their fights were fierce and unrelenting. Both became defensive. Divorce was discussed. Neither could see staying in the marriage much longer.
It was while Evans was on a book tour and after they had a huge blow-up on the phone that he finally reached the end of his rope.
In his pain, he did one thing right. Evans recounts that while standing in the shower of the posh Atlanta Ritz Carlton, “I turned to God. Or turned on God. I don’t know if you could call it prayer—maybe shouting at God isn’t prayer.”
Have you ever shouted at God? I have. Haven’t you ever asked Him, “Why me? Where are you?”
Evans remembers telling God he couldn’t do it anymore. “As much as I hated the idea of divorce, the pain of being together was just too much. I was also confused.
“Deep down I knew that Keri was a good person. And I was a good person. So why couldn’t we get along? Why had I married someone so different than me? Why wouldn’t she change?”
Evans remembers crying desperate tears in that shower. And then it happened. “In the depths of my despair, powerful inspiration came to me… ‘You can’t change her, Rick. You can only change yourself.’
“At that moment I began to pray. If I can’t change her, God, then change me.”
And this was his unceasing prayer on his way home. “God, change me.”
“That night, as we lay in our bed, inches from each other, yet miles apart, the inspiration came. I knew what I had to do.
“The next morning I rolled over in bed next to Keri and asked, ‘How can I make your day better?’”
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? It can’t be easy. What do you do with pride?
Let’s think about this for a moment. How far can you imagine taking that question?
We are commanded in the Bible, in the book of Matthew: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Who is your neighbor? Look around you.
Come with me a step further. What can we do to make somebody’s life better? Seriously? You mean someone else?
How can I make it better for that family with a sick son and no money to buy medicine? How can I comfort the mother who just lost her child? Do I know her? Does it matter? How do I brighten the day of that homeless man I saw in the park today?
Evans writes, “The question everyone in a committed relationship should ask their significant other is, ‘What can I do to make your life better?’ That is love.
“Real love is not to desire a person, but to truly desire their happiness, sometimes even at the expense of our own happiness. It is to expand our own capabilities of tolerance and caring to actively seek another’s well-being. All else is simply a charade of self-interest.”
What can I do to make your day better? Can we fit those words in our everyday vocabulary? Are we ready to think of “others”? Do we even know how?
When I am down and discouraged and my day has been nothing short of stinky, am I expected to take the time to ask how I can make someone else’s day, not mine, better? Yes.
How do I break away from a lifetime of thinking only about me, myself and I? It’s time for a change and I pray, “Change me Lord. Open the eyes of my heart.”
Martin Luther King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”