If you have ever attempted to hack your way into my computer, you might have come across an error message informing you that your password is incorrect. Then, in case the hacker is me, and I just can’t remember the relevant password, Windows displays a password hint, “My Goal”.
It probably says something about me that I recently downgraded from something like “Win the Boston Marathon by 2007” to “Survival”. I know how to change the password, but not the hint.
I didn’t actually have any delusions about winning the Boston Marathon, or even running all the way to the mailbox in this life, but I can’t tell you the real one—I have some dignity. Point being that my goal was lofty and I didn’t even come close. My current password really is Survival. (I can tell you this because I’m going to dispense with the password tomorrow. Go back to thinly veiled threats. Get off my computer before I break your skull. Something kind and motherly like that. I’m tired of hacking into my own computer.)
Considering the New Year and all the ramifications therein, I thought, you know, I could do better than Survival, can’t I? So I’m lying there in bed this morning reviewing twenty odd years of goal-making history and decided that realistically, I should probably just pick one goal. One little thing. Of course, having failed so brilliantly so many times, I want to pick a good one. Realistic, worthwhile, maximum priority.
So I pray about it. I get out my scriptures. I do the ole flip through, see where you land thing. First thing I read, blocked out in red pencil:
Therefore I would that ye should be perfect, even as I, or your Father in heaven is perfect.
I kid you not.
He ain’t cutting me any slack.
Just one little thing, God. That’s all I asked.
Perfection, really? That’s what you want out of me this year?
Although it occurs to me now that in the verses immediately prior to the statement he made in Mathew, he was talking about loving people no matter what—that God sends his rain and sun on the just and the unjust alike.
Maybe he just wants me to love perfectly.
That’s a little easier to swallow than imagining myself keeping the entire preceding chapter, which lists mercy, meekness, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, purity, peacemaking, valiance in the face of persecution, saltiness, illumination to the world, good works, kindness, harmonious relationships, communication skills, generosity, and humility as things I might, in seeking blessedness, want to work on.
Not as easy to quantify as “lose ten pounds” or “paint the baseboards”, granted, but the plan of action and the pattern is clearly laid out there.
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, an despitefully use you and persecute you.”
I don’t actually feel like I have any enemies.
Maybe I’m going to acquire some.
Or maybe I withhold the full force of my affection from individuals who do nothing to earn it; maybe I need to be more magnanimous with more people. Not just ones who I think will reciprocate or appreciate or even just notice my kindness. Maybe I need to be more a loving person independent of how that affects or does not affect others. Like the sun that shines on the evil and the good and the wastelands in between where no creature dwells. Just shines because that’s what sort of creation the sun is.
Perhaps we see our own behavior as a tool to change someone else in some way. And when our kindness is mocked or shunned or unnoticed, we think we have failed or that somehow love itself is faulty.