Making Things More Difficult
The year was 1974. Many things happened that year. One thing among them was the invention of the Magic Cube. A man from Hungary came up with it. His name? Erno Rubik. So, of course, it became Rubik's Cube.
Much like other puzzles it can be a maddening exercise to work it. Much like life the parts twist and turn. Not at all like life there is a solution. With the right moves the colors line up. And maybe there's great satisfaction in getting there. Challenges make us better, right? Stronger. Smarter. Faster. Fill in the blank and add an -er. Maybe it's more than satisfaction. A "rush." A "high." We humans can find joy in the strangest things. And a lot of times we like to make things more difficult than they need to be.
In his book Everything Is Spiritual Rob Bell describes reaching a point in his life where he was exhausted. "I was trying so hard but unable to stay focused." Bell admits he was struggling with not wanting to be the pastor of a megachurch anymore. But he couldn't figure out how to get out. He is bumping up against shame. And, in his words, "shame is a master at those haunting, relentless inquires. Why can't I do it all? Why can't I be tougher, stronger, more organized, more strategic? Why am I unable to be what these people say I should be? Why do other people seem to be able to do this effortlessly and I can't take one step without tripping?"
Ever feel that way? Maybe you're prone to overthink anyway but now your brain goes into overdrive. Shame's questions call for backup and their cousins show up: assumptions, expectations, hidden messages. It's a bigtime family reunion going on in your head. And maybe you're making things more difficult than they need to be.
Bell's wife Kristen helped him out a little by asking something other than a "why" question. A "what if" question. She said, "What if you were an oil painter? If you were here to make beautiful and meaningful paintings, then we'd set up your life to be as simple and focused as possible so you could do just that." Simple. Focused. Some gift she gave him! What a gift for all of us to claim! Simplicity. Focus. Clarity. Being who we are. Doing what is there for us to do. Not making life more difficult than it needs to be.
Sometimes it takes someone else pointing it out to us. Thank God for those people in our lives! As William Sloane Coffin said, "All of us are called to love each other into all God made and meant us to be." Maybe a spouse or friend or therapist or teacher or neighbor or complete stranger will ask the question. And it will be just the gift you need.