I once read a book that discussed how people are motivated. The author theorized that people are compelled by varying internal forces, specifically anger, guilt, fear, joy, love etc. Motivations are tattle tails-our own personal poker ‘tells.’ They reveal personal truths about what we believe and what we value to others. So, for example, how I might act under pressure on the worst day of my life will alert others to my true intentions and character. I think we often want to hide these weaknesses, because we either hate being weak or there is a personal advantage to obscuring our agendas. There is a quote from a movie (The Counselor) that beautifully captures this idea. Westray (played by Brad Pitt) tells the main character, “Because you don’t know someone till you know what they really want.”
When I consider my own experience, I must acknowledge that fear has played a large part in my life. I am aware that fears can either be healthy or unhealthy depending upon the degree to which they influence one’s life. Like any slightly nerdy, fairly quirky (okay neurotic) individual, I avoid some things like the plague! Some of these fears are excellent fodder for the stuff of family legend. I’m the girl who refuses to make contact with the seat in a public restroom. I also flush with my foot and open the door with paper towel in my hand. My sister-in-law enjoys referring to me as Monk-a moniker I proudly accept thank you very much!
Other fears are something I am less than proud of. For example, I am terrified of driving over high bridges, which is ironic because our family seems to end up living in places surrounded by water. Our current residence is Aquidneck Island and there are three ways to get to the mainland: the Mount Hope Bridge, The Sakonnet River Bridge, and The Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge. One of our previous residences in Suffolk, Virginia bordered on the Monitor/Merrimac Bridge which was miles long! Any time I know I have to drive over a bridge of that magnitude, I am filled with dread. No matter how many times I force myself to breath, pray, and surrender, I am still flooded with fear. God always seems to position me in such a way that I am confronted by my fears which I am certain is His way of making me see that He is bigger than they are.
At any rate, what I hate about bridges is that the very second I drive onto one, I am committed and there is no going back. The fear of being suspended from a great height over a great depth causes me to absolutely panic. It is incredibly embarrassing for me to admit this vulnerability which I perceive to be a major weakness. I have generally learned that it is helpful for me to admit to being afraid. At least if my companion knows that I am afraid, they are usually willing to help talk me through it. Speaking my fear out loud somehow helps to dispel the darkness and weight of holding that fear alone. Often, if I am willing to share my fear, I learn that other people also have fears and that sometimes they are as irrational as my own.
In the last several years, I have begun to believe that Life is it’s own bridge! Life possesses it’s own fears as well and presents varying sets of challenges for each of us. This idea crystallized into my consciousness after sharing time with a beloved friend. I have learned a lot about her and her husband by seeing them face fear, and death squarely in the face and I’ve seen things about myself that I have not been proud of.
Priscilla and Chris are the people who embody that sentiment that ‘sometimes bad things happen to good people.’ Only, neither of them would probably think, much less say, that they are ‘good.’ Several years ago, Priscilla began to experience debilitating physical symptoms. She couldn’t tolerate changes in temperature, she began to experience weakness in her limbs, her life was limited by her decreasing physical capabilities. After two years of seeking answers, an answer was given, “You have ALS,” which is a progressive neurological condition attached to a death sentence. I suppose when one is facing death, there really isn’t any room left for pursuits that are unimportant.
During our most recent move my family and I stopped in to visit Chris & Priscilla. I don’t think I’ve ever been so moved to see a couple conscientiously approaching the end of life. Priscilla and I share a love of jewelry and I think it’s fair to say that we each wear some of our memories as tangible reminders of moments or landmarks of our lives. That day, we talked about fear and death and eternity. I realized my glass was half empty while hers is half full. We were talking about meeting Jesus, and I foolishly said, “Oh I can’t wait to see what crowns or jewelry He will give us!” Without a critical thought in her head, Priscilla immediately blurted out, “I’m going to give all my jewelry to Jesus!” Despite the fears that she faces minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, Priscilla’s motivating factor is not “What will Jesus do for me?” but is instead, “How can I love Jesus? What do I have to give to Him?”
On this side of eternity, I am forced to admit that I’m motivated by fear. I think to myself, “If I have to endure this or that, what will my reward be?” Honestly, that’s not pretty and it tells me (and others who are too kind to be judgmental) that my heart is not where it should be. The truth is, “it is NOT about me!” I’m on this bridge of life. I’m committed. There is no backing out or turning around. What am I motivated by?
As Priscilla stated, ALS is not like dying once. It is like dying 100 times and you die every time you lose an ability to do something. Needless to say, the substance of her life is changing. Her soul is becoming freer every day even as her body dies a bit more daily. My friend now has more need than she has ever had in her life. Fixing her hair and bathing herself are activities which she relies on others to help her with. I was amazed and encouraged to hear her say with absolute confidence, “You can not out-give God!” Even in this time of deepest need, Chris and Priscilla are not free of fear, but they are MOTIVATED by their love for Jesus Christ.
I’m so thankful that God knows me and that I don’t have to play poker with Him. I’ve already told on myself in a thousand different ways so hiding from Him is a waste of effort. He is already aware of my deficiencies and yet He loves me. Whatever pain I have experienced, God’s love continually supersedes the high tide mark left by life’s scars. Life is truly a bridge into eternity. With His help (“He gives greater grace”) I can be motivated by an all consuming love that casts out fear. When I’m gone, it is my prayer that people will know that I am a child of God based on seeing that what I really wanted was to make Him proud and to bring Him glory.