As a middle-born child, marrying a middle-born child, Cheri’s and my relationship, and our approach to the outside world has always held a large portion of making things fair. As you probably well, middle children rarely expect that they will be given special consideration, or front row seats to anything. With first borns believing they deserve it (and in fact, believing that any child born in a family after them happened only because they permitted it), and babies of the family truly living out their title (and believing that, being last born, they embody the ultimate in child creation, and all who came before were just bizarre experiments), middle borns usually just live their lives wanting things to be fair. They don’t cut in line, they don’t take the biggest piece, but neither do they tolerate any action in the world that looks like someone got preferential treatment. When son Adam was in pre-school many years ago, his teacher (the preschool was in the same church where I worked) came to my office laughing. I asked what was so funny, and she said that they had a bit of an incident where one of the children called another an idiot. After they settled things down, she asked the kids if they even knew what an “idiot” was. Adam quickly spoke up, and said, “That’s what my daddy calls drivers who cut in front of him.” Apparently, she thought that was something to be shared with my whole office…
Back to my original point. Two middle borns, living in wedded bliss, if they are not careful, can devolve into the international panel that renders judgments on the badly behaving people (read “cheaters”) of the world, and the existence of “unfair” in our lives. I can also tell you that the current pandemic, and its way of ratchetting up anxiety to almost toxic levels has a huge impact on the perception that this world just doesn’t seem fair, and doesn’t cooperate and that situations should be resolved differently, and lies, and bad acting and bad intentions and misuse of power, and on and on and on all add to the thinking, at least of middle borns, that people are taking advantage of a bad time and are basically failing as human beings.
All of that may be true, but now I am retired. One of the glorious aspects of retirement is that there is an entire section of my previously lived life, that was full of conflict and problem solving and bad behavior by some folks, that I no longer have to respond to, nor get involved with. In some ways, I have found that the static that fills my emotional air is turned down a bit. Maybe it’s the fact that I can, without guilt, take an afternoon nap if I wish, or linger over another cup of coffee before deciding what I will do with the day, but a different perspective seems to be creeping around the edges of my lifelong lived middle child life.
And truly, what the perspective has begun whispering in my ear is, “doesn’t matter.” I am finding myself, after rehearing an injustice, or trying to push a balance back in the universe when something unfair happened, that I suddenly stop the “all things must be right and equal” stump speech, and I say, probably three or four times very quickly, “doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter…” It’s not that I don’t care – it’s that is truly doesn’t matter. I can’t make everything right – I can’t fix it all, and I can’t control even the idiotic actions of others. And so – it doesn’t matter, because it can’t matter, and so long as I am caught up, bound up in singlehandedly making the world more perfect, I end up losing my life.
I’m not literally dying, but I certainly am not living, when I let the slightest nothing have ultimate sway over the joy of my day. I can’t walk around with my broadsword brandished, waiting to do battle. Because – it doesn’t matter. So much of what irritates me, or us, or causes us higher anxiety, or things we truly can’t change, or shouldn’t put such effort into trying to do just that.
I’m talking about short-term stuff. Mistakes, or thoughtlessness, or even bad acting most of the time doesn’t matter. Yes, it’s wrong, but declaring it so, and again, running to the war doesn’t make it go away. All that goes away, again, is my intentional, thoughtful approach to life. In a real sense, if I battle everything, then I am living accidentally, allowing everything that is the slightest bit unbalanced to unbalance me, instead of living out of a core perspective that I should spend the greatest part of my life fixing me, improving me, and asking for God to empower me with perfect love, and not judgment.
Then, for those long-term, truly horrible things, like hunger, and childhood diseases, and violence that is always thoughtless, I can let that matter, and I can respond in kind in the long-term. What truly does matter is that I live honestly, and lovingly, and offering my energy and resources to creating a more honest and loving world as a result. I can even do that in retirement!
So – let what matters, matter, and what doesn’t… well, you know what to do with that. Just don’t be an idiot about it…
Word for the day: Bajulate. The word means “to bear the burden.” Sounds kind of noble, and almost heroic, but its original term came from bajulare or bajulus, meaning to carry or the noun, “porter.” A “badger” was a sort of middleman, who would buy corn in one location and then “bajulate” it to another place to sell at a higher price. How does that relate to the animal, “badger,” you ask? Well, bajulating badgers were required by law to wear a symbol of their trade, or a “badge,” so they could be identified. Bajulating badgers always wore badges. The burrowing animal we know and love so well was probably given its name of “badger,” due to the white mark on its forehead – that looked like a badge of a badger. Aren’t words wonderful?
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.