Maybe We’re Responsible for Too Much

Figuring out what matters matter

Obligations

I’m on the board for my local homeowners’ association (HOA).  It’s not at the top of my list when it comes to ways in which I identify but I’m not ashamed of it either.  It just is what it is.  I joined because Joe, the board president, is my neighbor.  About a year ago he came to my house and asked if I’d be willing to fill a seat.  When I asked him what the role required, he said it basically meant checking my email periodically and voting on some decisions, to which I agreed.

Joe does the vast majority of the work that needs to be done in order to fulfill the HOA’s commitment to homeowners to ensure an environment that is both desirable to live in and desirable to own an asset within.  That work includes covenant enforcement, community communication, and accounting/bookkeeping.

I asked Joe to come by today because I wanted a better understanding of what’s required of the HOA.  I wanted to to know what would need to be done if Joe got hit by a bus, and more so, I wanted to alleviate some of the pressure on Joe’s shoulders, despite the limited room I have in my life to take on new things.

Joe was kind enough to explain to me how we do our accounting; how we receive payments, pay vendors, reconcile accounts, assess late fees, maintain receipts, etc.  There were certainly moments when my eyes glazed over and my mind wandered to less demanding places, but for the most part I kept with him.  I’ve worked in accounting in the past and used personal budgeting software for most of my adult life, so I felt I had an advantage, though I can definitely sympathize with those would say they simply zone out completely when reviewing things like cash flow reports or an income/expense review.

My takeaway: there’s more to it than I thought.  I assume most homeowners are similar to myself in that they pay their monthly dues and leave it at that.  We assume it’s not that complicated.  You, oh evil HOA, take my money, leave me alone, and shovel the sidewalks.  Make sure the community grass gets mowed and send me a letter that I’ll burn when I get lazy and don’t pull in my trash cans.

The truth is that there’s a quite a bit that goes on behind the scenes in order to make the ship run smoothly, and though I won’t get more into here than I already have, suffice to say that Joe’s volunteer service to our community is drastically underappreciated.

Stepping Back a Few Steps

This got me thinking,  not about expressing appreciation for Joe, though I should think about that, but rather about responsibilities, and how many responsibilities the typical full-time working, tax-paying, Facebook-updating American man or woman tries to maintain on a daily basis.

I don’t have a very complex life, I think.  My friend, Matt, has a lot of responsibilities.  He has a wife, a full-time job, three kids, church-type responsibilities, community responsibilities, extended family responsibilities, and probably some other things going on while I, by comparison, have two dogs and a lawn I neglect.  And a broken marriage.

Like Matt and many American men though, I also have a home, bills, an aging body, complicated relationships, desires, dreams, a faith, friends, family, bills, dirty floors, a cluttered garage, neighbors, unread books, social media accounts, a blog, unfinished projects, appointments, trash cans, a high-mileage vehicle, bills, an unchanged air filter, an empty fridge, a seat at church, laundry, dirty dishes, unwritten books, ungiven gifts, unmade money, unassigned time, an ever-dying phone, unused potential, an underused gym membership, and overused XBox Live subscription, undeveloped political opinions, unadopted children, unprayed prayers, unused vitamins, unstretched muscles, bills, and a seemingly ever-increasing list of other societal demands and expectations that I sometimes–no, oftentimes choose to ignore rather than wrangle.  Because it’s a lot, and I’m tired.  Or at least that’s what I say to justify my choice to check out.

I don’t care about a lot of this stuff.  I mean, I know I should care, and I do, sort of.  I care about my Mom and Dad, and my salvation, and the salvation of those I love, and I want my desires to be God’s desires.  I want to read my Bible, and I want to have good conversations with good friends over good drinks and good food.  I want to be financially stable, and I want to be a responsible man.  But sometimes–like when I’m looking at what it means to be a responsible member of my HOA board–I can’t help but wonder; does this actually matter?

In the example of the HOA, what we (and by we I mean, Joe) basically do is work to make sure Joe Schmoe doesn’t park his truck on his lawn, and Betty Boo doesn’t paint her house pink, because we promised the other owners we’d hold the line against owners who might be temped to act a foo’.  Full disclosure: my lawn needs mowing.

But what if we didn’t?  This is a question I ask a lot in most every facet of my life, and I think it’s a good one to not only ask, but play out.  What if we didn’t do what the HOA does?  What if I don’t read my Bible?  What if I don’t go to counseling?  What if I don’t walk the dogs, pay the bills, go to work and spend time with friends?

Well then there would be consequences.  Choices render changes, and while I could judge those consequences as good or bad based on society’s expectations, the fact is that I don’t know the entirety of the story, which makes it hard to say what was for the better and what was for the worse.

I made bad choices that led to led to the deterioration of my marriage, but in the time since she left I’ve made–by God’s grace–some of the most important growth in an area of my life where I’ve needed it for a long time, and that is good.  Does that make my bad choices good?  I don’t think so.  But it does humble the judge in me.  So now, rather than try to judge everything as good or bad with as limited a view of the future as I have, I try to evaluate things based on how they fit with my desires.  Desires that I hope and pray are God’s desires for me, of me, and through me.

My point

Maybe we’re responsible for too much, and maybe all those responsibilities sometimes distract us from what matters.  I would suggest that eternal salvation matters most, because if it is true, nothing matters more, but that is not to say that date nights and time with kids and time in school and mowing your lawn isn’t also important.  You don’t get to be a shitty husband because you’re such a great guy at church.  But keeping things in their proper place is important so as not to become too anxious about temporary situations and plights.

My encouragement to you and to myself is that we would begin and/or continue to take time to step back and take stock of what matters, lest we get too wrapped into the meaningless minutia.

“And I am a Son.”

Forever.

God’s grace if offensive.  It looks at my works, both good and bad, and dismisses them, unjustly and unfairly.  The grace of God does not hold me to account as I feel I ought to be.  It does not reward my successes and it does not punish me for my failures.

That bothers me because there are times when I very much would like to be honored and glorified for what God has done through me.  I want the credit, and when I don’t get it, I pout.  Like a child.

But there are also times when I hate myself.  I hate myself for the things I’ve done, words I’ve said, pain I’ve caused and mistakes I’ve made.  What’s more is that I am not without temptation to recommit the same mistakes that have already shown themselves to be self-sabotage; wretched man that I am!  And it is in this shame that I turn to God, critical and hypocritical and demand his wrath.  I want his fury because I know I deserve it.

But God, in wisdom, mercy and love, does not punish me.  He accepts me as I am.  He looks at my mess and does not critique.  He does not call me out and he does not shame me before the crowd.  Rather, he offers to help.  He offers to enter into my overwhelming inadequacy and share with me everything that I need, including the ability to receive his grace.

This both offends me and brings me to tears, be it this morning on the prairie while watching the sunrise, or here and now, in my kitchen while I meditate on the truth.

I am prepared to be a slave.  Life is supposed to be hard.  But to be a son of God–to be welcomed into a home I sought to destroy by a father I rejected passively and then actively.  That, I am completely unprepared for.  That level of love and acceptance breaks me, and I am left neither proud nor ashamed, but only entirely amazed.

Repent and believe, for the kingdom is here.

The Penis-Driven Life

The hard life of meaninglessness.

The penis-driven life is common among men.  And the penis-driven life is demanding.

As an adherent, whether consciously or as is more common, subconsciously, a man must render himself continually worthy of attention, particularly that of women.  If he is to effectively live out the penis-driven life, he will work out often, not in order to benefit his personal health, but that he might be more desirable to the women who would appreciate this attribute.

Additionally, he will seek monetary wealth, or if he is unable or unwilling to achieve this, he will at the very least create an illusion of financial well-being, and maybe even financial prosperity.

A man who lives according to the penis-driven life will likely be outgoing, charismatic, and funny (or at least he will think himself funny).  This is, of course, just another means of serving the greater need to be noticed, as it is quite difficult to be validated by women who do not notice you.

Why Men Live the Penis-Driven Life

A man will live in this way not because it is healthy or offers long-term fulfillment.  He will live this way likely because he does not know a better way to live.  He does not realize or understand why there are greater pursuits in this world than that of women, which in reality is not a pursuit of women but a pursuit of value as offered by women, albeit insufficient and too often fleeting.

The penis-driven life does not serve a noble purpose; it serves the penis, and thereby the ego–a fragile yet very important component of every man.  The idea is that if a man is desired by many women, he must therefore be desirable.  He must therefore be valuable.  His character and his personal sense of identity rises and falls based on his acceptability before women, which is great if this life is all that there is.

It is, however, a horrible waste if this life is not all that there is.  If, perhaps, there is a life after this life–an eternal life into which a higher authority invites us and invites us to invite others–then the importance of being as irresistible of a man as one is able becomes suddenly much less worthy of the requisite time and effort.  The very simple yet very important question that confronts the penis-driven life is this:

So what?

So what if she notices you, or doesn’t notice you?  So what if she likes you, wants you, or thinks you to be an answer to prayer?  So what if she might rock your world for a night if in the eternal it means absolutely nothing, and may even be detrimental?  Sex is not inherently bad.  Quite the opposite.  But if it was created with a higher purpose than to serve men lacking meaning, it would seem important that we–particularly we men–understand this.

The penis-driven life says that sex, attention, and likeability matter above all else, which isn’t bad, unless it’s untrue.  If however there is something more important to be sought in this life and a next life, something more meaningful and satisfying, then the penis-driven life would be a lie; a distraction; a false high.  It would steal from us a greater understanding of our identity, and leave in its place a sad substitute that cannot adequately carry the burden of our need.

Women were not made to be used, and men were not made to be consumers of them.  No amount of attention from any number of increasingly beautiful women will ever be able to validate you in the way that only He can, because He does not love you for your looks or accept you for your career.  He loves and accepts you just as you are; in your worst, with your insecurities, and despite your adulterous tendencies.