Walk Like James

As many know, I normally make no New Year’s resolution. Over the years, I learned that resolutions are ineffective and often go unbroken. Most resolutions never get past a week. One year I vowed to lose weight. “Don’t eat the ice cream,” my coworker pontificated at a meeting. “Where is it?” I countered. And there you go. Vowed to reduce pizza? Ate it. Declaring an abstinence from coffee found me four hours later laid out on the break room floor wheezing out between gasps to anyone listening that I couldn’t make it unless I received a caffeine fix. This year, I will try for a bolder resolution: walk like James.

To properly understand, you’ll require some context. When I started my current position, the job required a national security clearance. Over the course of several weeks, I carefully completed an SF-86, a one-hundred plus page Questionnaire for National Security Positions that details all previous employment, travel, criminal, financial, martial, personal background, all the times I used a restroom on foreign soil, and any other tales of woe I would to voluntarily disclose before government agents ask, “Hey dumbs**t. What about this incident in 40 years ago in a bookstore in Frog Jump, Tennessee?”

The SF-86 is the earthy version of the “Book of Life.” The keys to this document are honesty and sincerity. I envision that upon death, God issues all of heaven’s applicants an SF-86. Complete the questionnaire with honesty and you’re in heaven. If you lie, even to a minutia, prepare to spend eternity washing the outside of heaven’s walls. A coworker said I would have no problem, for he admired the way I walked in faith. I acknowledged the compliment with a smile. Looking at the extreme detail of the SF-86 form, “There are so many who paid the price for my faith,” I sighed, muttering to myself. If he knew ‘me,’ would my coworker still affirm I (the man am I now) walks in faith?

All of us have a list of sins. Somewhere hidden in the archival records of our life, there’s a record. I started documenting mine. Pamela (Guam), Brenda (Belleville), a friend (McComb), Karen (Chicago), Ed (Chicago), a bank teller (Chicago), Ethel (Chicago), a Holiday Inn cocktail waitress (Chicago), Joanne (Minnesota), Suzanne (Rhinelander), Nigel (California), Farrah (California), Virginia (California), Keena (California), Ann (China), Maria (St. Louis), Julie (Ohio), Julie’s coworker (Ohio), Roberta (Alabama), Ruth (St. Louis), Karen (St. Louis), Tim (St. Louis), my employer (St. Louis), a coworker (New York), and a few sorted other people. If you include all those to whom I was real a**hole, then by all means, consider me trustworthy.

Upon completing a life review several weeks prior, I understood something previously ignored: consequence. Each of the individuals listed above experienced some unpleasant results. Just as one casually skips stones across humanity’s pond, every skip (mistake) creates ripples. Every deed created consequence. With acute clarity, I now understand how I generated financial distress, reputational integrity issues, low self esteem, and worst of all, short-term psychological problems, some dysfunctional behaviors, and other unplanned challenges. Need examples, review some of my posts between 2012 through 2014. Truth is, all of us are learn as we go. Some consequences are significant, others not so much.

I once claimed that earth appears to be one elongated educational experience. If you look back into your own personal history, you’ll see the mistakes, consequences and untold pain. They can decimate to the core, leaving both perpetrator and victim emotionally and spiritually drained. Yet we crawl, walk and stand, recovering from such fissures in relationships, marriages, businesses, friends, and everything in between. If you’re anything like me, they were dark times. And for the longest time, I failed to forgive myself. In fact, I found it nearly impossible to look in the mirror and I never thought I could ever walk with God [like Enoch].

I envy Enoch. I read about Enoch nearly forty-years ago. Enoch’s whole life is summarized in Genesis 5:24. Need a refresher? Ok. “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” Done. End of life. Hebrews 11:5 further rubbed salt into my envy. “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, and was not found, because God had taken him; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” Of course, Enoch’s name means “dedicated.” Touchee God. Touchee.

I always meant to be “dedicated” but somehow lost my way. Besides living over three-hundred-fifty years, what did Enoch get that I did not? In short, Enoch was committed. In the period before the Flood, most men did not walk faithfully with God and walked their own path. Mr. Dedicated (Enoch) walked in faith. No matter what happened, he trusted God. And that’s how I failed.

Even though I promised a walk of faith, not one of the twenty-five (mentioned above) or so mentioned above experienced a ‘faithful’ walk. In fact, there was no faith. There was no commitment to god. I marched to the beat of a different drummer – my own. Sure I might have looked cute and adorable. But during the process, I pissed on so many that I lost integrity for others, for myself, and for my personal word (honor). I shouldn’t have done what I could get away with. I should not have short-cutted the integrity of others by applying half-measures and looking for rationales after the fact. As Stephen Covey noted, “If we can’t make and keep commitments to ourselves as well as to others, our commitments become meaningless.” I recently learned the owner of a business I was dipstick to passed away in January [2020]. I wouldn’t have been worthy to stand at the door of his memorial service let alone offer condolences. A summary of his obituary details this man’s walk in faith. 

“James and his wife were best friends and shared a deep faith in God. They lived to give back to the community, either through active involvement or donations. He spent time mentoring children, helping the needy, reading, walking in nature, and speaking in Business Ethics classes. His love for family, employees, customers was contagious and energizing. He shared his love with everyone. James was a great man, both personal and professional. He made everyone feel important and anyone that worked for him knew this to be true.”

God teaches we have a moral commitment, an obligation to the people who are important in our lives, as well as ourselves. Really walking in faith means affirming another’s worth, that walking with God is about knowing oneself and giving oneself to others. It is not about beating your own drum. That’s why Enoch was successful. That’s why James was successful. And that’s why I failed.

We live in a world in which it is quite simple to become removed, self-centered, and to forget that we are but one being in a vast, diverse and ever-changing universe. For a long time, I alone, charted my own small boat and became overwhelmed. And that is when I lost perspective.

So this year, my resolution will be to walk like James.



Categories: About Love, Do No Harm, Faith & Doubt, Life Lessons

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