Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…
Felicia and I were sitting in a hot tub soothing our tired muscles after hiking ten miles through Zion National Park. The Sun was getting lower in the sky as we talked about the beauty of God’s creation while planning to visit Snow Canyon State Park the next day. It was then that a bee decided to light on Felicia’s neck. She reacted vocally and instinctively as the bee was flicked off her neck, silently splashing into the swirling waters of the hot tub. The bee meant no harm, and bees are critical to the overall health of the environment, so I moved quickly, quickly for me is a relative term. With my hands cupped, I picked up the tiny yellow and black creature and placed him safely on the deck. He shook his wings to dry them as he walked slowly away.
But my act of compassion did not go unnoticed. There was a tree on the edge of the decking and on that tree was a creature who was looking for a snack. Felicia and I watched as evolutionary instincts played out. The lizard gracefully moved down the trunk of the tree, across the deck toward his prey and then in a single bite the bee was gone, a tasty chlorine-soaked bit of protein. Out of the frying pan into the fire. Mother Nature was on display, the survival of the fittest. Eat or be eaten.
My intentions were good, but in the end my good intentions did not save the bee. I have mused upon that moment in time ever since. As I review my life, I recall so many times when my good intentions resulted in unintended consequences. I had a friend once who needed money, it was not exactly clear why he needed money, but I had known him for years and he was in a bind. What would stop me from giving him some money? Was I afraid of losing the money, did I love money more than my friend? Felicia wrote the check, our intentions were good, but unknown to us our friend was caught in a cycle of addiction. Our good intentions gave him the opportunity to descend even further into the abyss. He ended up in jail and years later after he had cleaned up his life, he told me, “Giving me that money was the worst thing that you could have done.” We had good intentions; we were left with unintended consequences.
I would imagine that we all have stories of good intentions gone wrong. We try to help our children or grandchildren, sometimes we help them too much. If we over function we run the risk of stunting their growth, of keeping them from experiencing the consequence of their own actions, of carrying our toddlers instead of letting them stumble as they learn to walk on their own. We all want to help our children, our neighbors, the less fortunate in our society, or our co-workers, but knowing how to do that is quite complicated, it is a risky roll of the dice. Allowing them to become dependent on us is not helpful, it probably has more to do with our own ego needs than what is actually good for them. “If you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish, you do him a good turn.”
On occasion I talk with people about their estate planning. They wonder about our endowment fund, and they are unsure how to remember their loved ones in their will. I usually end up saying, “there are three kinds of children: those who will need your money, those who will have no need for your money and those that should never be trusted with money.” You can draw your own conclusions on that. Very few things in life fit nicely into boxes of black and white, we live in a world with a thousand shades of gray. Our good intentions will not always produce good results. Sometimes no matter what we do or how much we try to help, there is still a lizard waiting to devour our hopes and dreams.
I have no real answers for you today, the older I get the less I know for sure, so I will muddle on with good intentions and low expectations, I will do my best, living in a mostly gray world and trusting God for the rest.
After all, I am just one beggar telling another where to find a fishing pole.