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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “The Last Roundup”

As I’ve said earlier, one of the things I like about the Mane Six is that none of them are perfect, even when embodying virtues that we think of as perfect. Out of the whole set, the one who is one of the most “flawed” would have to be Applejack. Today she shows it off again in her stubborn pride, although she has a bit more to worry about this time.

While Rainbow Dash enjoys the status of being the most “loyal” out of the Mane Six, Applejack’s own penchant for honesty and her own pride leads her into a number of situations where she finds herself “forced” to be loyal. Both in “Applebuck Season” as well as this episode, we see it come out when she makes promises that she finds she can’t deliver on. In this case, her pride led her to make the vow that she’d use her prize money from the Equestria Rodeo to rebuilt the town’s gazebo in advance, which was a situation of “counting your chickens before they hatched” to begin with. Yet when that ended up falling through, her shame at her failure and her intent to make good on her promise led her to not only refuse to come home until she earned the money to pay for the gazebo, but to be dishonest about her situation to her friends.

Of course, the lesson of this episode ended up being that Applejack was being foolish…that her friends and even the community didn’t care about the money or if she was a 1st place winner…they just wanted her back home. I think these are the kind of friends we’d all wish to have…ones who value us for our presence rather than “what we can do for them”. It’s also the kind of friends I think we all wish we could be.

However, I think most of us have the same mindset as Applejack more often than we would like. As I mentioned in an earlier devotional, one of the big things I thought would make me happy when I was getting older was having a lucrative career that provided me financial security. I thought it would make me feel better about myself and enable me to be calmer and more in control of my life. It didn’t. Most of my problems were still there in spite of having money, and what few got knocked out were replaced by others. I still was missing addressing the important things in my life that were making me unhappy, such as peace of mind and a true feeling of self-worth not based on my income.

Yet I’m single. People in families have a much bigger problem. I think of my father in particular. He didn’t grow up with a lot of money. He came from a household where both parents had to work at a time when such a thing was rather unusual. One of his intentions when he got older was that he would have a career where he could ensure the financial security of all of us…that we could have everything that he never got a chance to have. To that end, he worked long hours five days a week and shorter hours on weekends. He’d be gone as soon as I got up and he wouldn’t get home until after dark. He stressed out continuously, resulting in high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and even nearly broke up his marriage to my mom.

As for me, I would have simply preferred it if dad had been home earlier to play around with a lot of time growing up, or had been at more dinnertime meals, or had tagged along on more events. I remember I used to think it was the greatest thing in the world when dad was around. That’s why I liked holidays so much; because he’d be there all day. But even when dad was around, he was usually so worn out from his job that he’d spend a lot of time sleeping, both from stress and, later, medication he took to alleviate his stress-related symptoms.

I think there’s probably a lot of fathers, and maybe just people in general, who were like my dad. They aren’t selfish or self-centered by any means…they’re just like Applejack. They think that providing material things or support is what’s best. How much “physical” signs they can give of their attentiveness. That such things are what matters at the end of the day.

Doubtless, most of us probably remember the infamous story from the Book of Luke, the tenth chapter. How when Jesus was visiting Martha she ended up working hard to try and make everything, presumably, “just right” for His stay while her sister Mary just sat at His feet and listened to Him teach. Eventually, Martha grew fed up that she was doing all the work and Mary was just sitting there and tried to get Jesus to tell her to help her out, at which point the Bible says: “But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'” (Luke 10:41-42).

In this particular case, Martha was so worried about serving that she missed the fact that the Lord was (literally) in the room with her. Yet, as with many passages in the Bible, I believe this has a double-meaning for us. After all, it’s highly unlikely most of us will ever be in a situation in this life in which Jesus will physically be at our houses. But it does illustrate how we can be so busy doing things with the best intentions or the thoughts of how important they are, and in the end we’re really unnecessarily working ourselves up over something rather minor while missing what’s really valuable right in front of us.

While it’s important to be responsible enough to do what we can to meet our physical needs and those of the loved ones we provide for, and I don’t want to discount that, what’s equally important is to spend time with them, lead by example in responsibility and building character, make quality time and memories with them, and connect with them. These are things that will matter in the future and for the rest of their lives; more so than whether or not they were able to pay for something expensive now. I have yet to hear anyone ever disparage or condemn their parents later in life because they couldn’t afford something for them.

Every good family member wants to be someone to look up to or help them through material difficulty. But it’s important to remember the things of lasting importance (being a good example, parent, friend, sibling; installing good character; sharing in their individual sorrows and joys; making events that are important to members of the family) are things that can’t be bought; they can only be satisfied by being there and investing yourself rather than just your money into it.

To sum up the analogy I meant in my title, you can earn enough money to buy a good house, but it takes a lot more than that to make it a good home.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for the blessings of my family, friends, and relatives. Thank you also that you love me for who I am and not just what I can ‘do for you’. Please help me to love others in the same way and let them know that is how I feel about them, so that they will do the same for others they love. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

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