I’ve always loved Stephen Colbert’s work.
It’s funny, but also smart. Words are powerful tools and he knows how to use them to make me laugh and think at the same time.
When I’ve heard him speak about his long-held faith, his words are simple, direct and true to who he is. He doesn’t have to talk about God when he is doing social commentary with an imbedded giggle for me to remember that.
Finding myself trapped in my building elevator may seem like a harrowing experience to you because you weren’t there. My ninety minutes in solitary, stationary confinement had its moments. But God is never far from any of us.
Our beloved elevator is a little bit like a fussy neighbor you would miss if they were suddenly gone. It is loud, doesn’t move smoothly and lands not quite even with the hallway floors. But it shows up when you need it and helps you get the job done as best it can. Usually. Unless it has a bad day.
On the Summer Solstice, our elevator had a bad day.
As I was on board, brining a box of books to basement storage, I was welcomed to share the bad day and console my old friend in its dotage.
Help came quickly and carried a surprise message: We had taken an unplanned side trip to the fifth floor. Quizzical, for certain, because it never felt as if we were going up or were stopped from going down. But landing on the fifth floor meant I was already among friends, people whose faces I knew and voices I recognized from conversations in the hallway. We knew each other’s names; we had shared stories.
While the elevator and I settled down for the repair expert to arrive, estimated at about thirty or forty minutes, my neighbors on the fifth floor brought chairs out to the hallway to sit and wait with us. It became an urban dweller’s equivalent of visiting with the people down the street while out for an afternoon stroll. We caught up with each other’s lives, heard about the new home a family had purchased and a few road trips taken by another.
When the expert arrived to save the rest of the day, he worked quickly, explained what had happened and seemed quite pleased with himself that he had gotten across town in pretty good time. We celebrated that with him, and asked if he could retrieve a set of keys another neighbor had lost down the elevator shaft a few days before. He was happy to help and retrieve the keys did before he left merrily on his way.
Although ninety minutes may sound like a long time to be in such circumstances, it wasn’t under these circumstances.
Yes, sitting on a box of books is not as comfortable as the chair here at my computer nor my sofa; it is, however, infinitely better than sitting on a floor due for cleaning the next day. Thinking about the laundry waiting to be done, another book I was reading that I could have brought along had I known, the uncertainty of how much time this was going to suck out of my day, all crossed my mind.
But so did the obvious work God had done on my behalf, even before I asked for help. There is no way out of and off an elevator that is stuck without help. I felt quite blessed to receive all the help extended to me from those so willing to give in abundance.
Sometimes fear does protect us. But, in moments like these, fear, or even panic, can also become an almost immediate, demanding companion. It you cling to them, they will brazenly push aside everything else, greedily claiming your full attention. Fear can make it very difficult for you to remember God is near and ready to help you in whatever way you need. God is far more pragmatic in solving human dilemmas than you may think.
Meanwhile, the elevator, which we have since found out was installed around 1950, is moving more smoothly between floors again. It’s still a little loud, but who among us is perfect? God is good all the time.
How do script writers imagine people who inhabit their stories?
While reading a blog post about script writing, I found it interesting that the author shared an important lesson he had learned about creating characters from Aaron Sorkin. Known for many projects, including the television series The West Wing, Sorkin had this to say about characterization: “What your character does reveals who they are. What they say reveals who they see themselves as.”
Perhaps the same could be said for those of us living in the real world.
What I hear in Sorkin’s words is not so much that our actions speak louder than our words, but that each gives valuable, usable information from which we can learn, grow and transform.
What do your actions reveal about you?
I invite you to take a few moments and stay with that question, without judgment, considering what you do through a usual day. If you like, jot some of these down, seeing what you see, again, without judgment. How do you feel about what you are seeing? Are you comfortable, happy, or maybe confused or surprised? Giving even a few moments a day to paying attention to your actions can literally be life-changing. You may make no changes in your daily routine, but you will notice more about how the pieces come together to create the context of each day. What will your actions create through you today?
How does what you say reveal how you see yourself?
I’d like to invite you again to take a few moments and stay with this question, without judgment, considering your thoughts and spoken words through a usual day. If you like, jot some of these down, seeing what you see, again, without judgment. How do you feel about what you are seeing? Are you comfortable, happy, confident? Are you confused, surprised, wary? Giving even a few moments a day to paying attention to your thoughts and spoken words can literally be life-changing. You may make no changes in how your see or hear yourself, but you will notice more about how your language comes together to create the context of each day. What will your words create through you today?
More so, particularly paying attention to what your actions and words reveal to you about yourself, as a Christian, can bring you to a sacred place you may not have expected was so near, so accessible, so ready to be explored.
What does how you live your faith, in both your actions and words, reveal to you?
I’d like to invite you again to take a few moments and stay with this question, without judgment, considering your faith as actions and words through a usual day. If you like, jot some of these down, seeing what you see, again, without judgment. How do you feel about what you are seeing? Are you comfortable, humbled, curious? Are you confused, irritated, wary? Giving even a few moments a day to paying attention to your faith in actions and words can literally be life-changing. You may make no changes in how you act, how you see or hear yourself, but you will notice more about how your actions and words combined create the context of each day. What will your faith create through you today?
You possess incredible power to shape your own life, to serve God with everything that you are called to be. “Then Jesus said to those who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” ~ John 8: 31-32.
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