Saturday, March 16, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (50)

Today’s verses are vaguely linked by the unexpected: unanticipated changes in circumstances; sudden, radical changes in behavior; the moment when the thing on which you have glutted yourself loses its appeal; and the moment when you find you have become so hungry anything at all looks like food.

Hey, these things happen. We don’t always see them coming, but they happen.

The “Men of Hezekiah” Proverbs (Proverbs 27:1-10)

The Unknown Unknowns
“Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring.”
Yet another in a long, long list of proverbs that informed the teaching of Jesus, this one tweaks the closet uniformitarian, the man who assumes without warrant that tomorrow will be like today, or maybe better. The New Testament warns against this attitude repeatedly: “they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware.”

The fact is we do not know. Today may be our last. One person has calculated that every single day, 2,428 people in the U.S. die suddenly from heart attack, stroke or an accident. That’s slightly under 1,000,000 Americans annually, many of whom had taken it for granted they’d make it to tomorrow … then didn’t.

Moreover, it is not just that we cannot count on being here. A co-worker of mine who lost over $100,000 of his retirement savings in the crash of 2008 had to work to age 67 instead of 65, and even then he only retired because he was given no choice. Needless to say, he did not see either event coming. Hey, neither did I. We may still be alive and healthy, but our circumstances may change drastically from one day to the next. The wise man, and certainly the Christian, ought to plan for this and not remain “unaware”.

The Kisses of an Enemy
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”
The first line gets quoted more frequently, but the second is equally profound. The contrast is between an injury dealt in love and the fawning-but-totally-fake public displays of attachment affected by the disloyal. A true friend will tell you hard truths: about the world, about yourself, about others around you that you may not yet see through. Why? Because he cares about your long-term good, not just your feelings in the moment. He doesn’t want you to live in a delusion bubble, even if delusions are often quite comfortable. His frankness and honesty are marks of trust, and the measure of his confidence in you to do the right thing. They are acts of faithfulness.

The enemy, on the other hand, doesn’t want you to see him coming. The irony that our Savior was betrayed by an enemy who greeted him with a kiss should never be lost on us.

Changing Appetites
“One who is full loathes honey,
but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.”
All our appetites are relative. The men who most easily attract women are the most unconcerned about attracting women. Why? Because they can turn on the charm anytime they need to, so they don’t bother. Oddly, that often makes them even more appealing. Meanwhile, the men who are least able to attract women tend to become their staunchest defenders, and are often more unrealistic about them than women are about themselves.

Perhaps that’s why it’s better not to go shopping when you’re ravenous — double entendre definitely intended.

The Neighbor Nearby
“Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend,
and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity.
Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away.”
If the friend of your father loves you, chances are good he loves you by proxy; you are the child of the person he really cares about, and he will deal with you kindly for your father’s sake. Some people can’t handle a favor they receive on that basis. Their pride makes it impossible to be comfortable with such an arrangement.

But this is really very sound advice. When things go desperately wrong, a seasoned individual may have more resources than a brother. Moreover, when in urgent need, a person close by is better than a person at a distance, no matter the relationship. The advice here in both cases is to get over whatever reserve you might feel about calling on someone outside your comfort zone and do whatever is required to solve your problem.

There may be another point to consider, and that is that relations with the neighbors are important bonds to build. A crisis offers people an opportunity to come together in a way that nothing else does. I’ve learned more about my neighbor shoveling snow beside him this year than in any year previously. Now, when I’m not quick out of bed, he shovels mine. When he’s not home, I shovel his. That can’t be a bad thing.

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