Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | January 19, 2010

Day 5: Life is a Test and a Trust

Rick Warren says in his book, ” Life on earth is a test. Character is developed and revealed by tests.” He also sees life as a trust, that there is a stewardship in our lives. I agree with this view of life. We do experience tests throughout our lives; sometimes we fail miserably and sometimes we come out looking ok, even when we lose. I’m reminded of a story I heard of a newlywed couple honeymooning on a safari in Africa. Everything was great until they were attacked by lions. The bride was climbing a tree to get away, and the groom grabbed her from behind, pulled her down, so he could get up the tree first! I’m cetain this is a true story. His character was revealed, wasn’t it! And she survived anyway. I don’t know if the marriage did. We are constantly challenged in life when there may not be a great outcome, but the question really becomes, will we handle ourselves ith dignity.

Life is also a trust. This really changes our perspective. If you see everything in your life as entrusted to you to take care of, from the environment, to your relationships, to those in your care, to your apartment, from the very very important to the most mundane, it all becomes important. What a great responsibility to have learned something like tai chi, to be entrusted with that wisdom and knowledge, and to try to hand it down as accurately as possible. It amazes me to see people have no respect for the things of others, or even for the things they own themselves.

Warren’s question at the end to ponder: What has happened to me recently that I now realize was a test from God(I don’t yet see it as from God), What are the greatest matters God has entrusted to me?

The last part of that question was hardest for me because, while I have been the steward of some important matters–my father, the tai chi, some other people and things–even being the manager of a shoe store, all of the relationships–I don’t feel that I’ver been given or entrusted with like, oh, something like President of the United States or the fate of the entire world. So, how do we become stewards of really really big things, or do we just be stewards of the things that are in our life at the moment? Does it come when we are ready, or does it just happen to come whenever and we’re either ready or not? This is a great contemplative exercise. I have a greater respect for all the people and things in my life, and look to learn and prepare so that if something “more important” comes along, I can be considered capable and worthy.

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Responses

  1. “I don’t feel that I’ver been given or entrusted with like, oh, something like President of the United States or the fate of the entire world. So, how do we become stewards of really really big things, or do we just be stewards of the things that are in our life at the moment?”

    The bigness of something like the Presidency is an illusion. Try to imagine the President from God’s perspective. The President is big? The President is a man, just like all the others, one possessing something that the other people made up and claim is important. The office itself is neither here nor there– what did the man do while in that office?

    Another way to look at this is through the prism of WWII. Hitler became “Chancellor of Germany,” whatever that is, and used the opportunity to act out the anger, hatred, and personal inadequacies that he had rattling around inside him. Meanwhile, somewhere in Auswitz, some gentle and honorable soul was beaten, abused, and finally killed, along with millions of others. Somewhere in those camps were people who used their opportunities to help and comfort those around them. You and I might not know the names of such heroes, but we know enough about human nature to know that some of them were there.

    Was Hitler entrusted with stewardship of Germany because he deserved it? Plainly not, nor did the victims of the prison camps deserve what happened to them. I believe the chancellorship, from God’s perspective, is no “bigger” than the bowl of soup alloted to the prisoner. To us humans the difference appears immense, because Hitler commanded an astronimically larger amount of material resources and political capital. But material resources and political capital are both just earthly things, irrelevant to the justice and morality of any individual decision. The bigness is an illusion.

    Whatever you have stewardship over, whether half of Europe or a bowl of soup, you stewardship matters. To grasp after stewardship that isn’t your is folly, while to neglect that which is yours impoverishes. You might appreciate the movie “About Schmidt,” starring Jack Nicholson. It came out back in 2003, I think.

    • Yes, I agree, that we are entrusted and have stewardship in all things–this is a very zen concept, to do everything with mindfulness, making tea or a meal, opening a door, sitting in a chair, everything should be done with mindfulness and a sense of holiness. I would suggest, however, that for those who are given trust(or usurp it) over many things or many people, when they violate that trust and stewardship, their “sin” is so much greater. That is why we abhor dictators, corrupt officials, teachers who have the public trust and the trust of our children and who violate that.

      Perhaps in my “humility” I sometimes downplay the importance of the things I have in my trust, from the mundane like my car and my apartment, to the more important like the knowledge of tai chi which I practice diligently and strive to adhere to proper principles so that as I hand it down, I am doing so responsibly. I have also been entrusted with a contemplative spirit, and this calls for mindfulness, awareness, and vigiloance.

      No, I have not as yet been entrusted in some hollywoodesque mission to save the world from extinction, but my life isn’t over yet…

      • “I would suggest, however, that for those who are given trust(or usurp it) over many things or many people, when they violate that trust and stewardship, their “sin” is so much greater.”

        Well, the worldly impact of their sin is greater, obviously, but that is a tautology. Sin, though, isn’t a worldly matter, it is a spiritual one. If the magnitude of a sin were measured by its worldly impact, then acedia and sloth would hardly be sins at all.

        In fact, sloth is one of the dealiest of sins. (Sloth is not laziness, it is the active and conscious turning away from God. Its opposite is magnanimity, which is not generosity, but is a striving for greatness.) God wants us to become greater than we are, to grow. Growth comes with its attendant challenges and some people, overwhelmed by the difficulty, shrink back (acede), believe it can’t be done, seek to become even smaller, and retreat from God. Materially this amounts to nothing; the slothful person is dull and demoralizing, but not really much of a burden to the world. Spiritually, however, sloth is perhaps the most devastating thing that can afflict a person.

        http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3035.htm#article3

        So, the magnitude of a sin is something that plays out within the mind and spirit of the sinner. We humans can’t measure it from a person’s outward actions, which is why, for example, it is not for us to judge a man’s worth.


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