The Balance Sheet

In the Summer of 2011, I prayed what one of my friends called a “dangerous prayer.”  I felt like I had just lost out on an opportunity to serve God to the fullest, so I set out to make it right.  “Use me, God,” I prayed.  “Let me see others through Your eyes, and bring me to the people You want me to reach.”  I memorized the lyrics to Brandon Heath’s “Give me Your Eyes,” and that was the basis for my over-arching prayer.

The reason this prayer was “dangerous” was because I knew I couldn’t say those words and pray with that mindset unless I was truly ready for God to answer.  As my friend explained: “Don’t pray a prayer like that unless you’re ready to be stretched… for God to truly use you in that way.”  And let me tell you, He certainly didn’t let me take the easy way out.  Before the Summer’s end, I was prepared to direct camp for another year, mentoring a musician with disabilities, befriending someone from church who needed encouragement, and contemplating music lessons with someone outside of my usual circle of acquaintances.

In some ways, my prayer that God would use me went beyond just seeing others through His eyes.  It was in response to a lost battle with the balance sheet— you know that internal weighing of the pros and cons?  Well, I had lost out.  I weighed all of my options regarding an opportunity I was considering, and in the end, I had decided it wasn’t worth the risk.  I told God it would be too hard, beyond my resources, and that someone else could do it.  Basically, the cons outweighed the pros.  With it all settled in my mind, I thought I would feel better, but I didn’t.  The guilt was intense.  Maybe I had given up too quickly.  After all, there can be no reward if there isn’t some kind of struggle first.

In the end, I walked away from the opportunity because I was afraid to love— to give of myself beyond the surface level.  I could have had the opportunity to extend hope to someone who desperately needed it, but in walking away, I decided that it wasn’t worth the risk.  Love is a powerful thing, and I wasn’t willing to invest in someone without the promise of a guaranteed reward.  Before entering in, I wanted to know that it would all turn out okay— that I wouldn’t be hurt in the process.  It’s always a good thing to guard your heart, but did I go too far to protect myself?

Recently, I caught the last half of one of my favorite movies as it aired on TV.  In the 1997 film My Best Friend’s Wedding, Julia Roberts’ character is on a mission.  She has discovered that after nine years, she is madly in love with her best friend.  The only problem is that her best friend, Michael, has decided to marry someone else.  Cameron Diaz’s character is perfect and perky, almost to the degree that Julia Robert’s character is irritated.  In the four days before the wedding, she is bound and determined to confess her love to Michael and break up the soon-to-be-married couple.  As the movie progresses, however, Julia Roberts’ character begins to catch glimpses of the love that exists between her best friend and the woman he loves.

While standing in close quarters inside an elevator, Julia Roberts’ character proceeds to list off several of Michael’s faults, hoping to deter Cameron Diaz’s character from marrying him.  But the plan backfires.  Instead of being appalled by her future husband’s faults, Cameron Diaz’s character confesses that she is in love with Michael, no matter his idiosyncrasies.  She even goes so far to say that she threw away the balance sheet because she loves him, essentially saying that nothing could sway her from marrying him— even though there is a loud rattle when he snores and he slurps his soup.

Even though we’re talking about a movie here with created characters and personalities, it is remarkable how we all respond differently to making decisions.  Rather than siding with pros or cons, Cameron Diaz’s character decided to leave it all behind.  Apparently, falling in love didn’t need to be weighed on a scale.  She knew what she wanted and that was Michael, in a sense choosing to marry him for better or worse.

Why does it seem so easy for some people?  I may not physically make a balance sheet with all of my options outlined, but I seem to carry those pros and cons in my head.  Sometimes, all it takes is one big con to derail everything.  Something that once seemed promising is quickly thrown out the window because it costs too much— either financially or emotionally.  In fact, such a scenario played out when I decided to resign from directing Camp.  I may not have written down every reasoning for whether I should stay or go, but my mind and heart were abuzz with all of the implications.  How much was I willing to risk in the name of love?  As I said in a previous post, my main struggle was focused on whether to stay because I loved the program so much or leave the program with that same love intact before guilt could make me stay out more year out of obligation.

I will definitely say that choosing to leave Camp was a much better decision than the one that sent me into a tailspin back in 2011.  I left knowing that I had done the right thing, even though it hurt.  In the past few years, I have made a conscious effort to invest in people— to love without boundaries, to look past that black-and-white matter to sit in the gray for awhile, to have those difficult conversations to speak the truth in love, to encourage growth and development in the lives of the elderly and peers with disabilities, and to open myself up to the unexpected.  Maybe someday, I’ll even fall in love.  But until that day, I am choosing to take things at face-value, to invest even though there might be a risk to my heart, and to throw the balance sheet aside.

It has been said that Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) often carried a card in his pocket that said the following: “You can learn to love anybody once you know their story.”  And it’s so true.  So if you are like me, fighting that battle with the balance sheet, especially when it comes to love, have no fear.  Everyone has a story, and once we dig deep enough to find it, we can let some of those cons go by the wayside.  Like Cameron Diaz’s character, we can embrace love even though those obstacles or cons stand in the way.  It may have been quoted that “love is a decision,” but it doesn’t have to be so complicated.

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