Monday, July 16, 2018


by Sylvia Smith (writer), Atwater, CA, February 19, 2012

Somewhere in between we stop striving and start simply and humbly working, start loving, start watching for direction on where to draw the line.

Something in my heart was made for luxury. Calgon, take me away.

Somehow I think I'm not the only one. Much of advertising is devoted to spectating the good life, all those things we crave but don't have time for, or can't afford. There are entire television channels devoted to nothing but eating, or fashion, or travel, or the lush comfort of a beautiful home.

Sprinkled in between the costly and unreachable is the accessible and do-it-yourself-able, all possible through a few simple purchases. Just call this number, and for practically nothing you can buy it. Family around the table. The smell of home. Canned peace of mind. A quiet soul.

Truth be told, I am especially susceptible to promotions of guilty pleasure because I am an inveterate workaholic. My life is out of balance. Feast or famine, sweat or sleep. Little in between.

For years my career as an executive ate my life. I commuted to a distant university and back, drove for hours in the dark of night as a young wife, to advance myself to higher degrees. I never took a vacation unless it was somehow tied to business travel, even through the years my children were growing. Dedication to purpose, to be sure, but also a squandering of blessing.

Even now, as a high school teacher, with the promise of summers off and days that end when the sun is still high, I am bent over my desk when all doors but mine are long since locked, still in the saddle through the dog days of July and August. Every precious minute I have to sell, I sell. Not sure why. Perhaps I'm an addict.

So to salve the world-weariness brought on by my addiction, I spectate, and I buy guilty pleasures. Like tins of refrigerator biscuits. Ironically, this is so I can save time on pursuits like making biscuits for my daughter, on one of the few mornings we have together. Most days, she is commuting two hours each way to her dream job in the Bay Area. Just like her mama.

What's wrong with this picture?

"Strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leads unto Heaven, and few there be that find it." - Matthew 7:14

We'll think about that in a minute, but keep it behind your ear, and let it simmer.

We're believers, my two children and I. We all live here together. My daughter is a lot like me.

My son is the black sheep, the prodigal, so we think. He's undone by the excesses and strictures that come with over-commitment to worldly purpose. He's angered - overly so - by the small nagging duties of square living and commerce. He's hard to live with because you can't get too driven around him or he unravels. He prefers to bask in the presence of his loved ones, to work with his hands just enough to earn food for his belly and clothes for his back (which he has few of). To laugh at jokes, to watch cartoons, to play with dogs. To mow the lawn without criticism for which way the mower may have turned when it laid out the rows.

He's always hated video games. He's always preferred living.

Darn him.

That makes it hard for my daughter and I to feed our addictions. Perfectionism, workaholism, nagging. Spectating. My son, her brother, gets upset. We must handle him with kid gloves, so we think.

In reality, I think she and I have bought into hard-work, perfectionist, works-based religion, to an extent. I think we both believe, perhaps because I have taught her, that the harder the labor the cleaner the soul; the "better" the behavior; the better your shot at Heaven. That somehow trying hard will get us to the Promised Land.

But look:

"(E)very man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things (my italics)." - I Corinthians 9:25

"Cease striving and know that I am God." - Psalms 46:10

"Stand still, and see the salvation of God." - Exodus 14:13

Our lives are out of balance. Perhaps only a little - let's not beat ourselves up here. But out of balance nevertheless.

Somewhere between perfectionism and sloth is temperance. Somewhere between striving yourself to death and sleeping yourself to death is balance. Somewhere between self-righteousness and willful sin is forgiveness. Somewhere in the middle is a still, alert, and present soul, looking into the face of Jesus.

This middle place is strait, and narrow. Few be there that find it, prone to addictions and extremism as we are. Finding it requires a stillness and a patience, a humility, born of discipline. To find it, we must get strait. Look it up.

There is no more stringent discipline, in this culture born of striving, than to cultivate a watchful, humble mind, a mind that watches Jesus. Watches and waits, waits to find His balance.

I didn't have any tins of refrigerator biscuits today so I made my daughter homemade biscuits for breakfast. We had a slow and dreamy morning, between our bouts of laboring. Warm, crumbly, redolent with shortening, star-shaped things cut out with a really big Christmas cookie cutter because I don't have a biscuit cutter. Never took the trouble to buy one. Too busy working. My son does all the shopping because I'm too busy working.

"Strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leads unto Heaven, and few there be that find it." - Matthew 7:14

Somewhere in between, in the narrow place, lies temperance, stillness. Somewhere in between we stop striving and start simply and humbly working, start loving, start watching for direction on where to draw the line. How much is too much. How much is just enough.

Somewhere in the middle, we wait. We stand still, and see our lives unfold before us. We see the salvation of God.

About the Writer

Sylvia Smith is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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1 comments on Getting

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By Sylvia Smith on February 20, 2012 at 11:28 am

Note from the author - For some reason the second word of the title was dropped on this article, either in the upload or later. The title should be Getting "Strait," as in strait and narrow. Without the quotes, it just looked like it was spelled wrong. I hope you read and enjoy it anyway. It's about keeping balance in your life - a real highwire act at best sometimes! :)

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