A few weeks back, my daughters came in for a visit. My wife asked me to complete one task before their arrival. One simple task. No big deal. This was to repair a bed in our guest room. It seems that one little strip of wood – the one which supports the bed rail which holds the box spring and mattress – had broken. I assessed the situation and told her, “no problem. It’ll be a simple fix. I know how to do this. I got this.” I got my ‘swag’ on. All I had to do was buy a couple of wood screws, drill a couple of holes and “Bam!” fixed. Done. “Should take about 5 minutes,” I said, “no worries.”
It kind of worked out that way. Sort of, anyway. In the end I did, indeed, fix it as described. That is, IN THE END! Two holes were drilled and the little rail was fixed back in place and it worked, but there were many complications. The screws I bought were too short, just a wee little bit. (I know I should’ve measured, but I chose to ‘eyeball’ instead.) I had trouble finding the proper drill bit. Then, I couldn’t find my Phillips screw driver. (I can never find the darned screw driver I need easily. If I need a flathead, there are four Phillips. If I need a Phillips then I’ve got four flatheads. Every. Damn. Time.) What I needed to do was at a very awkward angle. In the end, however, after additional trips to the hardware store, contorting my body in weird ways, completely dismantling the bed and reassembling it, drilling the holes and putting the screws in place, I was successful. But, my 5 minute job had taken most of a Saturday morning. I was sweaty and sullen. Nothing….nothing is ever as simple as it seems. I should have known it’d be harder than I thought. I should’ve known. It’s always harder, isn’t it? With everything. WITH EVERYTHING!
I’m a pretty ineffective follower of Jesus, but I try, a little, nonetheless. Occasionally I get to thinking about what he said or did. One of my favorite sayings of Jesus is this: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Simple, right? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is one of those Christian sayings that pretty much everyone, whether they love Jesus or not, agree with. Who wouldn’t after all? It’s easy. It’s true. It’s simple. I came across this simple verse this week and actually thought about what it meant, or at least, could mean….should mean. Sometimes thinking about things….well….sometimes you wish you didn’t. But I did, this day and my life got more complicated. I just knew I was gonna have to make another trip to the Hardware Store.
I think for most of us, we hear this bit of wisdom Jesus dropped on us and think something like, “Yeah. That’s easy. It’s simple. I want people to be nice to me, so I need to be nice to them.” Maybe even simpler, is my sometime interpretation, “Leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone.” We nod our heads in affirmation and go on about our business. But this day I thought about it a little longer and it occurred to me, “maybe there’s more to it than that. Just being nice, or leaving folks alone.”
I thought and thought and thought, and then thought of this. What I want, is often not what I need. To be sure, Jesus does not use the words “want” or “need.” I suppose he leaves it us to decide, but one is way easier. I would offer, that to give as we would want, is far easier than to give what we need. I think under the “want” category might come the “Being nice” and “leaving alone” interpretations. Knowing Jesus as little as I do, and knowing that again and again, what he calls his disciples to, is never easy. Maybe, just maybe, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” isn’t as simple as it seems. It’s not, I would imagine, not just about being “nice.”
So I suppose a good place to start in trying to determine what others might need from me is to look at what I might need. Well…that ain’t easy, or simple, and it varies from day to day, minute to minute. “Nice” is just part of it, and almost always not the biggest part. Mostly when it comes to what someone might say to me, I need honesty. Sometimes honesty is not nice, but brutally uncomfortable for everyone involved. Sometimes I need to be corrected. On the other hand, sometimes, I need folks not to be honest. I need them to say, “It’s gonna be alright” and to say it like they believe it. It may not be alright, but I need to hear that to get through the moment. Sometimes I may need them to stop what they are doing and come to my physical assistance. That’s never convenient. The things we need are rarely simple or easy, and figuring all that out isn’t either. It’s complicated and hard.
In a grand sense, though, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” shoves us into a laborious, cross-bearing kind of existence. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” isn’t easy, or simple, but rather, commands us to be engaged, and active, and caring, and doing far more than being nice and minding our own business. “Doing unto others” calls to engage others, actively and genuinely. I calls us to risk being hurt. It requires us to give the benefit of the doubt when being given unto. It necessitates humility, emotional, intellectual, spiritual humility. It demands honesty, brutal honesty, sometimes, with ourselves and others. If we are to do this “Do unto others” thing the right way, we have to nurture and care for, and develop, and cherish relationship with our friends, family, neighbors, everybody, and that’s hard at times. It’s hard, and takes more time than we think at first. Just like fixing bed rails. Just like everything.
Nothing….nothing is ever as simple as it seems. I should have known it’d be harder than I thought. I should’ve known. It’s always harder, isn’t it? With everything.
I’m pretty sure, though, that if we all were willing to do the hard, complicated work of this simple little saying, we’d all be better for it……..and nicer too.
Nothing’s ever as easy as it should be, but you gotta do it anyway. We’re in this together. Let’s look out for each other…….but I could be wrong.