We got the call at 6:37am to "come quickly." Instantly, I knew it was my mother in law, calling about Debbie's Dad, and something urgent about his lengthy fight with cancer. The next hour was spent canceling appointments, trying desperately to tie down loose ends and rocket out the door to the DFW metroplex. I had some stuff that had to be dropped at my office, and was praying that this errand would not be the difference between getting there in time or not. Thankfully, we got there in time. Plenty of time, in fact, for me to sit at the feet of a teacher I like to avoid, but cannot.
As much as I like to call Wisdom my chosen lady, my mistress is "Stuff Maintenance." Ever the jealous jilted one, Wisdom likes to bring her big linebacker sized brother "Pain" to remind me which of these two I'm supposed to be committed to. For some reason this concept that pain is the only teacher you cannot ignore has been rolling around inside my head for a couple of weeks. But...then Stuff Maintenance puts on some smoky eye shadow, or shows a little leg or something and I get distracted once again...Am I making a living, or courting that mistress?
Well, though she did delay our exit a bit, the mistress didn't make the trip to Dallas.
As we sat in the "rehab center" (a cleverly disguised nursing home with the most upbeat staff and nice environment of any I've ever seen), Debbie and I gave some thought to whether or not to allow the kids to see her Dad, and how they would remember him. He lay on that hospital bed and looked pretty tough, with heavy, labored breathing. I've been trying to allow Scott a little more autonomy since he turned 10, so I gave him the choice, and he chose to go in with me and see Ray. Wisdom snuck in behind us after a couple of minutes too.
As I sat in a chair next to Ray's bed, with Scotty in my lap, I saw him gently take Ray's hand. I heard a whisper from the foggy parts of my conscience that said "There's no pretense here." All the layers of ego, pride, accomplishment, and whatever else we use to define our identity just fell off like the outer layers of a cooked onion. Wisdom narrowed my view to a little boy delicately holding his grandpa's hand during an exit and then I thought of an entrance where Jesus would take the same hand in his.
It was tough to watch, but freeing in a way. The thought of leaving the cares of this life behind for real...I mean REALLY leaving them behind...forever. Wisdom's brother Pain held my attention as I wondered how Scotty's little heart was breaking, but Pain's other sister, Compassion, made an appearance as well. My young man just sat there with Ray's hand in his, quietly. Pain squeezed my throat the way he does when a guy chokes back tears, but Compassion placed her hand on my shoulder. Wisdom whispered again, "What will matter when that's your hand in Scott's?"
It's hard to collect these thoughts into a coherent essay. But there's a thread of this concept that runs throughout my life and the other notes that I have posted here on this page. If I were wise, I'd understand what is necessary to making a living and what is just lingerie that Stuff Maintenance slips on to entice my attention away from the simple beauty of Wisdom. Stuff Maintenance is a high priced call girl that you're proud to show off but feel enslaved to at the same time. She gives you gifts, like brand name sunglasses that make wants look like needs. Consequently, I need Pain to show up and defend his sister's honor from time to time. There is a reason that Pain exists. It's to remind me that the offspring of a marriage with Wisdom is Godly Character.
How does "Stuff Maintenance" dress for you?
For me, it's simply that...maintaining the stuff I have and not submitting it to God's will - which brings with it a risk of "loss" (if simplification can be called such a thing). For some, she puts on a slinky gown of "Image" or "Acceptance." For others, she might put on 3 inch heels called "Ambition."
Regardless of how she dresses, she draws our attention from Wisdom and the God who presides over our wedding to her. I pray that in these economic times, that our nation - a huge percentage of which calls itself "Christian" - would learn from our collective Pain to listen to true Wisdom...that we would stop reading "spiritual" books that are really just romance novels for Stuff Maintenance. We will all have our moment like the picture above where Pretense and Stuff Maintenance steal your credit card for a trip to Acapulco. What will we have left in their absence? Hopefully a strong dedicated marriage to Wisdom that has given birth to Godly Character.
Wisdom, Her Thuggish Brother Pain, and my Mistress--an essay by Russ Phillips on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 9:07am
I first met Russ when I was an on-site agent for Jimmy Jacobs Custom Homes in Georgetown, TX. I have met many agents in my career but can tell you that there are a few that stand out...not because of the number of homes they sell...but because of their integrity and love for people, family and faith. Russ is one of those agents. It's no wonder he is in the top 25 agents in Austin, TX.
When I read his essay on his father-in-law, I knew you all had to read it. It should give us all pause as we look at what is really important in our business and home.