I recently received a ring for a highly sought after achievement. I worked years to achieve this goal. As I looked at this ring again, it reminded me of high school, where a ring was offered to me, and to college, where another ring was offered to me. At both of those events in my life, I thought it unimportant to wear a ring reminding me of my past. A ring doesn’t remind me of a future event, unless it is a wedding ring, which represents a promise throughout eternity. Any other ring is an empty reminder of a past glory.
I chose against a high school ring, because I thought I would prefer the college ring, and I didn’t want to spend money for a ring that I would probably never wear.
I chose against a college ring, because to me, the college ring was the symbol of career. I had gone to college to get a degree, to obtain credentials that would enhance a career, to study to be prepared for the career that “should” mean so much to me. After all, the career is what every man wanted in those days. In these times, both men and women want “careers”. Think of the success that a career would bring, the money that would come over the next 40 years. I would have a great family, always smiling in the expensive photos that we would give at Christmas time. I would have the new cars, the respect of the neighbors and colleagues, the social life that was promised to me via the country club.
I, along with a myriad of others, had been taught that the career was what we were born for, what we live for, what we protect, sometimes even more than our wives and children. The career would be my pathway to success.....everything that the world had to offer.
Everything that the world had to offer…..I was not taught by parents, or teachers, or college professors or pastors, that “career success” was expensive, that it would possibly cost me a wife, or houses, or the loss of a child’s fellowship, or intense anguish, or despair, or perhaps alcoholism, or drug addiction. I didn’t realize how sinister the “successful career” could be.
It might destroy my ability to love my wife and children the way that I knew that they needed love, real love, paternal love, Eros love, Agape love, Phileo love. Would my “successful career” get in the way of being a great husband and father. I wonder what is more important, having my peers think that I am successful by my material trinkets (expensive as they might be) giving me “attaboys” at lunches and on the golf course and racquetball courts, invites to the mixers and socials with the movers and shakers, OR, perhaps I would devote and invest all of my life, every waking hour, to the success of my marriage and my family, raising wonderful, intelligent children who would carry this fundamental thought on through generation after generation. What must my family be thinking? I have a responsibility to create in them a sense of purpose, of integrity, of character, to always do the right thing, regardless of how much money there is. What would it profit me to gain the entire world and lose my own soul or dignity?
No one taught me that the struggle and striving for the “successful career” could cause me to lose my ability to trust, to feel, to share from the heart, to accept people for who they were, since my “successful career” had taught me that all men are fakes and empty inside, hoping the exterior shell would hide the imperfections and at the least, would not crack like the shell of an egg. Hopefully my shell would stand the tests of life, and no one would ever be the wiser. Wouldn’t my new Cadillac be proof enough of my success? Why would anyone question, and what would they question? I had a business with many employees at one time. Certainly they could see that I was successful. No one is that blind! I lived in the same neighborhoods as the bankers, the dealership owners, the university president. Come on, surely they must have seen this. They had to, didn’t they?????
As I looked back, I realized that I lost many opportunities to give, to provide aid, to help others that were hurting. I overlooked the situations because I needed to be successful. Who had time to help others, unless it was to make him or her look good and respected?
Did I sit with my daughter when she needed a father to put his arms around her, and assure her of his love, when she was dumped by a boyfriend. Did I wipe away her tears and tell her that I loved her, that I will always be there, that she can always trust me?
Was I there when my son had an auto accident and totaled the car, or got a girlfriend pregnant? Did I tell him that we would get through this, and that I still loved him?
Where was I when the wife was crying alone at the foot of the bed, thinking to herself, “Why is he never here for me?”
That’s right, I remember now. I was working, no, I was playing golf, no, no, I must have been doing something that I thought was important, paramount to my success.
What have I to show for the decisions that I made? After all, they were my decisions. No one twisted my arm, or forced me to be so brilliant in my decision making.
Fortunately, I have been forgiven. My heart is healed, able to love, to forgive, to trust again. I have forgiven those who have sinned against me, and I have asked forgiveness of those that I hurt immeasurably. My head doesn’t always understand the ways of God, but my heart does, after much contemplation. My heart and my spirit are the same thing, and God made me in His image. I may not look like Him, but my heart beats like His does, for His people, my people, my family.
EPILOGUE: The ring that I worked so hard to achieve is still on my finger, but will be given to my son, who witnessed the achievement within the month, whenever I see him next. I don’t need reminders of the past, or of achievements. They too will pass. I will always have my heart and my spirit, and my ability to forgive and to love. I have replaced the ring with abundant joy and a peace that passes all understanding.