I’m departing from my typical story about a hospice patient this week to make a public confession. I woke up yesterday exhausted and moving like a sloth. I put on the coffee and remembered, “My column is due and I haven’t even thought about it all week. It’s been a hard week, and I don’t have much time.” Then I said to myself, “I can always submit a rerun.” Spontaneously, like a flashback, I was reminded of what I said to myself about my marriage 38 years earlier.
The honeymoon was over and some of the very traits that had attracted Susie and me to one another had mysteriously become irritations and appeared to be irreconcilable differences. I said to myself, “If things don’t work out, I can always leave.” Instantly my Heavenly Father corrected me: “As long as you entertain the idea of leaving, you’ll never do the work that is necessary to make your marriage work. There’s no back door. You are either going to be happily married or miserably married. It’s up to you.” Thanks to God I stood corrected that day. Forty-two years, three beautiful daughters and three grandchildren later, Susie and I are still together. We’ve been through thick and thin, “for better, for worse, in sickness and in health,” and committed to “death do us part.” I’m thankful I have someone I can sit across the table from and say, “Remember when.” (“Remember When” by Alan Jackson). I give God the credit for our longevity, and I’m extremely fortunate that Susie didn’t walk away from me.
Of course there are times when we need to acknowledge and accept that some differences are irreconcilable; there are times when we need to simply walk away. Jesus told his disciples, “And whoever will not receive your words, when you depart … shake the dust off your feet.” But “accepting the things I cannot change,” without having “the courage to change the things I can” isn’t acceptance, its resignation. (“The Serenity Prayer”) I’m reminded of the lyrics of a song recorded by Trisha Yearwood: “That boy’s just a walkaway Joe, born to be a leaver, tell you from the word go, destined to deceive her…” (“Walkaway Joe,” 1992)
Two-thousand years ago, when Jesus walked the earth teaching and performing miracles crowds followed Him, but when things didn’t make sense or play out the way they thought it should, when things got hard the crowds started thinning out. After one of Jesus’ teachings some of his disciples said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” And “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. (John 6:41-70) They were “walkaway Joes”.
James wrote, “…he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind…he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1: 6-8) Jesus taught, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9: 62) I’m no one to “cast stones”; after all, I have a few skeletons in my own closet; but I suggest that, “No one who says, ‘I can always submit a rerun’ and does so, is fit to be a weekly columnist.” And, “No man who says, ‘If things don’t work out I can always leave’, is fit to be a husband or father.” Whatever it is we are engaged in, as long as we entertain the notion of leaving, of taking the path of least resistance, we’ll never do the work that is required; in fact we are already half way out the door.
There’s a saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”, but when things seem to be, or are, humanly impossible it takes more than fortitude. We need divine inspiration; and love is the only force strong enough to sustain us, nothing short of whole-hearted dedication to the highest good of God and his creation with no strings attached (“The Principles of love”; Charles Finney”). It was love that compelled Jesus to “set His face like flint” to be “…wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities…brought as a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 50: 1-7, Isaiah 53).” I’m eternally thankful that Jesus wasn’t a “walkaway Joe”. Seeing how He died for us, surely we can live for Him.
So the next time you feel like giving up, turning your back and walking away, “…consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls…strengthen the hands that hang down and the feeble knees, so that which is lame will not become dislocated and make straight paths for your feet…” (Hebrews 12: 3 – 12) And for God’s sake, for the sake of those you love and who are counting on you, and for your own sake, don’t be a “walkaway Joe”.
Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center, and can be reached at email@example.com or at 740-356-2525