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What is whispered in the ear shall be proclaimed from the rooftops.
I watched a J.P. Sears’ New Year’s Resolutions video and loved his line, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is resilience.” Insanity? Resilience? Is JP’s comedy more or less funny than the dubious suggestion that Einstein originated the colloquial definition of insanity which appears to be actually sourced from a 1980 Narcotics Anonymous pamphlet? And isn’t it ironic that the persistence of the attribution or hearsay has made Einstein out to the be the originator of something that he may never have uttered or thought? Particularly when it’s the definition of the one thing he probably would have examined through the lens of relativity and concluded that doing the same thing over and over again would, in some entanglement way, lead to a dimensional alteration whose effect may unleash untold mystery! But I digress… or do I?
For my entire memory, I have been trapped in a puzzle around three Gospel references.
Luke 12:48(b): From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
Luke 19:26: I tell you that everyone who has will be given more; but the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.
Matthew 25:29: For whoever has will be given more and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.
If one were to examine the middle warp thread around which DNA wove my first chromosome, somewhere etched in that thread is the certainty that I’ve been entrusted with much and, as a result, my life’s purpose is to do more. Somewhere an abundant Source imbued my life with access and evidence of plenty and my purpose is to spread the bountiful fruit of that certainty to all those with whom I have contact or influence. Not a day of my life since Upland California in 1974, sitting at my little desk in Tim and my bedroom overlooking the bougainvillea blooming in the backyard, has passed without this puzzle animating my mind and my actions. “I’ve been entrusted with much and therefor much more will be asked.” How much is “much more”? Well, simple: you’ve got another day so there’s more more to do!
I’ve been surrounded by people who have reinforced and celebrated my relentless pursuit of stewardship. I have inspired thousands, I’ve improved the lives of millions, I’ve lived to see the global effects of my life. Family, friends, colleagues, strangers – the world is a better place because of my sense of stewardship and I’m a better man because of it! And it’s so deeply engrained into my life that I have built countless relationships where my expansion of what I’ve had entrusted to me is expected. “That’s just what David does,” goes the justification behind the callous consumption of abundance.
In this 49th year of my life as I was completing my year-end gratitude arc and reflecting on the passing circumnavigation of the Sun, I found myself seduced into doing what I’ve done every other year. My practice is to recount gratitude for all the people and experiences of the year past and acknowledge each of their contributions to my life. This practice – unlike the fleeting New Year’s Resolutions so many attempt only to disappoint themselves and others a few weeks into January – primes the pump for my coming year to realize that I’m only in my life because of the kindness and goodness of others. The breath of life is lubricated by the well-spring of gratitude! But this year, I sat with Kim in the persistence of illusions I’ve come to see as hallmarks of my best attributes. From our first real conversation in Antarctica to last night, she was ready to break another lens through which I see my illusions. She asked me to explain, for one who defines his life by gratitude, how it is that I’m so upset when I don’t experience gratitude in and from others? And her question – along her signature relentless persistence in keeping me in the question until I really considered it – made me re-read the parables from which my lifelong puzzles are derived.
They all have to do with a master who is leaving for a far-away country for an indeterminant period of time and said master allocating resources to the care of others. Some of the stewards evidence their awareness of the master by seeking to grow and expand his wealth while others, nominating their fear for his perceived harshness, merely take what is given and do nothing but preserve it for his return. The master has abundance. He distributes that abundance to his stewards and gives them entirely free rein to do with his wealth what they wish. Ironically, the ones who receive 5 talents and 2 talents and return 10 and 4, respectively, do not explain why they did what they did. They knew their master and simply did what they knew he did. They knew that he took abundance and made it more bountiful. They did what they knew from watching him. And their knowing required no explanation or justification. Their knowing was evidenced in their performance. It’s the one who says he apparently knew the master who clearly evidences neither a knowledge of, nor a love towards the master (Luke 19:21-ff: “I was afraid of you, because I knew that you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’).
Surrounding these parables are wonderful attestations of abundance. ‘Consider the lilies of the field, they neither toil nor spin but I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was dressed as fine as these.’ ‘Do not worry for the future’. In short – there’s always enough to go around. Enough for everyone! So back to Kim’s wise question: what is it about the absence of gratitude that fuels so much anguish in me? And then I hit me! It’s expectation! Expectation, like hope, faith, and all other sugar coated justifications for surrogated accountability and abundant engagement creates an excuse to rely on the illusory artifacts – the illusion of master, the illusion of money, the illusion of commitment, the illusion of connection – rather than seeing the mastery of stewarded abundance. After all, the master in the parables himself is also a steward. But his stewardship is the capability to create opportunities for others to evidence their prowess with resources. He didn’t give them talents or bags of gold. He created an opportunity for them to test their own manifesting capacity. That’s what made him a master! It wasn’t about the artifacts. It wasn’t about the appearance of knowledge or capability. It was about the recognition that to him who has been entrusted with much, teaching others to access their trustworthiness is the greatest wealth to share.
And this year, while I am grateful to dozens of people who enlivened my life and allowed 2016 to end with a benediction of abundance – Bob, Erik, Ned, Colleen, Katie, Dex, Stu, Zach, Pam, David, Ben, Steve, Charles, Lee, Chris, Hayden, Aditya, Theresa, Lawrence, Richard, Laurent, Christine, Robert, Bernadette, Sarah, Lorraine, Amanda, Peter, Jan, Joe, Rob, Jo, Tammy, Bill, Frances, Mark, Greg, and countless others – I am particularly grateful to Kim. She asked the question that attends these parables. “Are you experiencing the master’s happiness?” “Who is caring for YOUR heart in all of the things that you do?” When others focused on the effect of my living, she saw the cost of gratitude unacknowledged. And rather than make up for it, accommodate it, or wish things were different, she took the 5 talents and made them 10! And that’s the greatest treasure of all!