Sunday, February 12, 2012

When are you "all in?"

When are you “all in?” How often are you fully committed (heart, soul, mind, and strength) to an event, to an experience, or to a relationship? In what parts of your life, do you push all your chips into the center of the table and leave nothing back in case things don’t work out?
If you are like many people, you are rarely “all in.” You body might be somewhere, but your mind is elsewhere. You might be performing one task, but you are already thinking about the next one. You are talking on the telephone, but you are also responding to emails. Your body is with one person, but your heart is with another. You are driving and texting at the same time and doing a poor job at both. You can claim that you are using your time wisely by multitasking, and you may be crossing off a number of items on your “To Do” list. But as you lay your head back on that pillow at the end of the day, are you satisfied and at peace with how you spend those hours or are you exhausted and fragmented?
In the course of a typical day, I perform a lot of things half-heartedly or distractedly. I do not fully invest myself as I pick up my dry-cleaning, shop for groceries at Acme, or make a deposit at my local bank. I try to be friendly and cordial and display some of the fruits of the spirit like patience, kindness, and self-control. After all, some of the clerks and cashiers know that I am a minister so I have to keep up appearances. But I don’t think that everything I do every day is worth all my chips.
Other folks seem to be “all in” all too often, don’t they? Every conversation, every encounter, every event turns into an intense and personal determiner of their self-worth. They seem to be in a constant battle with something, someone, somewhere. They are obsessive about everything. To them I say, “Lighten up. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. It is never just about you.”
I imagine that Jesus was “all in” a lot of the time. When he listened to you, I believe he looked you in the eye, looked into your heart, and didn’t look over your shoulder to see if the next person would be more interesting than you. When he preached and taught, I am sure he was fully engaged. When he went away by himself to pray, he put everything he had on the table with God. He threw himself on the ground when he prayed. He sweated blood. He wept. Jesus was not texting when he was with you, with God, or with the disciples. That’s why some people turned away. Jesus wouldn’t look by them or around them but looked at them and inside them. They weren’t equipped to handle such focused intensity and intimacy. What would it have felt like to have been touched or healed by a person who saw you so completely?
I believe that Jesus was fully engaged almost all of the time. He did not fear committing all he had. Many things were worthy of his complete attention including things that others did not value like lilies, lepers, or little children. But are you “all in” any of the time, in anything that you do? Is there anything in your life that you love so much, that you are so committed to that it takes all of your attention and may even take your breath away? Something you give yourself to not grudgingly or fearfully but thankfully and joyfully.
For physician and philosopher George Sheehan, his “all in” was running. He wrote: “When running becomes for me, as my poet friend put it, ‘a total entered experience.’ It becomes a religious experience. I give it my body. I give it my mind. I give it the yearnings of my heart, the further reaches of my soul. From the act of running – now an act of awareness, of love, of stretching myself – comes whatever wholeness, whatever certitude I possess then and for the rest of the day.” The Running Life, p. 274
Though I am not as fast or graceful or thoughtful or eloquent as George Sheehan was, I too am “all in” when I run. On these frigid winter mornings, I don’t need outside encouragement or motivation to slip on those layers of wicking clothing that make me look like a middle aged super hero. When I am running ten miles on the Cuyahoga Valley Towpath and my sweat is turning to frost on my hat and my nose is running, I may not look much to you. Despite my appearances, I am really something – I am a human being fully immersed in an activity that brings me deep joy and tremendous satisfaction – my heart and my soul and my mind and my body are all singing the same tune. I am a concert even if it is music that only God and I can hear and appreciate. These experiences heal my brokenness and keep me whole all day long.
Going “all in” is not a sacrifice or a risk, but it is a decision and a commitment. Going “all in” enables you to begin to see and then to become who you really are when all parts of you are working as one. Going “all in” restores you to wholeness and helps you discover your true self – that person that God intended you to be all along.
When are you “all in?” In what activities or experiences do you fully and gratefully invest all parts of yourself rather than hedging your bets and holding something back? When are you a beautiful concert in which every part of you is in harmony with the rest? What does that sound like, what does that feel like, to you?