Regular checkups call for a SWOT analysis. Look at your Strengths–these can be used in God’s service or corrupted by honoring the world rather than God. If I have a strong, healthy body, do I use it in humble tasks to bring glory to God or do I seek to impress the world? If I am of sound mind, what do I look upon, read, study, use in my intellectual pursuits?
Weaknesses–the W part of the analysis. To what area am I prone to fail? Where are my limitations? Weaknesses are not necessarily flaws; these areas may be challenges for us to grow. “The proper study of mankind is man,” according to Alexander Pope: ‘Know then thyself, presume not God to scan/ The proper study of mankind is Man.” I like the sound of those words, but I disagree with them in overall content; don’t be so self-absorbed in looking at yourself that you fail in asking God to “Search me and try me, oh, Lord.” Psalm 139:23-24 puts it this way (NIV) Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”
O stands for Opportunities–look around the place you are planted; ask God to show you needs, and how you could or should meet those needs. There are needs that may become priorities for you; there may be some that could and should be delegated or left to others. Remember you also have needs; see how people or circumstances can help you to meet those needs. How can I best honor God in knowing of this need? I have a stamped, addressed envelope with a blank card inside, made out to the couple that lost their child last month. I will write it and send it; I have texted encouragement; I have supported through phone calls. Others are physically there; because there are steps to their home, I cannot visit. I pray regularly for them and for others who have lost their loved ones. I have made my counseling service available.
As a young person, one has to take care of his own growth and not be caught up in the drama of others much worse off. It is being a friend to tell an adult of others’ problems rather than seeing problems as a reminder to get involved in providing personal help. It is a balancing act. We depend on God’s spirit guiding our actions. If we are praying for someone and God’s spirit whispers an action we can take, then we must act.
All of this points to a need for us to look at Time. Timing plays a key role in considering our actions and decisions. A young person can decide to be a journalist, but he is not to quit high school to launch his career. It is time to hone the craft, learn the words, consider others’ philosophies, and practice writing. Time may mean that I need to shore up weaknesses in any area now, not later. Many times, we have good ideas, but the timing is not right, and the opportunities do not exist without other people’s involvement. There are areas I prayed for many years that I am now seeing being fulfilled by my local church. However, my only involvement is in praying. They are more involved on missions; they have home church on Sunday nights. They do cooperatively what I could not do alone. I helped plant and water through WMU and mission organization. People are hurting, so there is an opportunity. I will pray to see if others support current timing, After all of this analysis, I make myself available to be used. There are other areas where I wanted to be involved, a Lay Renewal ministry for one. I started praying to be a part in the 1980’s when our children were small. It did not happen until ten plus years later. Charles and I were selected to be members of Sidney and Mary Lou Ellis’s team once the girls were grown, and we were experiencing empty nests. God both used us and met our needs. “Wait on the Lord; again, I say, wait.”
No one, including yourself, will ever be the person you want him to be. We need to have the regular checkups mainly for ourselves but also give ourselves the grace to know we will not be perfect on this Earth, and the grace to others that they will not be what you want or expect them to be. The greatest good you can do of others is to talk to God about your concerns for them and ask God to change their hearts or yours. He is willing if we would only ask.
A compliment from a colleague came my way many years ago. Charlotte Ashley told me, “I like the way you talk about your husband.” I was unsure of her meaning, but she pointed out that when other teachers in the lounge were fault finding regarding their husbands, I did not join them. I will not say that Charles and I were always of one accord, and we had many verbal battles to prove my point. However, after I surrendered my life to Jesus fully, I can remember being hurt at something he had said or done. Instead of engaging or correcting him, I withdrew and prayed for him. Shortly, he came to me with an apology. Again, God is willing–but we need to pray for His will, not our want.
Michael Jordan’s words of advice: “I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying.” This advice is also a matter of timing. There are pursuits that have to be worked on intermittently because of either timing or urgent events. If I feel led to try anew area, I don’t just give up. One of the key benefits of being in this weakened body is that I carefully plan my activities, charting our time for spiritual, creative, physical, and mental pursuits. I also have to figure out how to accomplish activities of daily life I once took for granted; if one way offers the real possibility of falling, then I think through the actions to consider what else might work.
John C. Maxwell gives us words of wisdom from Pablo Picasso: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” Think of yourself as a gift to the world. How does God want you to employ your gifts? Ignore any pressure that would cause you to be a doormat. I have found purpose in writing for now; that may change. My husband Charles acts as a care-partner and, more and more, is moving into a caregiver role. This role for him is not something I want, but I have been grateful for his help and could not manage my life without it. However, I sometimes find myself wincing when he is not as gentle as I want him to be. I have to remind myself that he is also tired and old and is doing the best he can.
In our marriage, we are each other’s gifts from God for romance, companionship, and now caregiving. The roles are defined in the marriage vows we took to love, honor, cherish each other in sickness and in health until death parts us. His view is that I took care of him for years, and now it is his turn to take care of me.