Gauges

There are two types of people in this world…those who can comfortably let their cell phone battery drain down to one percent and those who begin to panic when it reaches the half way point.

I am the second type of person.

Once my phone dips into a range I consider “the danger zone”, I feverishly start to look for an outlet. The same is true in my car. There is nothing more stressful than watching my gas gauge get perilously close to “E”. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I push the limits, but I can’t breathe easy until I know my tank is full again.

Over time, I’ve discovered that I have a set of internal gauges that tell me how I’m doing too. It’s easy to pretend they don’t exist because they don’t light up like the ones on my dashboard. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t just as real. Often the consequences for ignoring the gauges of my inner world are even more painful than getting stuck along the side of the road or not having access to my phone.

Here are a few of the gauges I use to monitor the health of what is going on inside my soul…

Positivity vs. Cynicism

I’m a pretty positive person by nature. When I am in a healthy spot, I tend to see the bright side of circumstances and believe the best about the people around me.

I know my emotional gauge is telling me that something is wrong when I start to become cynical. When the first words out of my mouth are sarcastic or my thoughts become jaded, I need to take some space and evaluate what is going on beneath the surface of my life.

Rested vs. Exhausted

When my emotional tank is full, I feel rested and at peace. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m not busy. It means I have enough margin in my life not to run myself into the ground. Perhaps the best way to describe this way of life is “at ease”.

A clear sign that my tank is running low is the need for multiple cups of coffee in order to make it through the day. When I combine a weary physical state with rushing between activities and no space for silence/stillness, the results aren’t pretty.

Present vs. Distracted

I have learned to pay attention to my interactions with people as I monitor my inner world. When I am at my healthiest, I am able to stay engaged and focused in conversations. I feel “present” with others.

I know something is “off” when my mind begins to dart around in the middle of talking with another person. Living with a distracted mind isn’t fun for me (or the people I’m interacting with).  

Those are just a few of the gauges that I have learned to monitor in my life. How about you? What are some of the gauges that tell you how you are doing?

The Spirituality of Ribs

Have you ever eaten really good ribs? I’m not talking about the Applebee’s all you can eat riblet basket (not that there is anything wrong with that). I mean REALLY GOOD ribs. The kind that would make a vegetarian second guess their life choices.

Ribs prepared by a true BBQ pit master have more in common with a work of art than a meal. They don’t just leave you with a full stomach. Somehow, they find a way to fill your soul.

A few years ago, I dedicated myself to honing my skills as a ribs artist. It’s a quest I’m still engaged in to this day. After some initial experimentation, something became very clear… great ribs don’t “just happen”. Preparing a great rack of BBQ baby backs takes intentionality.

The process involves selecting the right seasonings, preparing the ribs to be seasoned, letting them marinate in the spices for at least 24 hours, cooking them “low and slow” and choosing (or making) the perfect BBQ sauce.  Yes, it takes practical know how but it also takes time… A LOT of time! The kind of time that seems ridiculous in our fast paced society.

If there is a grilled item that is antithetical to ribs it would be the hot dog. Because hot dogs are easy to cook, taste OK and can be easily crammed down our gullets in rapid succession, they have become the quintessential American cookout food (never mind that no one really knows what is in them). The Nathan’s hot dog eating competition on July 4th, started out as a novelty but now seems like a celebration of our culinary values.

As I’ve embraced the difference between grilling ribs and hot dogs, I’ve learned that anything worth savoring takes time. Some of this time seems passive, like the process of marinating, but you can’t rush it. Picking the right seasoning and then letting it do the work is essential.  Similarly, we need to seek the right environment for our souls and refuse to rush.

I’m glad God has the attitude of the ultimate pit master. He refuses to hurry. He knows the best conditions for me to thrive. Best of all, he loves me much more than anyone could ever love a rack of ribs. He feels the same about you too.

When I embrace these facts about God, it gives me a lot more patience with myself and with the people around me. I realize that most change in life doesn’t happen in the time it takes to cook a hot dog. Most deep transformation takes place over the course of weeks, months, years and decades.

In a world that shouts, NOW! and is increasingly impatient with waiting, the beautiful truth that “anything worth savoring takes time” is an important lesson to internalize in my soul.