“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” – Psalm 119:105 (TNIV)
I have often described the values we choose to operate and live by as being our compass, our map and our flashlight in life. These “very valuable values,” when used intentionally and deliberately, serve to guide us out of the forests of peril and into the meadows of calm and rejuvenation in our lives.
My chosen values work for me because they are positive characteristics that have been illuminated and developed over my lifetime, largely because of the connection I have with my God.
My relationship with God is the “Visine” that has helped me to see what is important, what really matters, and as a result of identifying important values such as love and understanding, how I am to apply them in my life for my personal benefit and when used responsibly, how others could benefit when I simply practice and live by my values.
I know I still have “character defects” like impatience, selfishness and being rude, and because some aspects of my personality will not change over my lifetime, unfortunately, these defects, like weeds in my personal garden, will have to be worked on and “pulled” frequently.
The good news though is when I engage in maladaptive behavior, my awareness and practice of positive values help me to hit a psychological “reset” and subsequently lead me to correct the error that I just made, usually without causing too much damage to self and others.
So how do we make abstract values practical on a day-in, day-out basis? One particular story in the Bible serves for me as the ultimate compass, flashlight and map which leads me out of the thicket and forest of my own creation and into the healthier meadow of clarity: The Good Samaritan story in Luke 10:29-37. As you read the account, take a look at the values that are practiced (in parentheses) which seem important and serve as Visine to help the Samaritan (“everyman”) in doing the next right thing by doing for his “neighbor” what he would do for himself:
“…And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was (courage); and when he saw him, he took pity (mercy) on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds (hygiene), pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey (care, compassion), took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins (generosity) and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you (dependability) for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise” – Luke 10:29 – 37 (TNIV)
This is always aspirational for me, because I often fall short of living like this; that’s why I need a very good compass, flashlight and map. However, it does not stop me from seeking to right the wrongs that I become aware of throughout my day. I also need to be aware of the fact that my values and subsequent behaviors, as simple as they are, may make a life and death difference when I happen upon someone who is hurting in life.
So what about you? What values serve as a compass and map in your life? Which values do you live by and how do your chosen values lead you out of the deep and dark thickets of fear and into a refreshing, empowering and inspirational meadow, synonymous with God guiding you beyond the latest challenge in your life?
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