Patricia Anastasia Bartlett is the author of 'Glimpses of Glory', a collection of meditations published by Synaxis Press. Over the years, she has contributed to a number of local newspapers and magazines as a freelance journalist, humour, lifestyle and/or religion columnist. She, her husband and five children joined the Orthodox Church in 2000. She and her husband presently attend and serve at St. Aidan's Orthodox Mission in Cranbrook, BC.
There are only three things every person in this world has in common. We are all born, we all die, and we all live. The first two are inevitable, and we can’t do much to change them. But the third one, that’s the one in which we have a say. What we do between birth and death is our quest for our humanity. Each of us starts the quest with a different hand, and how well we accomplish the quest depends upon how well we play the cards we have been dealt. Some people may have, at first glance, everything given to them, the best hand ever. They are born into money which gives them status, entry into the best schools, and social networks with opportunities for extremely well-paid employment. Everything they ask for is given to them with little effort on their part. At the other extreme are those whose hand is worthless, whose birth is joyless, who are never loved, and instead abused until they are broken in spirit. They struggle to rise above their circumstances and are struck down every time. But in this game, this quest, advantages may turn out to be disadvantages, and suffering may lead to success. The cards can change depending upon play. All of us have to deal with something. Physical, emotional, or mental disability, introvert or extrovert, loving family or foster child. We may be quick to anger, or live at a slow burn. Whatever life deals to us, we are to play the hand we are dealt to the best of our ability. We are not to compare ourselves to anyone else, neither favourably or disparagingly. We are to only look to ourselves and realize the only judge, the arbitrator of our success is Christ himself. I always think of the story of two young men. The first, named Digger, walked past an old man in the street who asked him for some money. Digger glanced at the bottle of water he was carrying, and tossed it to the old man without saying a word. Later, the second young man, Cliff, was walking with a young woman. They passed the same old man who, again, asked for some money. Cliff glanced at the young woman, ducked into the nearby take-out and bought the old man some lunch. While the man was eating, Cliff rummaged through the racks in thrift shop, paid for some clothes, and presented them to the old man with a flourish and twenty dollars. Which of the two were more commendable? Most of us would answer, Cliff. But wait, let’s consider the extenuating circumstances of both young men. What were the cards each was holding? Digger lives on the streets. He was abused as a child, had run away, and did what he had to do in order to survive. He was trying to get clean, but his progress was hampered by mental health and anger issues. He had just finished scrounging some food from a dumpster where he had found the bottle of water he was carrying. Cliff was from privileged family. He had been sent to all the right schools and had never wanted for anything. Cliff was slumming that day trying to impress his latest love interest, an anti-poverty activist. So, now which of the two were more commendable? In Matthew 12, Jesus watched as people donated to the temple. He observed a widow who donated two coins of little value that represented most of all she had. Many others gave considerably more, but it was a small percentage of their wealth. Jesus commends the widow. Now if I saw a list of names of donors and their donations, I would be tempted to think the person who gave the larger amount was much closer to God than the one who gave the smaller. It’s a good thing I don’t judge the game. Just look at the fate of Lazarus the beggar versus the rich man in Luke 16. Who had the advantage there? It’s not the cards we hold which determine the outcome of our quest, but rather its how we play them. The cards are a beginning. The play is up to us.
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