life: worth doing right

Film poster for Amistad (1997 film) - Copyrigh...

"If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right." Thanks, mom.

I grew up angry at these eight words because hard work was always the guilty result of this catchy little phrase. It appeared when we discussed our 4-H livestock projects and how little we had worked with them (if you are not from the country, you wouldn't understand leading a cow around by a halter in your yard). It wedged into conversations about refinishing projects and youth group commitments and grades in school. Many a conversation ended with a knowing, stern look from either Mom or Dad and these words, "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right."

Now, working with youth, I wish more parents used this guilt trip method to motivate their kids. I realize guilt should not mainly motivate us to do things 'right,' but guilt is not the lesson that has stayed with me these 25 years. The lesson is about worth.

Last night I watched one of my favorite movies - Steven Spielberg's "Amistad." In one of the last scenes, the attorney speaks on behalf of the Africans being prosecuted for insurrection on the slave ship where they were so inhumanely transported in the slave trade en route to Spain.

John Quincy Adams, played by Anthony Hopkins, says these words in front of the Supreme Court (7 out of 9 of which are Southern slave owners),

"Yea, this is no mere property case, gentlemen. I put it to you thus: This is the most important case ever to come before this court. Because what it, in fact, concerns is the very nature of man."

At this point in the movie, something very human in me connects with the John Quincy Adams leaning against the polished hardwood handrail. I want to shout, as his quiet words seem to do so well, "Yes, gentlemen, what are WE WORTH? What is man worth?" Is our nature - the nature of man - carry some inherent value or is rather something to discard?

I can tell you what I felt about our worth as I watched one of the captured Africans, Cinque, struggle against the chains that bruised his wrists and neck.

We were not made for this.

In Genesis, when God breathed life into the man He'd formed from the dust of the earth, He was intentional. His ways are perfect, so I refuse to believe any part of His creation process was not done "right." Every piece and particle, from the smallest micro-organism to the most complicated systems in the human body, God designed us exactly right.

In His image we were made (Genesis 1:26-28), male and female He created us in His image. I can't help but think my parents' old adage came from a deeper understanding of God's own very intentionality in our design. If creation was worth doing at all (and, I'll admit, sometimes I wonder), then God would be the only One able to do it right. I really believe the 'nature of man' is a question of beginnings, which (not so ironically) is what the word "genesis" means.

Our genesis (beginning) is bound up in the intentional mind of a sovereign God, whose purposes are forever, beautifully... right.

I say all of this because I am pondering what it means to live life. I made up a word last week when I was trying to process the biography of Bonhoeffer because I was grasping at dictionaries to find a description for his approach to living out theology. I came up with vivology, after a quick greek/latin roots and suffixes search.

The question bouncing about in my head lately has been, "How do I live right?" Because, I know live is worth living (God's intentional, perfect design)... so it must be worth doing right.

What are your thoughts?

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Today, I'm doing my best to

let LOVE FLY like cRaZY.