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Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin is getting dressed for school. The first frame of the comic is him pulling on his tighty-whiteys. Next, in nothing but said tighty-whiteys, he standing in front of the mirror flexing his muscles and has a look of total confidence on his face. Charging out the door, he’s ready for the day. It is not the best day: he sits in gum, gets into trouble, gets beat up, doesn’t know the answer, misses the bus and gets caught in the rain. The last frame is him sitting on the bed with his trusty tiger, Hobbes. Remember those tighty-whiteys? Calvin says to Hobbes, “You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help.”
That can sum up a good many days for all of us. We’re all ready for the day, but then it is one thing after another. One fail or fall after another.
In the parable today, the parable of the sower, Jesus tells us about the four seeds and then later, he actually explains this parable. The seeds are scattered: some fall on the path, others the rocky ground, more amongst the vines, and the rest in good soil. For me, I understand this parable not only to be talking about an overview of a persons life in general, but I also understand it to speak about daily life, because, like Calvin, I can roll out of the bed with every intention of having a holy and righteous day only to have that plan blown apart almost immediately by any number of things.
You know those games that are mazes? And on the sides are two knobs that you turn, attempting to guide a marble through maze, the only catch being that there are holes all along the path. The makers of the game are very generous in that they even draw the path that you have to follow. I hope Jesus doesn’t smack me for this, but that is pretty much how I understand the parable today. We can start off the day ready to take on the world, but almost immediately there are pitfalls. The devil trying to rob us, the pressures of life dragging us down, and the world trying to entangle us. Occasionally we make it through the day mostly unscathed, but there were more than a few close calls along the way.
The days we make it to the end are tremendous, but is there a remedy to the not so tremendous days? As a matter of fact there is: death. Other than that, we’re going to experience them. So, what’s a person to do?
Admiral William H. McRaven: the things that he has accomplished are quite remarkable, but I doubt most of us would know of him if it weren’t for a commencement speech he gave at The University of Texas at Austin on May 17, 2014. Many of you have probably watched it on Facebook or Youtube or something, but…
He’s at the podium in his white United States Navy officer’s uniform with so many medals down the front that it is surprising the weight of them doesn’t rip a hole in his jacket. He is a very confident man and speaker, but also quite humble, so when it came to giving advice to a graduating class, he didn’t start off with any high flying ideas, instead, he started with the very basics.
“Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack — that’s Navy talk for bed.
“It was a simple task — mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that we were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALs, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.
“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”
For the record, I am not a bed maker. Gave it up one year for Lent and never looked back, but I get his point: we are to begin each day rightly. Doing those things that are required of us and those things that will make us stronger. When it comes to our life with God, this includes things such as prayer, study of scripture, attention to our duties of state (family, job, self, etc.). These are the “making your bed” items of our Christian life; and they are required in order for us to accomplish God’s will during the day; always keeping in mind that fulfilling these requirements is no guarantee that you won’t fall down one of the holes in the maze, but their fulfillment does build a foundation for our lives, so that when we do fall, we don’t just keep going.
As Admiral McRaven said, “If by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.” You may have fallen down a hole along the way, but because you started your day off with the basics, you have something to fall back on. You may have to begin again, but you have the basics in place. When Calvin was sitting on the edge of his bed after that bad day, he said, “You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help.” Well, thankfully there are talking tigers, because Hobbes replied, “Well, you’ve done all you can do.” It may have been a train wreck of a day, but if you start off by making your bed, by tending and nurturing the foundation of your faith, then tomorrow you’re given the opportunity to begin again. In addition—and this is not easy to accept at the time—but even though we may have had a train wreck of a day, if we began that day in faith, then we will have fulfilled God’s will. As the prophet Isaiah said:
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
But why do we do this? Why are we willing, in faith, to try again? Answer: because although some of the seed fell on the road, the rocks, and in the thicket… much of it fell in the good soil. We don’t lose everyday. There are days, despite the holes in the maze, that we produce good fruit. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” We press on that we might win the prize for ourselves and we press on that we might be witnesses to those around us, that through our perseverance and hope they, might further understand God’s calling in their own lives.
Admiral McRaven said, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” (Source) If you want to survive the maze with its pitfall, if you want to attain the prize of heaven—regardless of the number of setbacks along the way, if you want to change the world… make your bed. Each and every day, as Paul also teaches us, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God…” that is—make your bed—put on your faith, secured in righteousness and the promise of salvation, and informed and nourished by the very Word of God. “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”
Be strong in the Lord and begin each day by putting on those things that will see you through the good and evil alike.
From St. Augustine’s Prayer Book… Let us pray:
Lord, for tomorrow and its needs,
I do not pray;
Keep me, my God, from stain of sin
Just for today.
Let me both diligently work,
And duly pray.
Let me be kind in word and deed,
Just for today.
Let me be slow to do my will,
Prompt to obey;
Help me to sacrifice myself
Just for today.
And if today my tide of life
Should ebb away,
Give me thy Sacraments divine,
Sweet Lord today.
So for tomorrow and its needs
I do not pray,
But keep me, guide me, love me, Lord,
Just for today.