Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended. Proverbs 22, verse 10.
For the next three days, I’m going to dispense fatherly wisdom to my youngest daughter. A few weeks ago, you might have read my pining that she’s graduating soon. That was then. Now the week has come and the day is nearly on us. Family members are already traveling from way back east, the house is being cleaned, and we are preparing for a celebration. On that occasion, there are some things I want to say, to telegraph (if you will), to my daughter via these writings you and I share. I wasn’t able to do this when her sister graduated; now I’ll make amends.
The days of being a child are at an end. You’re scared and you’re nervous about what’s up ahead, but don’t worry too much about it. It’s ok to be nervous; it means that something is important to you. Our minister said that to your mom and I in the days before we were married. Those words are as true now as they were then. The world is the apple of your God’s eye, and He really does know what He’s doing. The universe unfolds as it does, as it should, and you’re part of it. You’re prepared and you’re ready to make your start in whatever you do (please include college in that “whatever you do” category). Good and bad, what has happened in your life has gotten you to this point and today is indeed the sum of all your yesterdays. I’m proud of you. I hope you’re proud of yourself too because you’ve done so much to take healthy pride in!
Life is about love. It’s about sharing with others the Divine love given to you. Nothing else matters as much as this. It can wash away the gray unhappiness of discontent. When you remember this, you drive out the mocker of love and, in doing so, you drive out the strife. Before you know it, cynicism and sarcasm become jokes, a parody of what can be good in life. Before you know it again, quarrels and insults are ended. Love generously because you have a strong, big, and wonderful heart.
That isn’t to say that troubles won’t come again. They will; it’s part of being in this fallen world. There will still be people who will be oil to your water; there will still be people who you just rub the wrong way. This side of the dirt, there’s no getting around that. You will still find things that will cause argument, fights, strife and discord. Some of those will actually be worth fighting over. But what is good still and always will win out in the end. The secret lies in how we deal with what happens.
To deal with it, I refer back to that paragraph about love, real and honest love. It’s worthwhile. It would be so easy (and it is always so tempting) to let life embitter you. That happens to too many people, including people you and I know and love. Resist that temptation, and when it gets hard to resist, ask for help. Ask for help from God, from your family, and from your friends; ask in that order. We are wired to strive for independence and to use our gift of free will to succeed; we are also hard-wired to need others when things get tough. If you want to drive the mockers from your life, ask for help.
Finally, through all the struggles, don’t forget that people will still mock you, especially if you take a principled stand or do the hard thing and just say ‘no’ when you’re on the razor edge of temptation. I believe that people who are the first to mock are also some of the unhappiest people you’ll find. You’ve gone through more struggles than most teenagers I know, and there will always be people who find fault in you because of that. As you grow older, the mockers and gossipers will always find something to prattle on about; they aren’t worth your time, your treasure or your tears…but they will try very hard to suck all three of those out of you. The best fall back plan is, once again, the love in your heart. Hold fast to that, share it with gusto, and you’ll go a long way towards driving them back and minimizing the stress and quarrels in your life.