I have never really thought too much about the expression “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”, though I have used it before plenty of times, and there have even been times I’ve felt like the baby!
As I think more about it and look at images of adorable babies, I realize more and more just how precious the baby is. Just what a gem this “baby” is that we might tend to “throw out” in our attempt to rid our lives of something or in our attempt to move on to new things in our lives.
I’m starting to think that most people probably don’t intend to throw out the precious when they discard an old paradigm. And they don’t mean to forget the jewels when saying goodbye to a relationship. And they fail to realize how much good they have forgotten because they are just boldly going ahead.
So let me give you a little personal context. Last week I was in San Antonio for the funeral of my uncle Hank. It was a very sweet family time. As I sat in the pew of this beautiful Episcopal church, on row three of the family section, I learned a rich lesson about life. I even scribbled some notes on the back of my bulletin with tears in my eyes and a grateful heart.
On row one were my cousins and my aunt and the grandchildren, now grown. On row two was my mom, my sis, my nephew and Hank’s brother and family. And I was sitting with my two sons, another uncle, his wife and my other aunt on row 3.
So during the funeral I had the best view of all the family present…I was able to scan each one, examine their faces, think about the gift that they are, and watch as certain words spoken by the minister triggered chuckles or tears. I watched as an arm extended around the waist of the other to comfort, as one hand took another in love and support, and as my own mom reached back to grab my hand during a beautiful song.
So what does this have to do with our baby and the bathwater you might ask?
These are the literal words I wrote on my bulletin:
1. Don’t throw it all out: Cultivate APPRECIATION
I have been developing my faith and spiritual practice my whole life. I have gone through many phases and periods, and how I worship today looks different from how I worshipped along the way. What I believe has changed so much too. What kind of church I prefer. And on and on it goes.
I realized how if I am not careful, I will miss the precious gems still present in my culture and heritage. I loved being in this church and admiring the stained glass and the rich deep tradition. It was so good for me to just appreciate…whether it’s exactly how I choose to practice right now doesn’t matter. There are dynamic gifts present for me if I will but appreciate and be open to them.
This can go for any area of life. There are relationship places for me as well where I am cultivating appreciation. I have decided to quit acknowledging what seems to be missing and just get on with the business of being thankful for what is present and what I do enjoy and appreciate. It’s amazing what a shift that brings.
2. REMEMBER: It’s the moments that matter
I took time during the funeral to remember so many moments with my family. I don’t spend much time now with a lot of these particular members of my family. We have all grown up and moved on in our lives. As I sat in silence and just sat in their presence, it was like slow motion, and I chose to remember all the moments of fun, love, and shared experience over the years. I was also enjoying the current moment for what it was—just being in it, taking it in, being still and appreciating. Wow, powerful!
I realized that in some ways I had already thrown the baby out with the bathwater by “forgetting” just how incredible these individuals are and by forgetting to be grateful more often for them and for family.
3. Eyes Open: PARTICIPATE
I have made a conscious decision to participate in each moment of life. To just get in it and see what I can find, what I can bring, and what I can experience.
It’s way too easy to have already decided that “this is just the way it is” in this situation or with so and so and miss what NEW might be available. And when we live in the past we can once again find ourselves discarding the precious along with what we don’t want to have anymore.
There isn’t anything wrong with tossing the “dirty water”….with making changes, with letting go of what isn’t serving anymore….we just don’t want to close our eyes to what is right before us and what can still provide richness to our lives. Let’s participate with open eyes, right here, right NOW, today.
So toss away my friends. By all means clear the path for good clean living. I’m all about saying goodbye to what isn’t working. AND please remember to appreciate and hold on to all the gems and treasures you see and know. Open your heart and be willing to participate fully in this great game of life!!