It is said that King Henry I of England died of a surfeit of lampreys. He liked eating the revolting eel so much that he apparently died as a consequence of his gluttony. From my reading, I have read that more than a few young English schoolchildren were badgered and hectored into memorizing this seemingly worthless piece of information. It would be worthless, except for the fact that the delicacy of the royal succession of England meant that his daughter, Empress Matilda, was supposed to take the throne, which led to anarchy between her and a cousin, Stephen of Blois, who was effective ruler over England during much of the time between the death of the gluttonous Henry and the rise of Matilda’s son, Henry II of England.
I do not wish to speak of delicate royal successions in England or anywhere else today. What I do wish to talk about is something less political and more personal. Our self-control, or the lack thereof, can cause great repercussions in our lives. Who knows of how many relationships and marriages have been destroyed because of a lack of discipline in handling money, or the temptations of adultery. The people we are connected to expect a certain amount of reliability and loyalty, and part of the challenges of growing up is being able to recognize the legitimate claims that other people have on our behaving in particular ways.
Many people do not want to grow up. It is extremely tense and frustrating to have to curb your own inclinations and desires out of respect for other. It is difficult to work on the right words to say, and the right distance and space between yourself and others so that you respect their boundaries while remaining authentic to who you are as a person. These are not easy issues to deal with at all, and it is all too easy to err in either direction, either by not being true to ourselves and our own thoughts and feelings or in being too undisciplined and too inconsiderate to show care for other people. Henry I died in the way he did largely because he could not control his appetite, and he was far from alone in that.
Sometimes life gives us a great and unexpected boon. It is a difficult thing to know how to treat it properly, to show the right amount of gratitude and appreciation and enjoyment (some of us struggle to have fun as we ought to), but also to cultivate and take care of it so that it grows over time into even greater blessings. I do not pretend to be skilled in such matters. I hope, with the help of my Creator, to get better at it over time, but I always struggle with questions of balance and the tension between different pulls. Perhaps I just need practice in how to handle prosperity, instead of always facing the threats of scarcity. Time will tell, I suppose.
The workings of divine providence are obscure to me. Being someone who tends to overthink matters, it is hard for me to relax and let God reveal His plans and purposes in my life. It is hard to be patient, hard to trust in what one cannot see, hard to know what sort of plan God has for us. I know that is the case for me. I do my best, but often I wonder if my best is even close to good enough in these matters, and I appreciate all the patience and encouragement I can get from my friends who understand the tension between hopes and fears, between wanting to do our part without doing too much, between showing proper care and concern and not showing too much worry or anxiety. I wish I were better at the balance, as it would make life a lot less stressful. But if it all works out well, it will be worth it.