Grace in Disagreements

graceBut respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, but answer in a gentle way and with respect. Keep a clear conscience so that those who speak evil of your good life in Christ will be made ashamed. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Ponder It.

  • When have you experienced unhealthy disagreement?
  • When have you experienced healthy disagreement?
  • Would you identify yourself as an avid confronter, avoiding confronter, or assessing confronter?

Receive It. Disagreements usually include some kind of rebuttal, which involves an argument with proof. Perhaps a television courtroom scene comes to mind. Rebuttals can be driven by anger or they can be dry and boring, but when a rebuttal is God-driven, it will be driven by truth and love, because God-driven rebuttals are also God-directed. God wants us to know him. That means we need to ask questions and seek his answers. God isn’t intimidated by your questions. He wants to reveal himself to you, and it’s through your dialogue with him in search for answers that you will find and become more intimate with him. Unlike a court case, you won’t look for cold facts; there is nothing cold about God. When you’re authentically seeking God’s truth, you will most certainly find facts, but they will be through God’s warmth of mercy, grace, and love. Because God created you for relationship with him, and growing relationships are thriving with life, the proof you find will be very much alive. In our tolerance-driven world, it’s tempting to accept everyone’s beliefs, no matter how misguided or false they are, out of respect, but accepting who a person is and what she believes isn’t the same thing. Respecting what a person believes equally to the person isn’t respect at all. When you accept and respect someone, you’re invested in his or her life, which means you should, at times, ask questions and have tough discussions. That’s what you do in order to find truth with God. He’s not intimidated. Because you’re standing on his truth, as you let him lead, you don’t need to be intimidated either. Know truth. Always seek truth, and your rebuttal will be God-driven in content, approach and timing.

Live It. Gather evidence in the next 90 seconds. Write down everything you can think of that reveals life. How do you know you’re alive? How do you know the world around you is alive? Think big, and think small. The greatness of God is in the details.

This Can’t Be Right

14657310_1460833877264039_930398364757535582_n-300x149Then they said to Him, “John’s disciples fast often and say prayers, and those of the Pharisees do the same, but Yours eat and drink.” (Luke 5:13)

We often question out of our expectations and experiences, as if certain things can’t change. We see differences and proclaim, “Well, this can’t be right, because it’s not what I know to be true or normal.” But what if our ideas and expectations need to be tweaked?

They often do.

Just because someone or something doesn’t fit our cookie cutter molds doesn’t mean we should reject them. We can listen, learn, and when appropriate, change. Sometimes we accommodate what we learn into our existing ideas and practices, and the two meld together. Other times, we set aside what we encounter but not before learning from and wrestling with it. But when we simply reject things without filtering, either quickly or over time, it through truth, we miss out. Just because we don’t like something or it makes us uncomfortable is not a good reason to toss it aside.

Instead, we can search for truth among what we encounter, what we experience, and what we expect. And we can let that truth change us into who God wants us to become…instead of changing ourselves into what we most want.

Carbon Copy

816889570-papier-calque-bulletin-de-salaire-boite-a-cartes-ficheMaybe you don’t know what a carbon copy is. Except perhaps to know it’s what the “cc” stands for when you email someone.
But you’ve seen it work. You’ve seen the receipt books, where someone writes on the top page, and there are two or three different colored copies of the same form beneath the top page, so what’s written on the top page gets transferred? Workers who come to your house often have receipt books to take a copy and leave a copy.
People used carbon paper in typewriters to make multiple copies at once (although the back pages were often lighter or smeared). My husband’s grandma wrote letters to her daughters with carbon paper between, so she could share the same news with half the writing time.
But carbon copies are never identical to the original. The carbon paper shifts or smears. Inconsistent pressure with writing created differences. And there was no erasing.
Carbon copies are handy when emailing people. We get to communicate with several people at once. (But please use “bcc” – blind carbon copy – when emailing a lot of people, so everyone doesn’t have everyone else’s email address to spam later or can “reply all” and inundate our inboxes with chatter.)
But the concept of carbon copies has it’s drawbacks, especially when we try to apply it to people. For example, we declare what a mom should do or look like, or what a successful person does or looks like. We declare a look or behavior as less or more manly, attractive, or worthwhile. Then we hold ourselves and others to the standards we claim.
Standards aren’t bad, but projecting the need to squeeze into a mold can be harmful, not to mention a waste of time. Becoming like someone isn’t the same as becoming the person. We have role models and try to emulate their most positive attributes, but we can never become them.
In the Christian faith, we often emphasize the importance of becoming like Jesus.  But we aren’t and never will be the same as Him. We look up to Paul, David, Ruth, and Mary, but we don’t become them. We respect people who have mentored and taught us, but we don’t become them. We gather the very best of them and let those qualities seep into our lives, and we become the best us we can be.
We’re not the same, and we weren’t intended to be. We have common, but not identical, purpose. We have threads of similarities with streaks of differences. We have unity but not uniformity.
Becoming like in order to become ourselves. No carbon copies.

There’s One In Every Group

Have you seen the Southwest Airlines commercial about the solidarity in a group when one member, Fenwick, faces pending attack and probable death?

 

As men in the group stand up for him with the bold statements of “I am Fenwick,” I want to stand up and cheer: “Yes! Stand up for each other! Band together!” And then, another man in the group ruins it all.

There’s one in every group.

I’m a “group” person. I coordinate small groups at church, and I encourage people to build healthy friendships. I know the value of finding people who will stand up with you (and also be honest with you when it’s time to sit down or move on).

But groups are messy. Relationships are messy. Over and over again, I see people shy away from groups because they don’t want the mess. They usually state other reasons; often they claim to be too busy. But when I have a conversation and listen to past experiences and concerns, whether they can admit it in words or not, they are apprehensive. They don’t want to be annoyed, inconvenienced, or vulnerable.

Life is messy enough. Why open ourselves up to people who are immature and messy?

We’re immature and messy, too. By someone’s standards. We might not see it, but each of us can be annoying. But we’re also worth the risk. We’re in need of others, whether we want to be in need or not. Connections help us grow. They also challenge us. In fact, being challenged through our connections is often what spurs us to grow. That means it’s sometimes the connections with people who seem very different from us that impact our lives the most.

We might claim to be Fenwick when we feel a strong connection with others, but we also speak out in bad timing, stay silent in bad timing, and become “that one” among others. Be patient, gracious, and available.

Benefit of the Doubt

benefit-of-the-doubtYou don’t have to give someone the benefit of the doubt. You can be absolutely certain about a particular impression or characteristic of someone. You don’t have to overlook and ignore it. But you can still be gracious in your interactions, even in your confrontation.

I often hear people say they just can’t interact with someone because of his or her beliefs. Because of who someone voted for, what someone supports, what someone believes, or sometimes it’s even a personality trait. They simply cannot accept anything from that person because of the vast differences.

Why?

Because each of us can rest assured we’re on that “other side” for someone else. How do we want to be considered? How do we want to be treated? Would we like others to truly listen to us with some respect, even if the other person doesn’t end up changing his or her mind and agreeing with us?

Maybe it’s not so much about the agreement on the outcome as the agreement to pursue the process. We might doubt an idea without much of a cost, but how expensive is it to dismiss someone, refusing graciousness?

The Familiarity of Foreign

unnamedI regularly write for a website that posts daily devotions. There is a team of us who write each month to share the responsibility and provide a diversity of voices. While the site is written in English, it is equipped with translation capability, so people around the world can read it. After this month’s post, the site admin sent me the following message she received about it:

Bonjour à Qui de droit  !

Merci pour  ce texte qui parle de lui-même ! J”ai beaucoup aimé   Tes écrits ….Gloire à Dieu ..Il est important de s”humilier

et de faire “comme Jésus a fait pour Nous ” !  Alléluia !
Merci d”exister !!!!!!!!!!
I don’t speak French. I have just enough experience with a variety of languages to (very) loosely translate.
It’s always fun to get encouraging feedback.
There’s an added “cool” factor when that feedback is in another language.
But I hope encouragement is never foreign. If it is, we can’t relate to or receive it. We have to find some commonality to find meaning in it. And in that way, the foreign becomes the familiar.
Perhaps it’s not always as familiar or as comfortable as our native tongue. Maybe we encounter people or situations that seem to pull the comfortable rug from under us. But isn’t that part of the joy and adventure, being able to consider what is outside of ourselves?
Let’s celebrate differences, not just for differences’ sake but for the pursuit of connection and unity in the midst of it. We don’t have to be uniform. There will always be enough to divide us. May we determine to see beyond the barriers and reach out with a hand, a hug, or a simple smile.

We’re Different

f597fc6cb622d461bbccea699f11cd5fBut many of the older priests, Levites, and family leaders, who had seen the first temple, wept loudly when they saw the foundation of this house, but many others shouted joyfully. The people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shouting from that of the weeping, because the people were shouting so loudly. And the sound was heard far away. (Ezra 3:12-13)

Same situation, different response.

Isn’t that how it often is? We assess someone’s response to a milestone event, challenging situation, or chronic season of life with a baseline of what we expect or what is generally expected. But we’re different. We bring differences into each situation as we face it. Different backgrounds, different relationships, different feelings, different concerns, different beliefs, different assumptions. What we’ve lived through matters, and sometimes it makes us more sensitive, while other times it makes us more calloused. Or we could say it sometimes makes us strong and sometimes vulnerable. We pit responses against each other, as if one is positive and the other is negative.

That’s not always the case.

We can’t completely understand everything someone brings into a situation and response. We can’t even possibly know all that goes into our own response. But we can still be sensitive to and patient with ourselves and others. We don’t have to prove someone else is wrong in order for us to be right. We can live life alongside others despite our differences. In fact, our lives can become richer as we listen to others’ experiences and widen our perspective to realize life isn’t as linear as we’d like to force it to be.

Wind around a little. Start a conversation with someone different from you. After all, the process of getting to know someone else might just clarify some things about yourself, perhaps in a way you never expected.