If you’ve followed my blog for several years, you might remember when I shared before and after photos of my oldest daughter’s teddy bear, who had been slightly damaged by a dog when she was staying at someone’s house.
Fast forward six years, and my youngest daughter had a similar issue. Only it was her stuffed elephant Fanta, and the damage (accomplished by her own dog), was a bit more than “slight.”
Yes, that’s an elephant, and those are the pieces she brought me in a plastic bag, asking if I could fix him. She was laughing, assuming he was beyond repair. But I did my best:
He has a few replacement parts and fresh stuffing (and I didn’t replace his button eyes in case they were too much of a distraction for the dog), but overall, he looks pretty good.
He’s well-loved, just like my oldest daughter’s Alfred, and my Raggedy Ann and Polar Pop.
Well-loved sometimes means thread-bare and disheveled.
I’ve always liked the book The Velveteen Rabbit. Love makes us all a bit more real. Yes, I’m aware stuffed animals aren’t real like people, but love seems to make people a bit more real. Maybe a little disheveled and worn, too, but well-loved. And well-loving. The two go together – the love we get and the love we give.
God is love. (1 John 4:8) He’s glad to give it. He’s glad to receive it. And when we give and receive it, we’re well-loved and a bit more real.
Sometimes I need to “see” my faith, just to catch a glimpse of something my heart is inextricably wrapped around, although my mind often can’t wrap completely wrap around it.
That’s part of faith. Being certain about the uncertain…and being willing to be uncertain at times. Yes, I know “Those who believe without seeing are blessed” (John 20:29). And that is me some of the time, but that’s not me all of the time. I’m on a journey of faith.
The visuals I sometimes get while reading through Scripture are rarely much about me. Instead, God lets me glimpse Him: His character, willingness, love, and mercy.
He reached down from heaven and took hold of me; He pulled me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. (Psalm 18:16-17)
God reaches to me. He takes hold of me. He pulls me and rescues me.
He interacts with me. He’s invested in me. And for that, I am grateful.
I read or heard it multiple times after the news of the tragedy that struck a family and change their lives forever. But they didn’t stand alone. I didn’t hear people talk about what happened to “them,” but that “we” had a tragedy, encompassing the entire community. Sure, not everyone was personally changed, and most certainly no one was affected the way the family was (and is), but the response reminded me of the burden community bears for one another. When we live united, as one, we feel the pain of others. We experience hurt alongside them. It isn’t the same as theirs, but we still feel it. Our hearts break, grieve, and hurt.
The same can be said about the celebrations and successes. We enjoy them together with fervor.
We savor and we endure forever. That’s what sharing life entails. The good and the bad, the heights and depths, the elating and crushing news. Our lives change together. It’s not always pleasant, but sometimes it is. And sometimes we experience some of the sweetest moments of closeness because of the struggles.
Live well together, no matter where you are, what you’re going through, and who is beside you.
“So now, may my Lord’s power be magnified just as You have spoken: The Lord is slow to anger and rich in faithful love, forgiving wrongdoing and rebellion. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children to the third and fourth generation. Please pardon the wrongdoing of this people, in keeping with the greatness of Your faithful love, just as You have forgiven them from Egypt until now.” (Numbers 14:17-19)
We get reassurance from the promise that God “will not leave the guilty unpunished,” and we apply it to the “them” in our lives, often a “them” we categorize and distance ourselves from. It’s easier to make accusations from a distance. When we get close, we realize just how human people are. We see that we have much in common with “them.” Really, there is little difference between us and them. We are guilty, too.
We sometimes focus so much on the promise to punish the guilty that we forget the context of this promise, which also includes the reminder of God’s character of being slow to anger and rich in faithful love. Yes, God is just as much those things to “them” as He is just. He is just as much those things to “us” as He is just.
Also in these verses is a humble plea for God to pardon “their” wrongdoing, asking for forgiveness for “them.” It’s not a blaming, condemning plea. It’s not an assault on “them.” It’s a plea to God. There is no finger-pointing, declaring that YOU need God’s forgiveness. It’s having such compassion, gentleness, and mercy on people that we go to God on their behalf first and foremost, continually and confidently. We tear down the wall between us and them so that we stand and speak on their behalf.
We can have sharp disagreements without sharp words.
I promise you it is possible.
Our preferences, convictions, and “rights” get in the way. We think we have the right to argue for truth with any approach we want. (Reality check: Ephesians 4:15) But a righteous purpose does not justify unrighteous means. We think we have the obligation to stand up for our rights; after all, everyone else gets to voice their opinions; shouldn’t we, too? Jesus wasn’t all that into rights. In fact, there aren’t a lot of rights that come along with being His follower. Sure, there are some really great eternal perks, and we definitely get support, courage, guidance, counsel, and strength in this life, too, but rights?
Confront with respect.
Disagree with respect.
Be willing to listen.
Express your viewpoint with humility and love.
You can have a firm center with soft edges. Otherwise, you’re likely not going to influence people in a way that honors God.
I leaned over my dad’s hospital bed and whispered, “You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to tell me you love me. You told me with how you lived your life. You loved me well. Thank you.”
Just because we can’t say something doesn’t mean we haven’t said what needs to be said and done what needs to be done.
We need to live well, love well, and choose well. None of those things are one time actions or responses. We can be overwhelmed by needing to say or hear the right words at the right time, but there is so much more to our lives. There are patterns. We build as we make choices. We build as we interact with each other. We build as we live.
Or we can tear down.
We don’t have to put a weight of pressure on ourselves but we need to take our choices serious enough that there is intentionality behind them. What we do has an impact. We’re not just biding time here on earth. We impact others–for good or not.
Consider friends, family, coworkers, neighrbors, and so on. How will you invest in their lives today?