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.

To Give Up or Go With

a907a4a6bb70515f92929de481b04a52Perseverance, patience, hope, and faith is important, but we can also inch into the stubborn zone. We don’t want to give up, but accepting God’s will for a specific situation or season isn’t giving up: It’s giving in and going with Him.

But it’s so hard.

On the seventh day the baby died. But David’s servants were afraid to tell him the baby was dead. They said, “Look, while the baby was alive, we spoke to him, and he wouldn’t listen to us. So how can we tell him the baby is dead? He may do something desperate.”

When David saw that his servants were whispering to each other, he guessed that the baby was dead. So he asked his servants, “Is the baby dead?”

“He is dead,” they replied.

Then David got up from the ground. He washed, anointed himself, changed his clothes, went to the Lord’s house, and worshiped. Then he went home and requested something to eat. So they served him food, and he ate.

His servants asked him, “What did you just do? While the baby was alive, you fasted and wept, but when he died, you got up and ate food.”

He answered, “While the baby was alive, I fasted and wept because I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let him live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I’ll go to him, but he will never return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:18-23)

Don’t give up, but don’t refuse to give in either. Follow well even when you don’t understand. Let hope take you closer to God instead of driving a wedge of frustration or disillusion between you and Him. Go with Him. He’s the best partner to walk through anything and everything with you.

Conditional Trust

c3695664ee0db4631a9f35105041a02b“Deal with us as You see fit; only deliver us today!” (Judges 10:15)

We make deals with God. We go to Him with what we think is trust, giving Him permission to do what He wants, yet there are often conditions. We basically say, “I trust that you will _____, God. Go ahead and do what you do best. But can’t you just _____ now? That’s how I’ll know you’re really there and working in my life.”

We want immediacy. We’re often willing to delay receiving what He wants to give us because immediate results are more important to us. We’re willing to pay a little more interest in the long run because we get what we want in the short term.

But God doesn’t work like a bank or credit card loan. If we tell Him to “deal with us as You see fit,” there will be short-term and long-term consequences, lessons, and preparation. Placing conditions on His provision and timing don’t limit Him at all, but it limits our connection to Him.

The only condition we need to put on the trust we have in Him is that He will continue to be who He is, not the image of what we’ve created Him to be. That’s a condition He will always meet.

Conditions of Deliverance

097a4e3Joshua said to the two men who had scouted the land, “Go to the prostitute’s house and bring the woman out of there, and all who are with her, just as you promised her.”(Joshua 6:22)

“The prostitute.” Not the former, reformed, or repentant prostitute. Just “the prostitute.” Insert any other label that you want. The definition is likely the same: behaving outside of God’s will…but not exempt from His deliverance.

We must remember this as we share God with others we identify as being outside His will. They are worthy of deliverance. And they don’t have to jump through our hoops of behavior and change in order to receive His mercy. He knows their path better than we do. If He’s willing to meet them right where they are and bring them to a new place, even if they don’t change every way that needs to change, can’t we extend the grace and mercy and patience? After all, He’s delivering us despite our obstinance, too, including our inflexible approach to others.

The Other Side of Me

5d59cbf0b7adbc3de42e3cac241ab33eRight now, what is it like to be on the other side of me?

It’s a question we should ask ourselves often. And not just when we’re at our best. In our grumpy times, our overacting moments, our misjudgments: what is it like to be on the other side and receive what we are spewing?

Perhaps it would calm us down, humble us, cause us to slow down enough to explain what’s going on in our minds and hearts and better our interactions with others. Perhaps it would help us be patient and forgiving with others as we can relate to them in some way. Perhaps it would help us be more honest with ourselves and not compare someone’s glimpse of us to our best image of ourselves.

Perhaps we’d do a lot less rationalizing and a lot more listening, waiting, reflecting, and responding with generous compassion.

 

The Hard and Helpful Things

7c0d6a9a492ec3dfe0fcd61b8875279bSome things are hard and helpful. I’ve learned that a lot lately. We want to separate the two. If something is hard, we have an aversion to it. We don’t want to endure it. We’re rather avoid it. But we need it in order to grow, to refine us, to teach us who we are, and in most cases, who God is. Without it, we miss something.

If you try to help a butterfly out of its cocoon, trying to make it’s transition easier, it will not be able to fly. It needs the struggle to complete its transformation. The struggles prepares the butterfly for the next stage of life.

We can help each other through struggles, but we can’t completely take them away. We can be present, patient, and encouraging. We can help, but it’s not easy. It’s okay. The hard stuff is often work it when we approach it with humility and a willingness to learn and grow.

Are You Willing to Walk through the Door?

key_and_lock

Imagine yourself on the outside. In front of you is a closed door. You’re pretty sure you’ll like what’s on the other side. In fact, you hear some voices and laughter. You see warm lights and comfortable chairs. It all seems so inviting, but you can only see a glimpse, because you’re on the wrong side of the door.

Consider a time you’ve felt out of place, as if you don’t belong, and you can’t quite get from where you are to where you want to be.

Perhaps it’s that you want be have more friends. Or perhaps it’s that you want to escape from where you are. Maybe you want more of something good, perhaps fruit of the Spirit. You stand at that door until your feet get sore. You pace back and forth. You try to distract yourself and sit on the nearby steps for a minute. But you find yourself back at that door.

Then you see it. You have no idea why you didn’t notice it before, but there is a key in the door. All you have to do is turn the key, open the door and walk in. But your heart quickens. You pause. You now have access to what you’ve been longing for, imagining, but what if it isn’t all that you expect? What if it’s not as wonderful as you want it to be? What if you’re disappointed?

We’ve all walked through the doors and found ourselves in the very places and situations we longed to be, and we still don’t quite feel complete. We stand in a crowded room yet feel alone. We feel as if we have grown spiritually, yet we long for more. We feel insufficient, hesitant. We’re not sure we can continue. We start to second guess ourselves. Doubt and insecurities creep in. Why?

Because we are living on earth. It’s a messy place, full of challenges, but also full of opportunities. We don’t get everything tied up in a neat tidy bow here, but it is worth turning that key and walking through the door…into an imperfect place with imperfect people with a perfect God. We soon learn that once we’re in that room, there is another door and another and another. We think once we’ve walked through, we will have arrived. That’s not the case. Sometimes we stay in a room longer than we prefer, and sometimes we rush through and would prefer to stay in a comfortable place a bit longer. But keys are placed in doors with different timing for different reasons. Are we bold enough to trust God’s timing? Are we courageous enough to stay alert, learn some lessons, be humble, and grow in our relationship with Him?

Before long, you’ll walk through a door. You get to choose how to leave wherever you are right now. We often move on from where we are, yet we are unchanged. If we’re not changing, if we’re not growing, what is the point? We only have a specified yet unknown number of minutes, hours, days, and years in this life. How many of them are you whittling away? How intentional are you about changing and growing spiritually?