Filter Your Assumptions

images (1)In order to connect accurately with people, we must filter our assumptions. Everything gets filtered through our backgrounds, personalities, and preferences. We try to make things fit in with what we already know. It’s how God made us, and it’s how we make sense of the world.

We encounter something new, and our brains compare it to what exists already. It’s like one of those childhood toys that has lots of shapes to be fit through matching holes. The circle will only fit the circle hole. The star will only fit the star hole. But we certainly try to fit it in all the holes until we figure out the right fit. We do the same with information. It’s called assimilation.

When something doesn’t fit, we have to make a new connection. It’s called accommodation. We have to accommodate for the new information we have. We need a new category or relationship within our mind.

When we’re not willing to put forth the effort accommodation requires, we’ll assimilate instead, limiting or ignoring the newness and the reality of the incoming information.

We make assumptions, and those assumptions can be good as they help us make sense of the world around us. However, when we become lackadaisical in our assumptions, unwilling to examine and accept the truthfulness of the situation, we respond incompletely and incorrectly. Sometimes, the only one hurt by our response is our self. We don’t fully experience and grow from the new information. We don’t create new connections, which can later impact incoming information that would have benefited from the previously created path.

Many times, we aren’t the only one hurt by our response. We impact others, because many of our interactions and experiences involve others. When we settle for assimilation information instead of considering and possibly accommodating information, we impact relationships. What can this look like in every day life?

  • As you’re talking with someone, she jumps on what she thought was your last word. You weren’t done, and what you wanted to share was important to you. She reminds you of your sibling who you felt never listened to you and didn’t respect you. You assume this person feels the same way about you and you emotionally retreat, unwilling to continue to engage in a relationship that won’t go anywhere. In reality, she might just be excited about what you said. She feels a connection and wants to continue talking.
  • You catch of glimpse of someone sitting across the table at a business meeting. She looks mad. You assume she doesn’t like the idea you shared a few minutes ago. You know you need her buy-in to make this work, so you start scrambling for a way to tweak your plans to meet her expectations. In reality, she might love the idea and is thinking through the ways she can move mountains to make it work. Her intense expression is about focus, not disapproval.
  • When your friend cancels for the third time in a row, you feel abandoned and ignored. You remember being hurt in friendships in the past. You wonder why you ever exposed yourself to the same potential hurt again. You wish the friend would just be honest and tell you she doesn’t want to hang out anymore instead of acting as if she cares. In reality, your friend really does care. She has a lot going on in her life, but she doesn’t want to burden you with the details. She has difficulty sharing. She’s avoiding you but it’s not because of you; it’s because of herself. She needs you more than ever.

Our assumptions come from what we’ve experienced before. Someone reminds us of our…mom, dad, boss, friend, co-worker, brother, sister, grandparent, neighbor, and so on…either positively and negatively, and we make a connection. If we test the similarity, and it proves to be true, we can let the connection help us respond in the future. But if we don’t test the similarity, and it proves to be a false assumption, and we’re unwilling to process the different information, we’ll miss out on the connection God wants us to make.

God teaches us through relationships. He teaches us about him, ourselves, and others. God is truth, and everything he does is based in truth. If we’re not seeking truth, even when it’s difficult, we’re not truly seeking God’s will. We don’t get to decide what’s true and what’s not based on our preferences and experiences. God does.

Don’t assume you know everything. Don’t assume you even know what you think you know. Filter it all through God’s perspective. He’ll reveal what you need to see and how you need to respond.

Make them ready for your service through your truth; your teaching is truth. (John 17:17)

Shopping for God

target-corporate-officesWe don’t get to pick and choose what we believe about God.

Well, in reality, we can and we often do. But it doesn’t mean we’re right. We can sincerely believe…and be sincerely wrong!

We often approach faith as a shopping trip to Target. We have lots of options surrounding us with every turn. Need healing? Browse the pharmacy and healthcare aisles. Need structure and organization? Visit the office and school supplies. Want to pass the time? Books and movies abound. Or maybe you just want to put some decor on what you already have. Take your pick of extensive color schemes to fill whatever wall and room space you have.

It doesn’t matter how intentional you are when you start shopping, you’ll likely find things that weren’t on your list that you either decide to take home or, at the very least, stop to examine and consider for a time. Some things scream for your attention, and they’re usually found in the special displays and checkout aisles. And that sign that declares, SALE…well, how can you refuse? You don’t actually need a single thing from those sale bins, but after all, they’re only a dollar, so can’t you find a way to use them somehow?

Not to mention, you can do all this shopping with a comforting Starbucks drink to sustain you.

Do you approach your faith with such an expectation of comfort, choice, and convenience?

God meets you where you are, but you have to look and listen for him. Your expectations and preferences don’t change him. But when you fully yield to him instead of expecting him to yield to you, he changes you in ways that fill you beyond what you can fit into your shopping cart.

Faith isn’t about shopping. It’s about searching.

Security

The buzz among those who are travelling by air for Thanksgiving seems to be the looming boycott of TSA screening. A timely topic for me, since I just flew to and from Israel, experiencing heightened security not only in the airports but also on the ground in Israel.

On the ground, soldiers were everywhere…but not on guard as you might expect. Since military service is required for both young men and women in Israel, there are troops just about everywhere – many of them on “tours” of area sites. Kind of like field trips for elementary school children. Soldiers learn about their cities, people, and history by experiencing them.

This group was in the Old City in Jerusalem, where we often saw military touring. Sometimes on duty.

I was perplexed to see another group at Masada. Out of uniform but with guns.

I later saw this same young woman sitting in the shade on a rock on Masada – with her gun slung on her back while she knitted!

It seemed odd to me, but it’s a way of life in Israel.

We went through many checkpoints while driving throughout Israel. We walked across the checkpoints after visiting Bethlehem, which is Palestinian-controlled. We walked through metal detectors to enter the mall and other large department stores or areas. But…I never felt threatened. (Okay, the exit from Bethlehem was a bit nerve-wracking – but for other reasons. Perhaps a future blog post.) Being the leader of the group, I felt responsible and was always aware of what was going on around us. So if anyone would have felt threatened, it likely would have been me.

The Ben Gurion (Tel Aviv) airport was the most thorough airport security I’ve ever experienced. Even through the long lines, lifting my bags up and down on conveyor belts, opening my suitcases and shifting everything in them, emptying every bag of all electronics, and answering a wide array of questions, I didn’t feel interrogated or offended. I didn’t feel my rights were being infringed upon. I felt a bit more safe. Perhaps a lot more safe.

One day near the end of our trip, we approached a checkpoint. As our car slowed without stopping, an officer peeked inside and motioned us onward. I asked our driver what the point of the checkpoints are when people are rarely stopped (as far as I could see). His answer: “You Americans are more sensitive and less secure. We’re less sensitive and more secure.” In short…”We profile and don’t worry about offending others because our security is worth a possible offense to someone.”

A statement I don’t think I’d hear in the States.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I want to throw all sensitivity out the window. I’m not saying another country handles security better than we do or has all the solutions. But I wonder if our demand for personal rights gets in our way. What’s the cost of our arrogance?

If it makes you feel better, I’ll turn it on myself. What’s the cost of my arrogance? When do I expect or demand to be treated a certain way…but in the process negatively impact the process others must go through or their rights or security?

What is security? I wonder if we often think of security as “what’s most comfortable and convenient for me.” If that’s the case, how will we reconcile our “security” conflicting with someone else’s? Let’s not blur the lines. Security and rights or preferences aren’t the same thing.

Security does not equal safety. Security is freedom or protection from fear and anxiety. It doesn’t insure no harm comes to you. It’s a vigilant position. It’s not pulling a “security” blanket over your head and hiding. In that case, “security blanket” is an oxymoron. Security is taking the blanket off, keeping your eyes and ears open and watching for anything out of the ordinary…not just for you but for everyone else. Not to be paranoid but to be attentive.

The ultimate security you can have has nothing to do with your safety. You might be safe here on earth, but are you secure – for eternity? God’s the best security blanket you’ll ever have. And he never covers his eyes.

It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. 2 Samuel 22:33