When I agree with someone about a point they make,
it does NOT follow that I agree with EVERYthing they say or believe.
When I DISagree with someone about a point they make,
it does NOT follow that I disagree with EVERYthing they say or believe.
If you know me, you know I read and research a lil’ bit. 😉
I often say that I “eat the chicken and spit out the bones” and I’m not talking about barbecue.
I can honestly say I don’t limit my searching and learning to align with my own “latitude of acceptance” as it’s called in communication theory. I have books written by atheists organized alphabetically along with theologians in the apologetic section of my bookshelves. Doesn’t make me a heretic.
I research all sides of an issue because I’ve come to understand that dismissing, ignoring or ridiculing alternative viewpoints doesn’t invalidate them or strengthen my own beliefs.
Very often, this kind of research puts me in the position of recognizing valid points on both sides of a complex issue. There’s tension in that place. Paradox. Conflicting thoughts, opinions and ideas don’t fit together easily. Doesn’t mean the ones we don’t agree with are invalid.
Like I said. Tension and paradox.
But accepting that tension and paradox is what makes it possible for me to agree or disagree with someone about SOME things they say/believe and NOT agree or disagree about EVERYthing they say/believe.
It’s also why I can respect a person who disagrees with me about something without inferring from that disagreement that they are ignorant, hateful, intolerant, “brainwashed” or that their character is severely flawed.
People and issues are complex and understanding is hard work.
Check it out.
Such a cute video.
A great example of optimism.
But another thought nags at me.
Scroll below the video if you care to explore that thought with me.
Sure. He’s the “GREATEST CATCHER in the WORLD!”
But that’s not what he wanted. He wanted to be the “GREATEST HITTER in the WORLD!”
But after THREE tries. T H R E E.
all by himself.
with no coach.
no developmental feedback (constructive criticism)
no hard work.
He GAVE UP his self-proclaimed dream.
and settled for what he was ALREADY good at.
(theoretically. At that moment, he has zero competition. “Greatest Catcher” status remains to be seen until he’s on the receiving end of an average pitcher’s fast ball.)
Does all that sound mean? pessimistic?
If the goal is to make him feel better, then yes. I suppose it is.
BUT. If the goal is to help him GET better, then how is cheering for him when he abandons his dream a good thing? How is cheering for him in this situation NOT encouraging him to give up instead of asking for help and working toward fulfilling his dream?
Seriously. Everything I do well, I probably sucked at in the beginning.
I serve as a career coach and one way I do that is to volunteer with a 12 week program that helps the unemployed and underemployed find, obtain and keep a family sustaining career. As you might expect, the people who apply to this program are looking for a better job. They’re looking for a career inSTEAD of a job.
But even more foundational than that, they are looking for CHANGE. They want a better life. A more stable income. Security. Self-confidence. Hope. Encouragement. Inspiration. They are sick and tired of the status quo and they are at a place in their life when they are ready to do something about it. Without exception, every single person who applies is, by the act of applying, asking for help. When they are accepted into the program, they themselves are agreeing to accept help.
So what happens when the coach they’ve been matched with or another student in their group hears their story and reacts by assuring them they are “fine” just the way they are and they don’t need to change a thing. They are ENOUGH.
If you are looking for change and you are being assured you don’t need to change because “you are enough” just the way you are, what does that mean? What does that do to your motivation? If your choices – by natural consequence – have led you to where you are in life and you are not happy with where you are, is hearing “you are fine just the way you are – don’t let anyone tell you that you need to change” really helpful?
Is it kind?
Is it true?
I find myself thinking about the old adage:
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.”
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
~ Albert Einstein
and one of my personal favorites:
“It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.”
~ Winston S. Churchill
In my experience, telling these students – or ANYone seeking change or betterment in any area of their life – that they are fine and enough is counter-productive. If you want to get better at anything, there ARE steps you can take and by the sheer nature of the word CHANGE, those steps HAVE to be different steps than the ones you’ve taken in the past and the steps you are taking now. I’ve written about some ways to approach changing for the better four times in the last few days alone:
I feel like I’ve written about this before, but when I’m facing a problem, I tend to believe that someone, somewhere, sometime has faced either my exact same problem or one very similar to it. And that at least one person who has faced and solved this problem – or at least figured out a workaround or a compromise – has written about it (or posted a video about it on youtube).
My first instinct is to search for what they wrote to benchmark best possible solutions.
Most of the time, when I research, I get one of four results:
1. I find the exact best solution to my problem.
2. I find a solution that doesn’t quite work for me, but I can modify it a bit to solve my problem.
3. I find a solution that doesn’t work for me at all, but it sparks an idea for something I hadn’t considered before.
4. I find out what DOESN’T or won’t work.
By being patient, doing my research, putting forth extra effort and not giving up easily, I’ve saved money, time and even relationships. Often, after learning how someone else approached a problem, I’ve gotten what I needed, gotten what I wanted and again, even gotten confirmation that a particular approach would NOT be a good idea.
I love learning from other people’s successes – and mistakes.
or the abundance of time I’ve had to think about the chaos of the last year and a half while I’m attending to the mindless task of shoveling the chaos in my house…
maybe I’m just tired.
or hormonal. I’ve had a hysterectomy, so for all I know I’m on my period and don’t even know it.
But, today is one of those days where I’m haunted and grieved by voices.
Condescending voices of marginalization and mediocrity.
The voices that told me I don’t have to work as hard as I do, because less is “just fine.” As if the voices didn’t realize that the unnecessary extra time I took and the unneeded effort I expended led to a result they just described as “fine.” As if it didn’t occur to them that less effort and time would knock “fine” down to…less than fine. And worst of all, by continuing to tell me I don’t have to work so hard the voices continued to let me know time and time again how little they know me or how little respect they have for my determination to give my best.
And now, “fine” saturates the air I breathe.
The voices that told me I shouldn’t work as hard as I do, because it makes other people look bad.
And now I’m gone. And it turns out I wasn’t the reason someone else wasn’t succeeding. I actually wasn’t hogging their opportunities and stealing their affirmation. They are still contributing the minimum and spewing bitterness because they think they are entitled to more opportunities even though they continue to prove they can’t be depended upon.
The voices that politely asked me to step back. Say less. Do less. Give less. and be less. And “respect” the leadership of someone I thought I was collaborating with. Because my unfettered contribution made other people jealous. and angry. and sarcastically hateful.
And now, I’m mired in the mindset that everything I have to offer is too much. Unwanted. The constant monitoring for those boundaries holds me back from offering anything outside of one-on-one conversations. The fear of overloading someone with too much of me keeps my head out of the clouds, my feet planted firmly on the ground and my eyes focused on the 1st mile responsibility of caring for my family. And re-flooring and painting my house, all the while secretly hoping it really IS #thehomeprojectthatneverends.
The voices that flippantly dismissed my interest in returning to school because I don’t “need” any more education. As if ANYone, ever “NEEDS” a formal education. As if the desire to learn isn’t enough reason to seek knowledge and understanding.
And then there’s little voice that can’t help but wonder if pursing another degree might be an excellent two year distraction…
Even so I continue to learn. But share less of the lessons, gauging who actually might LIKE to engage in a discussion about the things that get me thinking by tentatively testing and retreating in conversation, facebook and the rare blog post. Confirmed in my square-pegness again and again by the facebook stats that indicate people view one of my amusing family dialogs or a home project progress report 3 to 4 times more than they ever view anything I post about something I’m learning.
The voices that let me know I read too much (and am out of touch because I don’t watch enough TV). As if someone else’s desire to only read fiction – or not read at all – and quote platitudes or pinterest eCards means that my desire to read non-fiction and quote scripture is evidence that I just need to chill out and “enjoy life” more. Because reading non-fiction couldn’t possibly be enjoyable.
Even so, I continue to read. and learn. and think. Because I love it.
The voices that assure me it’s not necessary to share the hope of Christ at every opportunity because a more acceptable and more comfortable alternative is to “rub off on people.” Because evangelism is a process. of passive osmosis. Because too many people think evangelism is telling someone ELSE how you think they should live instead of telling someone how God is working in the life YOU live.
And yet people are DYING every day. DYING. And we may not get that second or subsequent opportunity to allow our autopilot passing presence or casual words in someone’s life to be the kind of intentional witness for Christ that the most important relationship of our life deserves. We share posts about kids, dogs, kittens and pinterest exponentially more than we ever share something Christ has taught us or how He’s moving in our lives every day, no matter how small.
The voices that explain my writing is too “intellectual,” that I use too many rarely used words like “unfettered” and “mired” or that I tend to “drone on.” (The owners of those voices have already clicked away. If they even started reading at all.)
And now, more often than not, I have the attention span of a gnat when I sit down in front of my brand new computer. With the rare exception of this post – which at this point exceeds the recommended maximum attention keeping word count – I have no inclination to write anything longer than a facebook update or anything that takes more than 30 or 60 seconds to digest. When I think about anything I might have to say, the only word that consistently comes to mind is “meh.”
The voices that suggest I consider the possibility my dream was bigger than God’s will for me. I should be grateful. Compared to all the problems and suffering in the world, the loss of my dream is not a tragedy. There are plenty of other things I could do with my time. “There’s nothing wrong with living a simpler life, you know.” Because dreams devalue anyone living this “simpler life?”
And now I find myself searching for that unselfish place of devotion and delight in Christ that fuels me with passion and a determination to be a good steward of the gifts I’ve been blessed with while at the same time, being held back by the relentless thought that as long as I continue to grieve whenever I think of never leading worship again or of not writing a book or never again speaking about my faith while holding a microphone, it’s evidence that I love the dream more than the dream-giver and I need to climb out of my big britches until a “ministry” of one-on-one every day relational evangelism doesn’t feel like less.
And then there’s the voice that belongs to the person who sifted through every nuance of every other voice, meticulously looking for truth, no matter how hard to face. The voice that wields the sharpest sword and cuts the deepest.
Most days, the Voice of Truth is louder than all of these voices.
The Voice of Truth tells me that these words are meant to oppress me. To feed me the lie that the words spoken by these voices are more powerful than the blood of Christ and the strength available to me through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The Voice of Truth tells me that Satan is far more effective in derailing me through the casual words of Christians than he ever would be through a direct attack from an anti-theist who thoughtfully planned out a full frontal assault.
The Voice of Truth tells me that these are the voices of flawed humans, not a perfect God. Careless knee-jerk reaction words, spoken without a pause for thoughts of the message they are sending or of long term consequences or – more importantly – especially when it comes to instruction and advice – spoken without a pause for prayer.
Voices of those searching for something or someone to blame, not words of personal responsibility.
If you’re wondering if one of these voices was yours, ask yourself why you’re wondering that, and regardless of whether the answer is yes or no, I pray that you click away from this post with an awareness of the powerful impact of the words you speak, the decisions you make and the reasons behind them.
I don’t blame any of the voices. Not anymore. I’ve come to realize that any influence they had on me, I allowed. Any limitations that were placed on me, I accepted.
I LOVE it when that happens! It’s why I read dead guys and footnotes when I don’t have to. I love it when a writer makes me think. I love it when my beliefs are challenged, when my complacency is given a swift kick in the pants, when my arrogant assumptions are blindsided by something I never considered before.
Why do I love it when a writer brings me “violently face to face” with a new perspective I hadn’t considered or a truth I hadn’t realized?
Long story short? Complicated and detailed reasoning summarized? I have an extreme aversion to uninformed myopic opinions being spouted as declarations of objective truth.
I like to learn. To think. And I learn a LOT from books. I like to plow into what other people have written. Reading and learning fuel me and fuel the conversations I have, the words I write and the decisions I make.
You don’t have to be a reader to be informed. In the age of Google and Wikipedia, you can find out whether what you believe is hooey in a matter of seconds.
I’m allergic to hooey. The last thing I want to do is spread it around.
I’ve said before that I’m the friend who prefers coffee and conversation over a couple of hours sitting silently in a dark movie theater together. I’m the friend you can talk to about the stuff that keeps you up at night – and I’m not going to judge you or tell you what to do – because I have no idea what you should do. If you let me, I’m going to pray with you and if you’re uncomfortable with that, I’m going to pray for you on my own. I’m going to listen and ask you relentless questions to help you think through and hone in on what you probably already know but sometimes can’t see because it’s blurred and hidden by the chaotic pace of life. or maybe fear. or rationalization.
I’ve been blessed and honored to have been trusted in many of those kind of conversations over the years. I’ve been blessed to see God move in some of my friend’s lives in unpredictable and phenomenal ways.
But it’s not at all uncommon for God to use these conversations to change ME. Rarely do I come out unaffected. If I’m open to it, I learn something every single time. About myself, what I believe, why I believe it and what God would have me do with what He’s teaching me. It’s one of the selfish reasons I’m so motivated to continue having “onion layer” conversations with people.
But learning is always risky. The results can be inconvenient. It’s so much easier to stick with the status quo. I usually find change unsettling and sometimes its effects are uncomfortably far-reaching. But when I have the courage to listen and be open, I make myself available for God to work in my own heart and life.
In one situation, I had a friend who asked me a question I couldn’t answer. Well, I answered it, but my answer was . . . lacking. I’ll tell you the question, but trust me, it’s not as simple as it appears:
If someone has what they believe to be – and what, in every way sounds like – a saving faith in Jesus Christ; If they believe He is THE only way to Heaven, their redeemer, the son of God, without sin, was crucified, dead and buried, descended into Hell, was raised and sits at the Father’s right hand. If they believe all this, and have gratefully accepted this gift of grace, if they regularly read the Bible and believe it is the Word of God, if they consistently spend time in prayer and they strive to live their life seeking God’s will . . . here it comes . . .
Is it possible to believe and accept Jesus WITHOUT believing and accepting His claim to BE God?
In other words, my friend believed Jesus is the Son of God, but didn’t believe Jesus IS God. They believed Jesus had all the authority of God because God granted it to Him, as His only Son. BUT. They did not believe the Father and the Son were One. They did not find the trinity to be reasonable any more than they found the word trinity in the Bible. When they asked, “When Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane the night before he was crucified, who was He talking to? Himself? That doesn’t make sense!”
My immediate thought was, pshh. I talk to myself all the time.
Wait. Is that weird?
Citing multiple personality disorder as my strongest apologetic? Would not have been my strongest witnessing moment. I had to face the unpleasant fact that I was pitifully prepared to provide scriptural reasons I believe Jesus IS God. I had my own personal reasons and they made perfect sense. To me. But my friend was asking me to show them in the Bible. And I couldn’t do it, at least not on the spot. I had to tell them the truth. The inexcusable fact was that I had long ago worked through what I believed and why I believed it regarding the trinity and once I did, I moved forward. I remembered very little about why I believe what I believe. I just knew it to be truth.
As a result, even though the conversation was focused on them and their struggles, I experienced collateral learning that extended far beyond that conversation. That one question was the impetus for some serious Bible reading and theological discussion. I found multiple scripture verses supporting my belief that Jesus and God are One essence. And I’m going to remember them this time.
But I still didn’t have an answer as to whether believing Jesus and God are One is essential to salvation. Meaning, I found lots of support for my belief that they ARE One, but nothing about what it means to believe and accept Jesus WITHOUT believing and accepting His claim to BE God. But even that statement seems paradoxical.
So what did I learn, besides the scriptural support for my belief in the deity of Jesus Christ? I had to come to terms with the fact that there was NOTHING I could say or do to convince them. For every verse I found to support my position, they could point to another which supported theirs. Convincing them that Jesus IS God was not my job. It was GOD’S job. My job was to remain open to God’s leading and obedient to his promptings. He would do the rest. In His time.
My friend told me that God used me in their life. I would say the same.