Category Archives: faith

Competitive Nearsightedness: it’s Treatable

CIMG4384Both teams were there. Both coaches. Lots and lots of parents. The only thing missing was the referee. No one wanted to reschedule this last game of the season, which didn’t determine anything in the standings. We just needed to get it played.

As it happened, there was a parent on each team who was certified as a referee. Both sides agreed to play the game under the officiation of these two dads and abide by the outcome. They each would take a half of the field. At half time, when the teams switched sides, the dads would stay: even exposure to both pairs of eyes, one half on offense, one half on defense.

Man, that dad from the other team, he was BLIND! He called everything against us. But our dad, he was exceedingly fair, giving their team every benefit of the doubt. Really. Not kidding. That’s the way I saw it. But actually, in the end, the fouls called were about the same. If they had been somewhat partial, it went both ways. Season over.

I discovered something that day: my eye bends what I see. If I have a team favorite or a preferred outcome, if I want things to go a particular way, if I want a certain team to win, I tend to see things that way. And think I’m right. In my spectating life, the foul is always on the other team. And even if you point out the transgression committed by my player, I am quick to argue: she pushed first, he was just defending himself, it was inadvertent…. Apparently, I am biased. I see things with my jersey color overlaid.

What a great lesson our sports experience teaches. If I’ve made up my mind what the outcome should be, I’ll see myself as right and act accordingly. Point out my error, and I will swiftly find ways of justifying myself. That doesn’t make me right; it just makes me feel right, and a bit indignant that you can’t see it my way.

Watching those two dad-refs do their best and then watching both teams shake their hands and thank them for the game, improved my vision. I suffer from competitive nearsightedness; I am biased when looking out for my own best interests. Life lived faithfully looks out for the interests of the other, even my opponents, to ensure that they haven’t been wronged.

Developing an unbiased perspective? That requires surrender in service to the game. It requires us actually to embrace and accept the wisdom of “may the best team win.” No, actually. And that’s not easy. It’s unnatural. Gonna take some time, and practice. Everybody gets better with practice.

As one who seeks to live a life which follows Christ, the evidence of my practice is a growing expression of the fruit of the Spirit in my life.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,  goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. ~ Galatians 5:22

Am I growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Are you? Are we?

If we’re not getting better, we’re not practicing.

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The Longer I Wait, the Deeper I Know

J.K. Rowling first dreamed up Harry Potter in 1990, while on a train from Manchester to London. She finished the story in 2007 with the final book in the seven novel epic. Now, that’s a long story. Those who followed it all the way to its conclusion were held in suspense until the very last pages. We were all surprised by the ending — all of us, that is, except J.K. Rowling. She clearly had planned it all from the very beginning; she always knew how it would end.

This is the wonder of a great story and the gift of the great storyteller. They plot everything precisely and then make us wait for the surprise ending. While we wait, our anticipation grows, preparing us for the BIG finish! In the end, what we couldn’t possibly have imagined happening surprises us, and we’re completely gob-smacked by the satisfaction we feel. If we had skipped ahead to the conclusion, it would be empty. We’d have an ending, but no resolution.

It’s tempting in today’s world to want to fast forward things. Our technology and consumer conveniences make it possible to skip the lines, avoid the traffic, and tape the game so we can fast forward through the commercials. Stories aren’t meant to be experienced this way. They take their time, just like our lives do. That’s a good thing, right? Who wants to rush to the end?

But really, why not? If what God has promised is so much better than what we’ve got, why not fast-forward us to the good part? Perhaps because the God who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine (Eph 3:20), is still working on us.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. ~ Ephesians 3:20

God, the great storyteller, is telling His story by His power that is at work within us. For the satisfying resolution to make sense to us, we have to read all the way through to our last page.

We’re not meant to jump to the end of our lives without reading the middle parts. Something of God grows up in our lives as we learn to lead them. It will allow us, with all the Lord’s holy people, to stand before the love of Christ that is so much more than anyone could ever ask or imagine and find ourselves completely filled by it. (Eph 3: 14-20) Hard to believeright?

Definitely. Yet, if Ms. Rowling had told me in Book 3 how Harry’s story would end, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have believed it either. It took four more books to develop the breadth of things which ushered me into the only ending that made sense.

So, even though from my vantage point on this side of my life story, the path to a happy ending may look narrow and perilous, to the God who conceived, wrote and is still writing it, it’s a broad expanse. It’ll take a lifetime’s filling of His Spirit for me to see and believe just how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ for me. Surprise!!

Perhaps this is what the late Steve Jobs saw on his deathbed as he uttered his last recorded words: “Oh Wow. Oh Wow. Oh Wow.” Can you imagine what would make an inventor, creator, and visionary like Jobs say that? Yeah, me neither. Guess we’ll just have to wait.

Is it sad? or am I sad? can we be honest?

It’s interesting how language lives. It upgrades. It downgrades. It takes to the streets and to the wires and the wireless: it is news, radio and late night tv. Who would have ever imagined there would be an urban dictionary? Who could have predicted that words today would have such different meanings than they did yesterday?

Yep. How we use words is a-changin,’ and not just generation to generation, but person to person, thanks to popular culture characters and personalities in the news. We seem to keep finding new ways to express things for an impact. As Sacha Baron Cohen, aka Borat, helped us discover, “Not so much” is a very useful expression. Other things he had to say, not so much.

One must guard, though, against the imprecision of words which may on the surface appear harmless, but in fact have significant impact. The word of concern to me right now is “sad.” Recently I have heard so many applications of “sad.” As in, that’s sad, they are so sad, that was just sad, such a sad country, a sad, sad person.

Is it sad? Or am I sad? Because these are two very different things that have become entwined, perhaps to our peril.

Much in our world today makes me feel sad, but it is not sad. It may be cruel, unjust, uncivil or unkind. It may be ignorant, ill-informed or ill-advised. It may be belligerent and abusive or fraudulent and deceptive. But I would challenge us to get better at addressing it by being more precise with our language.

Sad doesn’t capture it. Giving it the “sad” label, which has become popular, may be intended to express our discontent, but this misses the mark, and diminishes these:

Sad is… losing a parent, a child, a spouse, a beloved friend.

Sad is… getting a potentially deadly diagnosis.

Sad is… hearing your season, your career, your life is finished.

Sad is… you’re out of a job, evicted from your house, no longer welcome.

That is sadness. It is an emotion. Often accompanied by deep, gut-wrenching, heart-racking sobs which come from a depth you didn’t know you had. That is true sadness.

Using ‘that is sad’ for a behavior, choice, policy, proposal, or person is a stand in for our disappointment, discontent and perhaps even disbelief. We are angry, disgusted by what we see, hear or read. But that is not sad. We are sad. Let’s say what we mean.

Sad, in its current linguisity (if that’s not a word, it should be), as a label, is lazy. But more than this, it allows us to dismiss something we don’t like by concluding that this is terminal case. Nothing to do about this one. “That’s sad” has become an off-hand way to dismiss people, things, and practices. It’s a “safe” way to have the last word, pretending to have empathy because sad sounds like a feeling. I am entitled to my feelings. You can’t disagree with sad.

In fact, when used this way, sad is not a feeling, it’s a label; a cowardly way to assign a category to what we can’t or would rather not deal with — distancing and dismissing it all at once.

The thing is, you and I are sad for a reason. True sadness invites me to sit with you and tell you how sorry I am. It asks, “Can I help you?” “What may I do for you?” “How can I pray for you?”

Let’s not succumb to putting the sad label on people as a cushion to rest on. Who are we to decide who and who isn’t a hopeless human? We are made to help.sheep in pasture by Jane Jordan

In the faith that I follow, there is no such thing; no one is hopeless and no cause is hopeless. Our Lord went looking for that one very lost sheep, and when he found it, he carried it home. I’ll bet that lost sheep was very, very sad. But Jesus left the rest behind just to search for him.

No one is hopelessly lost, but our language certainly can make them sound that way. Can we revive our language. When we say “that is sad,” is that what we really mean? Or are we simply parroting a phrase made popular by a very human being? Instead, when we are sad, can we say so?

Can we sound out our own feelings and then use our language precisely? to describe, to admit, to honor, and to speak truth in love. Because love changes things. It brought that lost sheep all the way back home.

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