For many, it’s the same thing every January…
…we forget all acquaintance, inflate our morale…
…only to tease ourselves with premature quests founded on prayer-less resolution.
But perhaps you’re like me in the sense you prefer cleanse before change…in getting real before getting right.
If so, trust me when I say these days in early January can seem just as blue as they are buoyant.
Still, while taking internal inventory may seem less ‘fun’ compared to making resolutions, when we fearlessly explore what we need to be free from, we ultimately position ourselves to embrace the ‘next’ God has for us.
Thus, in the spirit of going under the knife, here are three things I’m owning as we turn the clock to 2018…
1) Making culture the enemy
I’ve learned many lessons as a state employee from persevering when treated like a number to managing challenging subordinates, but arguably none has gripped me so intensely as knowing your enemy in the face of conflict.
Growing up, like many, I learned Ephesians 6:12: “…we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities…and spiritual forces of evil”; however, while I understood this truth conceptually, I lacked awareness contextually. For instance, at work whenever I felt belittled or neglected, I used to justify resentment by redirecting my disappointment from colleague to culture. I’d think to myself, ‘As long as what I hate isn’t breathing, I’m good.’
The problem was: my offense wasn’t going anywhere. If anything, I had taken cynicism with respect to ‘person’ and extrapolated it over ‘many persons’ all the while exchanging discouragement for a false comfort I could easily hide behind.
Yet, as I’ve now learned, when it comes to not making culture the enemy, we must be willing to assign our offenses and align our defenses in the heat of battle. Far too often, we want to make sense of our surroundings; we want to feel secure about who is for us, who isn’t for us, who is pouring into us, who isn’t, etc.
However, if our filing system defaults culture to enemy while compartmentalizing those we assume aren’t for us as products of that culture…are we not recasting the same judgment we fear?
And yeah, I know it’s easy to appoint anger and bitterness onto what we think can’t be seen; however, I encourage you…
…if your idea of enemy is the deceived, not the deceiver, then not only are you misappropriating identity, but you’re removing yourself from an opportunity to love and judge righteously.
Think of it this way: if you’re struggling to see the finger-pointing, never wrong colleagues as anything but enemies, try focusing on loving them (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27-36, Ephesians 4:32) and watch as God transforms how you see them. That way you’re at least in position to shift the enemy from instigated to instigator.
2) Hiding behind proximity
As an introvert, I love my solitude…that still calm in the middle of productivity and a dwindling ‘to do’ list.
But lately I’ve been thinking: Why is privacy perceived as such a luxury when we were created for proximity (i.e. engaged connection with those around us…not just closeness in space)?
I mean…if you’re reading this, odds are you’re close1 to someone, right? From neighbors to co-workers to immediate family and friends, it’s no question proximity is both prominent and prevalent. Why is it then if we were to describe our ideal escape, it’d often involve seclusion or separation?
Is it because we think harmony and proximity are mutually exclusive…that rest can only happen in a vacuum?
If so, I submit we get back to valuing those in our midst regardless if they treat us like strangers or outcasts.
‘Cause truth is: if how we engage people is conditioned on what we can’t control, it’s going to compromise our conviction in acting on what we can.
That said, it’s worth noting the false security in minimizing proximity.
Case and point: for years at my job I used to think to myself, ‘Just because so-and-so lives two cubicles down doesn’t mean I’m entitled to be close…’ or ‘I’ve tried talking with so-and-so, but after all these years, they’ve never tried to talking to me. Might as well as be strangers.’
However, once I realized these thoughts were only de-salting my witness, I knew my approach had to change. Like my heart towards culture, I had to stop compartmentalizing people to make sense of my surroundings. Somehow, someway…I had to open myself back up so anyone and everyone could be a potential target for love, kindness, compassion, and encouragement.2
‘Cause like many, I can love on certain people well…plugging into their life…even giving gifts (which for me, is far down the love language list), but when I consider how Jesus broached proximity, no one was outside his periphery to love or his reach to heal.
Thus, I think it’s important we all examine ourselves and explore where good intentions may be linked to our own terms. Perhaps then we can find those secret places we may be hiding behind.
3) Marginalizing3 my bandwidth
Left unguarded, my mind can easily drift into personal narrative. How will what’s left untold…unfold based on the good, bad, and ugly of yesterday?
Yet, as mentioned in prior posts, it’s hard to invest external margin (i.e. loving one another) in the present when you’re overly vesting it in the past. Therefore, if we’re wanting to be more selfless in venturing our margin John 3:30 style, then clearly we must be willing to examine our perception of relationship before transferring it.
Granted, easier said than done; however, as long as we’re intentional in asking God to breathe width into our bandwidth (i.e. capacity/strength to love on purpose), who’s to say we can’t change?
And hear me: I get how tempting it can be to assume other people’s perception of you is less than what it should; however, I also know if you cement your mind in thinking people won’t believe the best, you will do the same as well. Why not then trust God to move, convict, and transform others the same way He’s moving, convicting, and transforming you?
If it helps, if you want to de-marginalize your bandwidth, go back to your narrative…but this time, consider what you learn at 35 or 45 may be what someone else learns at 25 or 55. After all, who are we to judge when truth clicks for someone else? I mean…if we truly want to be heaven on earth, then we should want to root each other on regardless if our maturity curves line up (see Matthew 7:5).
- Literally and figuratively
- A key distinction between world and ‘like Jesus’
- To treat as insignificant
Cover photo creds: Newhdwallpaper