3 Things I’m [Really] Sorry For

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 encouraging 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.

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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.

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3) Marginalizingmy 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).

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Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Literally and figuratively
  2. A key distinction between world and ‘like Jesus’
  3. To treat as insignificant

Cover photo creds: Newhdwallpaper

3 Ways to Better Love Your Enemies

Here’s a riddle for you: What’s something everyone has, is the evidence of having stood up for something…yet also a byproduct of brokenness?

Give up? The answer…our enemies.

You know those people who curse you yet you’re supposed to bless…who hate you yet you’re supposed to love…

In many ways, we love to hate our enemies…to exact sweet revenge without the calories. But what if I told you while revenge is sweet, forgiveness is sweeter? What if I told you while enemies hurt, not loving them hurts even more?

Whatever the case, wherever you find yourself…if you want to better love your enemies, here are three truths to remember…

1. Understand who they are

When it comes to our enemies, it’s easy to hide behind the labels we place on them. Seriously, how many of you at one point had a sinking relationship you wanted to write off? Like mileage on taxes…or interest on a mortgage?

Granted, enemies come in many forms and yield to subjective definitions; still, if you’re like me, then chances are you know what it’s like standing on the mast of a shipwrecked relationship capsized by offense and insecurity. Perhaps now you’re drinking the bitter dregs of an expired friendship, a partner turned rival, or a severed family tie.

If so, I want to offer some hope: you don’t have to see your broken relationships as enemies!

But Cam, how is this even possible?

To be honest, I can’t say entirely. All I know is when it comes to better loving our enemies, the best place to start is choosing to see them how God sees them.

Now I know this is a sticky, tricky subject for some so with that, I want to tread this topic carefully. At the same time, I want to emphasize the importance of perceiving enemies as broken yet redeemable brothers and sisters in Christ.

‘Cause truth is: when we do this, we ultimately redirect ‘enemy’ off a person’s identity and onto the principalities in between (see Ephesians 6:12)

Therefore, if you want to better love your enemies, the first step is to accept the fact who you think they are isn’t who they are…and instead reframe ‘enemy’ as lovable people who you’ve hurt, who’ve hurt you, who’ve cut you out, who’ve accused or slandered you, etc.

Bottom line: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

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2. Consider your ways

Now that we’ve framed who our enemies are, we can better discuss how to bridge our divides with them.

But before we dive in, let’s get one thing straight: not all reconciliation stories are going to have happy endings. After all, when the lock is on the other side, obviously you’re not going to be able to unlock it.

That said, there’s no reason why you can’t knock at least once. The question is: How do we knock the right way at the right time?

For starters, it’s always best to take inventory of vain vs. actual misunderstandings before dashing to the doorstep. Ask yourself what is being assumed, what is the reason behind my suspicion, what signals and vibes am I giving off? Give yourself permission to self-examine.

Then after careful consideration, begin to rejoice and repent…

  • Ask the Lord to illuminate outstanding resentments, bitterness, and grudges.
  • Release to Him the burden of having to be the one to make things right.
  • Request of God a removal of fear, a prescription of peace, a path to follow, and a heart of humility.
  • Pray into what needs to be said and how it’s to be communicated.
  • Thank the Lord for all He’s done and what He’s going to do.

Remember these steps don’t entitle you to action, but rather position you to better know how to bridge the gap once given the green light. From there, it’s all downhill (i.e. embracing courage, walking in grace; see next point).

Bottom line: Before rushing to resolution, “humble yourselves…under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:6

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3. Make love known

For this point, we’re going to assume you have the peace to confront…or as I like to say…make love known (not an agenda).

While intentional, demonstrative love involving ‘enemies’ can be intimidating, it can be all the more freeing when we commit; however, to do this, we must recognize…

    • Love starts with courage. No question, loving in a contradicting environment requires boldness, but consider this: the fact you’re here reading this/at the point is already indicative of the faith you carry. Thus, I submit if you have faith in love (i.e. God) and its message (i.e. the kingdom of God), then you have access with confidence and without hindrance into the places they’re needed the most (see Acts 28:31, Ephesians 3:12). Keep in mind you have what it takes…so don’t be discouraged if it takes everything you’ve got.
    • Love continues by faith. If you’re decision to love is motivated by results, then newsflash: it’s not love…since love is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5). For genuine love to continue by faith, then you must die to your need of a favorable outcome/progress. That way, when your effort is refuted or ignored, your desire to ‘try again’ will be renewed and you won’t take the rejection personally.
    • Love ends with an invitation. When we boil it down, loving your enemies is God’s ministry of reconciliation in motion (see 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Still, how we reconcile is worth discussion since if we’re to be “out of our mind”, when must do so in way that tells our adversaries “it is for you” (2 Corinthians 5:13).

In my experiences with adversaries/frenemies, I’ve learned the best way to mend fences is to be sensitive to what they’re going through and how they’re processing it. ‘Cause I know if I can capitalize on an opportunity to offer hope in the moment, I can further extend it through invitations to connect after the fact. Even if it’s just a short e-mail or text, never underestimate the impact those ‘little’ things can have in stitching reconciliation.

However you feel called to make love known, know the same Christ who is in you is in your midst working with you on your behalf. Remember there’s no need to fear when you have nothing to lose.

Bottom line: “Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life. Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (MSG)

Cover photo creds: Wallpaper Cave