What We Do to Fit In

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In last week’s post, Jill told of her encounter with the Lord as she was putting on her boots – and the two pairs of socks and insole inserts it takes to make them fit. Then our daughter brought the following observations to the conversation.

A Future Guest Bloggers

For those who might not know, Jill and I have two adult children. Our son Kayce (pronounced “case”) is 25 years old and our daughter Jennah is 20. We’re blessed that we genuinely enjoy them as people and not because they’re our kids.

We’re also blessed that they are compassionate and wise. We’ve asked them to begin contributing to this blog and are excited that it’ll happen soon.

For today though, you’ll get Jennah’s thoughts second hand through me as well as some thoughts of my own.

And Also…

When we told her about last weeks’ post and what the Lord had revealed to Jill about her boots Jennah simply said, “and also how much trouble we all go through to fit in”.

So true.

“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” – 1 Corinthians 9:22-23

There is nothing wrong in fitting in. In fact, according to this passage written by Paul, there is a huge benefit “for the sake of the gospel”.

And though some may disagree, the Bible never expressly forbids making ourselves beautiful (or handsome). It cautions against over emphasis in multiple places (Proverbs 31:30, 1 Peter 3:3-4, 1 Samuel 16:7 and others) but it never says it is of no importance or unacceptable.

We’re Already “In”

The danger is when are we so caught up in “fitting in” that we forget who we are and Whose we are. Or perhaps it’s better said: who we are BECAUSE of Whose we are.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:1-3

This is one of those passages that is all two easy to gloss over because it sounds so…well, unbelievable. But what if it simply means what it says?

  • What if we’ve really been raised above…well, above everything?
  • What if we could set our minds on the things that matter above instead of earthly things?
  • And what if our life was really hidden in Christ?

If these things are true, doesn’t it mean everything we could possibly care or worry about is taken care of? Completely?

That’s exactly what it means.

How Will You Use Your Energy?

And what that means in relation to boots is that we can dress and present ourselves to the world in the best way we can and not waste time and energy in wondering if it’s “good enough”. It means we can walk out our lives in rest and in peace.

As I’ve mentioned before, Gayle Erwin writes in his book, The Jesus Style: “Anything we hide forces us to live in a way that will keep what we hide safely hidden. In other words, we become unreal–untrue to ourselves–incongruent.” That unreality is opposite to the nature of Jesus who is the God of reality. No energy was spent in covering His life with a mask. In Him, there was no darkness at all (pages 62-63).”

All that hiding is exhausting and as we’ve just read, unnecessary.

We are called to rest in the Lord and what He has done so that we can expend our energy in the direction of others.

photo credit: Masks via photopin (license)

“Watch Me Mommy!”

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The other night, Steve and I had a lovely time out to dinner with some friends. Towards the end of the night, I noticed a couple sitting across from us in a booth. They weren’t talking at all.

Date Night?

At first I asked myself were they fighting? But no, they didn’t have that type of posture towards one another. Now, there is nothing wrong with just being in the moment and not having to talk. As couples, you don’t have to be chatty all the time. There’s nothing wrong with silence in and of itself.

As I focused a little closer however, it was evident that this was a “date night” for them. And I noticed they were distracted. As they were eating their chips and salsa and waiting for their dinner to arrive, the wife was scrolling through her phone and the husband was watching a TV show on his – I could actually hear the show from where we were sitting.

I couldn’t help but think about all the conversations they could be having and the connect points that were being missed. But they allowed themselves to be distracted.

This doesn’t seem like a big thing. After all, they probably have worked hard and needed a night out to unwind, but is that the best way to spend it? These types of habits are dangerous to the long term health of any marriage and/or relationship.

Missed Opportunities

More and more I see these distractions taking the place of relational moments. I was at the park and noticed the mom’s on their phones scrolling or talking as their kids are saying “watch me Mommy!” from the swing.

Steve told me of a similar story. He was driving through a neighborhood and saw kids playing in the front yard. As he passed the house though, the dad was missing the whole thing because he was scrolling on his phone.

As time goes on, we are forming habits that are allowing what’s on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc… to be the first priority of our lives, rather than the real life needs and investment to our growing child, marriages and relationships.

We’re allowing the fear of missing something else to keep us from living in the now.

But there’s hope…

Intentional and Deliberate

Turn off your phone when going out. Silence your phone when playing with the children. Make spending time deliberate. Check what’s on your phone later. Many past civilizations survived without a cell phone and social media and so will you.

Take today as an exercise in character building, and make this promise to yourself and keep it: promise to focus your thoughts and attention on things that are really important- like family, your marriage, your friends, and your future. Don’t allow your phone to be such a distraction that it derails your most important work- being relational.

So Easily Ensnared

Although we will struggle mightily to rise above the distractions of our everyday living, we need to remember we will never struggle alone. God is here—eternal and faithful and patient! He will help us prioritize our lives. He is relational to the core and He is chasing after you to remind you of that.

“Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith.”  – Hebrews 12:1-2 HCSB

Distractions are everywhere, but, thankfully, so is God…and that fact has everything to do with how you prioritize your day, your relationships and your life. Take time for Him and take time for relationships. You’ll never come up short.

The Fish is Still Dead

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There’s a story from our marriage that we tell more than any other. A story illustrating something we see again and again and again: that opposites really do attract.

I Was the Dead Fish

The story begins with Jill and I having a rather heated “discussion” about something very, very important. I was seated on our couch and Jill was – while talking – pacing back and forth across the floor.

After stating a point and asking a question, she paused for me to answer.

I sat silently thinking about my answer.

When she had enough of waiting she exclaimed, “Would you say something! I’d get more of a response from a DEAD FISH!”

We then fought about that.

You can read a detailed retelling of the story here.

I’m Not a Dead Fish

For now though, let me simply say that though we didn’t know it at the time, we had been confronted with the fact that we have opposite behavior and communication styles (like every other married couple we’ve EVER met!).

We have since learned that:

  • One of us thinks out loud and the other does not. I hear every thought Jill has with very little filtering – the good, the bad and the ugly. Jill hears only what I tell her and very little else.
  • I think, and think, and think. And think. Then I speak. Jill thinksspeaks (that’s not a typo).
  • I am quiet and reserved in my communication and expressions. Jill is well, the opposite.

So, I’m not a dead fish. Nor is Jill out of control or over the top when she says what she feels out loud.

Or better said, neither one of us is broken.

This Can’t Be Fixed

We believe this is the number one “problem” in marriages and relationships. But hear this clearly: it isn’t a problem to be solved, it is a tension to be managed (hat tip to Andy Stanley for teachings on the difference between problems and tensions).

SO, if you are the quiet, thinking, introspective one:

  • Say things like: “I’m thinking”, “Can I have a moment to think?”, “Can I be alone for a moment?”. Literally. Out loud.
  • Face issues head on instead of hiding behind thinking and hoping the issue at hand goes away.
  • Allow your spouse to think out loud without interruption or correction and don’t take every word they say literally.
  • Respect, admire and learn from their ability to dramatically and engagingly communicate.

If you are the outspoken, outward processor:

  • Say: “This won’t make sense, but let me say…”, “I don’t mean this literally, but…”, “Can I process somethings out loud with you please?” Literally. Out loud.
  • Recognize that you don’t have to share every thought you have nor solve every issue immediately on the spot.
  • Allow your spouse the time they need to think without interruption or suggestions and don’t assume they are hiding something from you.
  • Respect, admire and learn from their ability to carefully think through and communicate ideas.

Two Parts of One

Your spouse is not broken. You are not broken. You are two parts of one couple.

“…and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one,”
– Mark 10:8

Respect, admire and learn to become the strongest couple you can be.

It’s ALWAYS the Small Stuff

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The following is a slightly tweaked edit of an old post because it is worth repeating: our #1 piece of advice for couples and anyone in a relationship of any kind: speak up!

Quiet Shock

We once had conversation with a divorced man. He had been married a long time before the divorce and someone asked him what happened.

He started his story by telling us about a short conversation from his honeymoon. The details don’t matter, but here’s the gist:

  • Him: “Honey, how ’bout we…..?” And no, it was not an intimate request.
  • Her: “No, I don’t want to.”
  • Him: quietly shocked and bewildered at her response.

He said that this was the beginning of realizing that they were mismatched and it never really got better.

What If?

What if he had spoken up? What if he had asked, “why not honey?”

And what if she had said:

  • “Not now, how ’bout later?” or,
  • “I’m just tired.” or,
  • “I’m sorry honey, I didn’t know it meant that much to you.” or,
  • “Why are so upset?” or,
  • “I’ve been wanting to talk to you about this. I’d prefer if we…” or, or, or…

What if they had communicated that first time? That first time they were “not on the same page” or, “missing each other”?

What if they had discussed what ultimately became a HUGE division between them when it was small – maybe even nonexistent?

It’s the Small Stuff

We have seen this time and time and again. And we have also experienced it first hand in our own marriage: The big stuff that tears couples apart starts with small stuff kept inside. The kind of small stuff that we think is not worth discussing.

WRONG!

If you want to survive for the long term, speak up about the small stuff.

Great marriages are built on mutual respect that encourages – maybe even demands:

  • “I was hurt by what you said at the party”
  • “Can we be more careful when we talk about…?”
  • “I may have misunderstood, but did you mean…?”
  • “How can I help you believe I mean…when I say…?”
  • “Can we talk?”
  • Etc., etc., etc., etc…

EVERY TIME we’ve done this we’ve caught something potentially big and damaging while it was small and easily discussed.

So again, our #1 piece of advice: speak up! Always. Often. And ESPECIALLY when it seems like a small stuff.

SPEAK UP!

Our Elaborate Fig Leaves

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I’m involved with an Old Testament Survey study as part of the Pastorship class I’m attending at our church. Something jumped out at me in last week’s lesson that I simply need to share.

“But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”” – Genesis 3:9-12

All You Need to Know

I’ve said for some time now that everything you need to know about human nature is found in the third chapter of Genesis. I’ve written about it here and a few other places but I hadn’t noticed how much three behaviors stood out in the three short verses quoted above: fear, hiding and accusing.

Sums up everyone’s behavior on the planet.

Fear

There’s a reason “do not fear” appears 365 times in the Bible in various forms, God knew we would fear. And we all fear one or both of two things:

  • Death – at the heart of our fears about money, health, love, earthquakes, control, the unknown and more is our core fear of death. Yet even this has been conquered by Christ, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” – 1 Corinthians 15:55
  • God – the primary reason people don’t accept or fully accept the Lordship of Christ is fear. Not so much a fear of Him, but a fear of losing control of the life we so much want to live.

Or a fear of being exposed

Hiding

I have found no better explanation of hiding and it’s affects than these words of Gayle Erwin in his book, The Jesus Style:

“Our true nature is not designed for us to hide our selves. The energy that goes into hiding is costly to us as persons. Anything we hide forces us to live in a way that will keep what we hide safely hidden. In other words, we become unreal–untrue to ourselves–incongruent. That unreality is opposite to the nature of Jesus who is the God of reality. No energy was spent in covering His life with a mask. In Him, there was no darkeness at all (pages 62-63).”

Sadly, we do most of our hiding in our marriages and families. Which brings us to:

Accusations

Adam blamed Eve and then God (“the woman you gave me”) and Eve blamed the serpent and we’ve been blaming everyone else ever since.

It’s the perfect cycle: fear – hiding – accusing. And because we know the accusations are weak, because they ALWAYS are, we fear being found out so we…hide. Round and round and round and round we go.

Thankfully, the cycle has been broken and we can all participate.

Humility and Conversation

The first step is seeking and walking in true humility:

  • An accurate, healthy and positive assessment of who you are – the good, bad and the ugly. While that may sound contradictory, we can and should embrace all of who we are exactly as we are because…
  • God embraces us exactly as we are. Yes He longs to grow us in His image but this is because He loves us NOT because He can’t wait until ‘we grow up and figure it out’.

From a place of healthy humility, we can then talk:

  • To God who wants to have a relationship with us. A clear, candid, real, no-holds-barred, relationship.
  • To our spouse and family who also want a relationship but, most importantly, have been given to us to help us live life well. The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”” – Genesis 2:18. The key word is helper and it’s supposed to work both ways.

We can only find what’s best for us and live the life we’re meant to live by being honest and open with God and those whom God has partnered us with. Take off your fig leaf and talk.

photo credit: Peek-a-boo via photopin (license)

Tolerance is a Lie

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I read an article somewhere this past week that inspired a, “YES! That’s IT!” reaction. In the past several days, the Lord has added thoughts of His own. I’m passing along these thoughts.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. – 2 Corinthians 5:16-20

Sympathy or Indulgence

I don’t need to tell you that tolerance is the word of our day. Perhaps ‘word’ isn’t a strong enough…word. Weapon might be more appropriate.

I say weapon because it seems like the word tolerance is being used to beat people over the head until they submit. We are bombarded by messages telling us we must tolerate this and we must tolerate that or else!

But is this really a worthy goal? Have “we” stopped to think what the word tolerance even means?

Merriam-Webster defines tolerance as, “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own”. Other definitions include, “allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of…”, “to accept or endure someone or something unpleasant or disliked”, and, “to put up with”.

Which means that tolerance can only come from a place of superiority.

Us vs. Them

In order to tolerate something or someone, we have to first judge it or them to be inferior and, therefore, needing to be changed.

Things that are tolerated are to be avoided or stopped.

  • We tolerate the Summer heat until we get inside
  • We tolerate long, long lines so we can ride the roller coaster
  • We tolerate screaming kids because a 5 year olds’ Birthday Party is worth it

Given this point of view, is forcing everyone to tolerate – which forces negative judgement – really the best solution?

There’s got to be a better way, and there is.

Reconciliation

The passage from 2nd Corinthians 5:16-20 written above gives us God’s heart on this matter in no uncertain terms:

  • Worldly point of view – anything less than God’s view of people is no longer an option. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
  • Who reconciled us – “while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8)” God gave us access to His love and His healing through belief in Him NOT personal perfection.
  • Ministry of reconciliation – we are called to reconcile people to God through belief in who Christ is NOT through personal perfection
  • We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.

This is why I say tolerance is a lie. It is a sham of pious sympathy held up as the epitome of human behavior. It is a diversion and we who know the truth of Christ must not fall for it.

We are called to something far deeper, more difficult and eternally true. We are called to love unconditionally with a mind-blowing love that points people to its source: the risen Savior, Jesus Christ.

Don’t be tolerant, choose to love instead.

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