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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

You May Be Offended...


Have you noticed in the news how often there are stories about individuals who apologize for having offended this group or that group?  If you are like me, there comes a point when you see another headline and think, “Really?  Somebody had to apologize for that?  

Let me be the first to acknowledge that there has been a lot of abuse, hostility and legitimate concerns over the years, and more respect for others is a good thing.

Nevertheless, I grew up with the notion that wearing a chip on your shoulder and daring someone to knock it off was looked down upon.  In our current culture there appear to be multitudes of people walking around with their feelings on their sleeves  -  and seeking a reason to be offended.  Encouraging this behavior are legal vultures - encouraging and nurturing those hurt feelings -  seeking a way to drag the offenders into court in an effort to get rich quick.  

At least, that’s my take on the matter a lot of the time.  Especially when it involves apologies for trivial matters. 

There’s an good book that has been out for several years now that I think is a must read for every Christian in the United States.  It would benefit any christian in any country as well. The book is by John Bevere titled, The Bait of Satan.  

His theme is that there are certain issues in our churches that create the most problems and the greatest division in our congregations.   His primary point is the issue of being offended, and choosing to take that offence to heart, rather than forgive, let it go and move on. Choosing to be offended happens time and again in many churches, wreaking a superabundance of havoc and dissension.

I also believe that this happens in marriage - and divorce - as well.  

I would suggest that this same “bait” of being offended and choosing to take on the offense, and then nurturing the grudge is a prelude to divorce.  I wonder how many marriages would be much happier if the spouses were intentional about choosing to not take on an offense, choosing the path of Biblical love, with Peter's word, that “covers a multitude of sins.”  This is significantly different from saying that serious issues should be ignored, things like abuse or infidelity.  

The many marriage relationships that suffer the strain from accumulated minor offenses such as a forgotten milestone, an unkind word stated in duress, failure to notice a new hairstyle, or even squeezing the toothpaste tube instead of rolling it are on a path to further difficulties.  Jesus’ teaching included a statement that it is an inevitability in life that offenses will come our way.  It is the wise person who decides that life is too short to welcome them into their hearts and minds.  

Well, probably this article will offend somebody, because they will assume it trivializes suffering they have experienced.  

On the other hand, hopefully, those people will have the wisdom to simply choose to let it go.  Letting go of offense is a good habit to develop in life saving one from heartache and brokenness.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Control Freak!


That question is one that might be a contributing factor to a lot of divorces, I suspect, as couples haggle over which one is in charge in their marriage.  Maybe that is an issue you deal with in life in lots of ways.  However, I’d like to approach this topic from a different angle today.

Over the years I have observed a lot of people dealing with issue of control.  Some are what we would call “control freaks” who insist that everything be their way and nothing be done without their input and approval.  Sometimes taking control can be helpful, when in the midst of chaos an individual takes the lead to direct the situation into appropriate resolution.  Other times, individuals come off as little dictators, issuing their orders and making their demands with no consideration for people who might have a different point of view. Most of us like to have control over some areas of our lives, everything from the clothing we wear to our choice of food to use of our time.  The feeling of powerlessness is a very threatening experience for most of us, and being at the mercy of the whims of others is an uncomfortable place to be, and so we take time or order our lives and make our plans so that things will work in our lives in a way that suits us.

But divorce is one of those life experiences that shatters our illusion that we are in control, because suddenly we are at the mercy of courts and attorneys and an adversarial ex, and our emotions go into almost incomprehensible upheaval.  Other life experiences can have the same effect, such as an accident that leaves you physically impaired, a disease that suddenly ravages your body, a storm that somehow destroys your home, the death of a loved one…the list could go on and on.  Generally, however, we don’t focus on that list, but on the efforts we make to deny the reality that we really are NOT in control of as much as we think we are.

Many Californians these days would recognize their lack of control over wildfires that suddenly spread and water supplies that run dangerously low, all because they live in a high population area in a time of drought over which they have no control.  Really, though, we control much less than most of us want to admit.  Events like divorce or a drought just bring the reality to the surface.

It can be a very hard thing to suffer the loss of control, especially when you thought you had life pretty well figured out and things seemed to be on track.  The scriptures, however, make pretty plain that the only one who really is in control is God.  There are images in the Bible that describe the greatest nation as nothing more than a speck of sand or drop in a bucket, and how God smiles at the things we think we have planned that he knows will not come to fruition.  It kind of makes me think of the child who is attempting to accomplish a task under the watchful eye of the parent, while refusing to listen to guidance to do it properly.  How many parents have heard their children say, “I’ll do it myself,” only to know the child will be back soon asking for help in the task that is more difficult than they know?  God probably thinks the same thing about us, sometimes.

In a time when life is spinning out of control, we have the opportunity to recognize that we never really had it in control anyway…we just THOUGHT we did!  That, actually is a good thing, because, most of the time, people who think they should be in control of their own lives or the lives of others, generally don’t know as much as they think they do, especially the ones who are convinced that they know more than anybody else and think THEY know what is best for everybody!  Only God knows what really is best, and only fools put themselves in the place of God!

Life spinning out of control offers us the the opportunity to acknowledge the only one who knows the number of our days and the hairs on our head.  In times like that I have been most struck by the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, in which he deliberately relinquished control with the phrase he expressed to the Father, “not my will, but yours be what is done.” 

Around the world, every day, people are experiencing that life is not really in their control.  Earthquakes strike.  Countries are torn by war.  Refugees are displaced.  People lose their jobs.  Economies slump or collapse.  Cars and planes wreck.  Marriages fall apart.  When things in life feel so out of control, that is a perfect time to quit trying to grasp on to the unholdable and simply choose to let God make the calls by taking on the role of a servant who is willing to accept whatever God may bring our way.  The resurrection, of your own life, that God leads you to, may surprise you in the end.