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Perhaps the thing God is teaching me the most at the moment is to respect the choices and decisions and lifestyles of other people. To really allow them to choose what they think is best for their lives. Whether it is meaningless like the insane compulsion to use inferior computers when Apple computers are far superior and so readily available at GregsApples.com for a low, low price… 🙂
Or, the deeper stuff of life, too.
We are clearly all very different. Difference displays God’s diversity. His bigness, in that he contains all of who we are in one entity. He is clever, he is witty, he is thoughtful, he is wise, he is spontaneous, he is organized, he is gentle, he is strong, he is all of that and more than we know. All in one. He made us all a unique combination of pieces of himself.
But we are not always good at embracing the differences. Usually, we want to snuff them out. Our first inclination at the sight of something different is to want to correct it, to make it better. Right? When I see my kids doing something that I would not, or that I think is wrong or even a waste of time, I want to tell them not to do it. Or to do it differently. Of all of the people I might influence, I have the most say in my kids lives, but I have done that with other people as well. I have a really hard time holding back my ideas for what Jen should be doing, or how she should be thinking, or spending her time. She would appreciate me learning to use a leash on my words, but as of yet I have not mastered that.
I have mentioned before on this site that a bunch of the things we do as “the church” (as it is understood in popular culture) are intended to conform people to a way of thinking that is held by a small group of people in leadership, or a single leader, or even perhaps the majority. There is a code of right behavior, and we are all encouraged to align ourselves accordingly. Without thought of or allowance for a difference of opinion or interpretation on how one might live out a life with Jesus.
While those words may paint a slightly darker picture than you may perceive, they do mirror reality in that we are not very good at letting others experience their own journey with their Father. There are “ways you do things” and we often find ourselves at least thinking that people should be righting their ship accordingly, if not telling them to their face. (Or, as is often the case in “the church”, telling many other people how we think they should be doing it.)
We are very into controlling.
Perhaps it’s because we have so little control in our own lives? Since we can’t really control what happens to us, or even, it would seem, what we ourselves do, then the next best thing would be to tell someone else what to do, right? If you can by guilt, authority or some other means of manipulation get them to do what you think is right, then you have some semblance of control in your own life. But not really. It too is only an illusion.
The idea of releasing control is especially frightening in the setting of “the church” as there are standards to uphold and to visibly conform to. When someone who has lived a life full of habits and behaviors that stray from the standard, from the code of right behavior for a follower of Jesus, then they need to be carefully monitored so they will be brought up to code. Their lives will then be an appropriate witness of the power of God, being conformed to the likeness of all the other members. Right?
“Do not conform any longer … but be transformed…”
Interestingly enough, the word Paul chose to avoid was “conform”. He says we should be “transformed” by the renewing of our minds. Allowing God to do a work in us that conforming to a set of rules, or code of ethics or standard of behavior could do in us. We can’t do it for ourselves, and we can’t expect it of other people.
You may be at a point in your journey where the rules are helping you tremendously. You have never known boundaries before, so the clear fences of right and wrong actually produce freedom in you. In my book, A Journey Shared, there is a story about “The Heart” that likens it to the scripture where a runner is free to run in the path of God’s commands… he has a direction, a boundary. But that may not be where your brother or sister is.
You might be at a point where you grew up following all the regulations, serving a God who monitored your every move and either approved or disapproved. There was no middle ground. For you, learning of God’s grace and his deep love for you has set you free from the bondage of performance. You are realizing the depth of his mercy and grace and enjoying your freedom from the fetters of religion. But that may not be where your brother or sister is.
Whether it is in the depths of our relationship with God, or a casual confrontation regarding the schedule for your house for the week, there will most certainly be differences. The hardest part of the journey for me right now is not only accepting them, but loving the freedom of others to choose differently from me. Even if I am right, and they get hurt, or hurt others (as long as they are not feeling free to KILL someone or something) … I want to know the freedom of stepping back and letting others have their Journey with Father. Freedom to choose, to learn, to live and even fail as he leads them in their journey.
I am definitely becoming more “pro-choice”.
(And no, I’m not talking about a political disposition…)