“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” ~Peter F. Drucker
“What is right is often forgotten by what is convenient.” ~Bodie Thoene
“You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.” ~Michelle Obama
“My son, when you come to serve the LORD, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, Cling to Him, forsake Him not; thus will your future be great. Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation. Trust God and He will help you; make straight your ways and hope in Him.” ~Sirach 2:1-6
Originally posted on Facebook–March, 2011
Making decisions is hard. Decisions require action and possess consequence. Sometimes those consequences are desirable. Other times, the end outcome of a decision is a major bummer. Mankind, since Adam and Eve, has exhibited the propensity to make poor decisions. The serpent, Satan, was capable of creating the first instance of doubt in Eve. From that first moment of doubt, the dominoes began falling down; mankind welcoming sin into the world. The source for doubt in that initial instance by Eve is ultimately where all doubt derives from: Lacking faith in God’s goodness.
Before doubt there is complete trust in God’s omniscience and omnipotence. Adam and Eve follow the direction of their Creator. There is no scriptural support that Adam or Eve questioned God’s goodness prior to the deceiving influence of the serpent. If Adam and Eve had fully trusted in the goodness of God, then both would have remained obedient to Him, and making decisions would be much easier than they are currently. The only decision would be to obediently follow God’s direction. His guidance. Not ours.
Original sin has birthed many children. All are part of the same family. Vanity, sloth, gluttony, lust, greed, malice, and the like can all be linked with that first instance of sin. With doubt in God’s goodness comes hubris in self-identity. We perceive existence revolves around us, rather than being a part of creation designed for God’s glory. Self-identity has continually led mankind further away from the One who gave each person a genuine identity. There is an artificial gap between our perception of our self-being, and that which the Lord intends. People sometimes say that one’s perception is their reality; however, maybe it should be argued that if God exists—His perception of reality is the only one that matters.
Adam and Eve wanted to take control of their lives. They wanted authority and dominion. Made in the image of their Creator, they wanted to BE the creator; acting outside of His guidance. Now, we all seek Eden…
…and God tells us how to get back there in His Word.
The challenge with following His Word is that we are all compromised by sin. Not as an attack on anyone—I fall in the same boat—but I doubt any individual truly understands how corrupted he or she is by sin. Sin leads to death. We all die. We deal with sin both internally, within our hearts, and externally, within the hearts of others. Sin makes the waters of life murky; difficult to navigate purposefully. It can disorient us, turning us away from our desired destination. The journey can be so arduous for some, that they become willing to settle for a much less-desirable destination. Without help of the Holy Spirit, even a swimmer with Michael Phelp’s ability would concede to sin’s fatiguing effects. We need help. We need His help.
It would seem easy to follow His Word, but the ways of this world do not align with His Wisdom. We have created the world we now live in. The longer We play creator, the more predominant decay becomes within creation. We complicate things. We ignore things. We justify the sin we allow into our lives. Sometimes, we worship it. We confuse His message, being so far removed from its original meaning.
I believe our relationship with God carries into our relationships with others. Where we fail in loving God—who should be easy to love—we fail in loving others. Sometimes we prioritize relationships incorrectly, creating idols in some of our relationships. Other times, we try to earn the love of those we value. We cannot force people to accept our love.
Jesus, the Son of God, was willing to accept anyone who would have faith in Him (God). He wanted to show us His love. But how can a person accept love from someone when they choose not to trust them? The choice to trust and to love is a choice for them to make. We cannot make it for them. We can only be available, hoping for the chance to be present and involved in the lives of those whom we love. Jesus offered relationship to the wealthy man; He did not force it on him.
Years ago, I read “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell. In his book, there is a chapter that discusses an ongoing study that has identified four trigger behaviors which correspond to couples divorcing within five years of marriage. The ongoing presence of these triggers will, within 93 percent certainty, lead to divorce. At first, these triggers are not noticeable; subtly hidden within everyday interactions. They are: criticism (non-constructive attacks), contempt (lack of respect, direct insults), defensiveness (denying responsibility), and stonewalling (shutting down a discussion by refusing to respond). In short, these findings suggest we must be willing to confront in love, and show humility (and accept responsibility) when we have been the one who has been in the wrong. We must trust that we are loved, and communicate gently–but openly. We will sometimes be the one wronged–and other times we will be the one who has wronged. Never will we always be right, or always be wrong. Subsequently, we must be forgiving and merciful towards those we love for healthy relationships to blossom. (You can CLICK HERE to read more about the “four horsemen” and ways to overcome them in your relationships.)
Where society tends to look negatively on sins of commission, it is less likely to pay attention to sins of omission. Few people openly approve the practice of lying, but many of us will condone a non-response where it is more appropriate to respond. We no longer address uncomfortable situations; we avoid them. When we disagree, we often choose to be disgruntled but not outspoken—society does not approve of outspoken people, regardless of whether the person is correct in what he or she is protesting. We are continually becoming more guarded in what is most important; creating outward noise about things without value, but leaving everything close to our heart hidden from sight. We are afraid to lose the fight.
Arguments can be made for a level of reservation. It does display wisdom. There comes a time and a place for addressing conflict, confronting another, and guarding one’s heart. However, it appears society continues to blur everything into non-committed avoidance. Jesus asks for transparency, honesty, authenticity, and vulnerability. He asks us to risk ourselves in the loving of others; through faith in Him.
I recently read “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown. She is an expert on shame (doesn’t that sound like fun?). From this research, she has now begun investigating what leads to wholehearted living. She encourages people to be courageous, compassionate, and connected. She believes in everyday courage, making oneself vulnerable; to be authentic in one’s behavior. She believes in being compassionate to the needs of others, honest and forgiving. She believes in having healthy dialogues with those involved in our lives. To be truly connected with others, she asserts that it is necessary to allow others the ability to be seen, heard, and valued. These things correspond with scripture, though she does not make the association. Sadly, the world now ignores these simple needs.
Only extreme instances of courage and compassion are mentioned in the media. Often, true connectedness with others is substituted for relationships of simple convenience. When it is no longer convenient to be invested in another person, we move forward in life without those relationships…
…part of this is our aversion to suffering. Sin creates circumstances of suffering. Christians have been promised pain and suffering. After what I recently read in Brene Brown’s book, I think that everyone is promised suffering; however, a Christian will be forced to face that persecution and suffering. Why? Because we cannot love fully in this world if we do not suffer fully as well.
In her chapter on “Cultivating a Resilient Spirit,” Brown provides these insights:
“Before conducting this research I thought that numbing and taking the edge off was just about addiction, but I don’t believe that anymore. Now I believe that everyone numbs and takes the edge off and that addiction is about engaging in these behaviors compulsively and chronically. The men and women in my study whom I would describe as fully engaged in wholehearted living were not immune to numbing. The primary difference seemed to be that they were aware of the dangers of numbing and had developed the ability to feel their way through high-vulnerability experiences… (p. 72)
…In another very unexpected discovery, my research also taught me that there’s no such thing as selective emotional numbing. There is a full spectrum of human emotions and when we numb the dark, we numb the light. While I was “taking the edge off” of the pain and vulnerability, I was also unintentionally dulling my experiences of good feelings, like joy. Looking back, I can’t imagine any research finding that has changed what my daily life looks like more than this. Now I can lean into joy, even when it makes me feel tender and vulnerable. In fact, I expect tender and vulnerable.
Joy is as thorny and sharp as any of the dark emotions. To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees—these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. When we lose our tolerance for discomfort, we lose joy. In fact, addiction research shows us that an intensely positive experience is as likely to cause relapse as an intensely painful experience (p. 73).”
We are not becoming solely numb to pain, but to joy as well. More and more often, nihilism is replacing passion. Indifference is conquering action. The world is slowly becoming addicted to death!
And this is where I find myself. I am afraid to act on what would make sense in a world of love, because I have little faith in this world. It is difficult to find support in many people who profess to have the same beliefs as me, because I do not see the fruit. Sometimes I question my own “fruitfulness.” The responses I hear from those I call brothers and sisters sounds eerily similar to the advice I hear from those who confess allegiance to the world.
The few times I have been encouraged in spirit to tell those that I love that—get this—I love them…most of these people have, colloquially speaking, “freaked out.” I have been fortunate in that some have eventually responded positively. Others have totally abandoned me, unable to trust my words/intentions/etc. It is a strong word in a world of middle-road commitment. And when I say I love someone, I do. It isn’t a word that I say rashly–anyone who knows my past would know this to be true. It doesn’t go away. And yes, it hurts when not reciprocated…but I’ll take the hurt with my love. The alternative is something much worse.
When I am moved in love to confront others—and it takes more prodding as I age—I expect the worst; regardless of how loving and intentional I am in going to them. And sometimes I am probably not as loving as I intend–sometimes I have allowed the hurt I feel to seep into my words.
In the workplace, we are encouraged not to speak about the one thing that matters most: Faith. How do you separate life from work? My faith has to be my life. We thank the Lord in church for being in a country (U.S.) where we can openly worship Him. Is this actually the truth? In trying to be accommodating to everyone, we have accepted idolatry and pluralistic relativism. The world always gets worse when we forget God’s sovereignty.
I believe that I have not been authentic enough in how I love others lately. God made me with purpose, and I have regularly discredited that worth. While I am driven towards something greater, I am afraid to be honest about it; fearful of losing what little I possess. In seeing the pervasive, hollow love in the world; making myself vulnerable in openly loving others only gets harder. We don’t believe people can love us, because normally it crumbles when challenged by the reality of adversity. Heavenly joy is sacrificed to numbness, because the thought of enduring abandonment, rejection, indifference, and/or deception is too troubling for the soul. But this has to change, and this is the choice that each one of us will need to make on our own.
I feel God has been speaking to me. Telling me to challenge what I see. Do what He says in His Word. Be bold in Him. If the outcome glorifies Him, then I have done right. Ultimately, I may not enjoy the results of following His will in this world. I have to hold onto Him in faith. Some relationships–no matter how hard I try to prevent it–will assuredly be lost by faithfully following Him. Wealth and recognition, as defined by this world, may never be mine. I may lose everything here. But such are the decisions we must choose now. We had Eden…
…if we want it again, it requires us to make the only decision He would have ever asked us to make. We must choose to follow His will (John 15:7). We must get past our addiction to sin. We must become addicted to love. Love will overcome persecution. Love will overcome loss. Love will lead us through the murky waters of this World to Him. Why? Because God is love. Love is all we need.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. ~Proverbs 3:5-6