Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the different spiritual gifts and talents possessed by my brothers and sisters in Christ.
About valuing other people’s passions.
About seeing truth in another’s experience and validating that, even if I don’t understand it.
About having confidence in other people’s spiritual lives…choosing to lay aside my own perspective of situations and dwelling on the characteristics of that person that I know to be true, noble and lovely.
About letting my own experience, not another’s, influence my relationships.
I know that true love is not blind.
I know that trusting does not mean ignoring our bent toward sinfulness as humans.
I know that love and truth are sometimes painful.
What if I just chose to be less cynical?
What if I were humble enough to realize there is much I don’t yet understand; much I have never experienced.
What if I were willing to listen and speak honestly, and to say “I don’t know,” sometimes?
What if I chose to only allow thoughts inside my mind that I could in good conscience voice aloud to the ones they include?
How much less would I struggle with anger, bitterness and insecurity?
I am a firm believer that God does not have the same spiritual journey laid out in the same sequential order for each and every one of His children. We do not all learn the same lessons. We do not all learn them in the same way. We do not all learn them in the same timing. Our differing experiences both past and present play a large role in shaping where God takes us and how He chooses to take us there. We do not all share the same sins…or as we prefer to call them…weaknesses. I struggle with pride and anger. You struggle with envy and cynicism. I fight daily against immorality and lust. You battle dishonesty and materialism. In God’s eyes…our sins are not on the levels we’ve conjured up here on earth. My lies are as black as your murder. My pornography and your overindulgence are equally in need of repentence, cleansing and forgiveness.
Some of us have walked some very dark and lonely paths, with memories and experiences others don’t like to see held to the glaring light. They are much too hard to explain. We feel alone in the chaotic aftermath of realities such as sexual abuse, betrayed marriages, homosexuality, mental illness or addictions. It is uncomfortable for others to see our questions. It is unnerving to face the truth of our existence and have nowhere to run or hide. It is frightening to have to face the fact that as Christians, we are not spared from Satan’s destructive work and that indeed…innocents suffer at the hands of the sinful. That God works in ways that seem very wrong at first glance. It is hard for us to trust, and just surviving each day is a minefield experience. Our faith is so fragile we can almost see it beginning to whither and die at the first sense of a breeze.
Some of us have spent much time in the light. We’ve been sheltered and protected from the darker side of our adversary, but he comes to us in the form of an angel. Subtle. Soft. Seductive. Deadly. We are fearfully self righteous and staunch in our convictions. We see it all in black and white, while we cover our sins with masks of a thousand layers and colours. We are so far from authenticity that even we cannot see past the first three layers. It is so easy to look down one day and find, to our dismay, that our hands are caked with mud. We are devastated at the maze we find ourselves in. Clothed in all the right armour, we find we have no idea how to use it! It is such a cruel awakening to fall into the reality of our own sinful existence. Materialism, greed, anger, pride, selfishness.
Obviously, these are both very bleak pictures…and I have no intention of even attempting to cover all the bases. Please do not read these as labels or as reprimands. They are simply meant to illustrate how vastly different we can be, in this diverse family of ours. It is beautifully colourful, yet frustratingly complex. Our own experiences and perspectives are so large. It is very hard to see through another’s eyes…especially when we cannot even comprehend what it might feel like to be in their shoes.
Some of us thrive on ministering outside of the church walls; reaching out to the lost and pouring out our time and resources for the ones we love who are outside the fold. We see daily the intensity of the needs around us, and ache with the weight of their burdens. We are intuitive, passionate, creative and motivated. Some days we feel all alone and wonder why others seem not to notice or care that the harvest is so great and the workers are so few. Our lives are filled with people of many shapes and colours. They are children in our arms with skinned knees and broken hearts. They are bruised and dark eyed women on the other side of our smiles. Our houses are filled with sounds and smells not our own. Our grocery money disappears and we can’t quite remember whom it fed. This is a rich and blessed existence.
Others of us are focused on being the hands and feet of Christ to our brothers and sisters inside the body we love. We are keenly sensitive to the glint of a tear, the stooped shoulders and the tight budget. We have been so blessed by the family we love, and we pour out our energy to bless in return. We are arms holding the grieving and letting their sobs become our own. We are eager, smiling hands to the weary Mommy of 4. We are the card, the email, the phone call…just because we can and we care. We are the diligent, faithful Sunday School teacher…willing to say yes the third year in a row. We are zealous in God’s Word and marvelling at the awesomeness of His presence. We are consistently present and available to maintain and strengthen the Kingdom of God.
So tell me…which is more important?
Which is most needed?
I think we all know that we need this diversity. We need this differing of gifts and experiences. We need each other! But the resulting reality of these differences is confusing. It is misunderstanding, conflict and pain. It is a crazy cycle of hurt, disappointment, disrespect and resentment.
Is it really so hard to extend grace to each other?
Is it really so hard to understand that we are meant to be this way? Meant to be different? Meant to serve in different ways? Meant to experience our Saviour’s love and grace in different ways? Meant to be healed, restored and sanctified in varying methods planned carefully by our Creator.
I don’t know.
I don’t know why we insist on chasing others down our own spiritual pathway, determined to see them understand what God has taught us long ago, while ignoring the progress of their own journey. I don’t understand what makes us so arrogantly sure that we are right, that we see things from our Father’s perspective…therefore concluding that the other person does not. I don’t know how we can claim love and yet lack any confidence when differences arise that God can and will do His work in others’ hearts…very likely in a much different way than I would plan and very often without my assistance.
I am not talking about issues that are clearly laid out in scripture…but please be careful what you say is clearly laid out in scripture! There may be more gray areas than you’ve thought. I challenge you to constantly question…is this an issue that makes a difference in salvation? And be ok with admitting that sometimes we don’t know and we need the Holy Spirit to guide us.
I know as I write this that this is a hard issue.
I know, but I don’t understand.
I am unwilling to believe we cannot be better than this as God’s people.
We have been offered so much grace.
Please insert here that I am the chief of sinners!
I hurt, I cut, I kick down and destroy.
I am ashamed of the ways I have spoken and the thoughts that I have entertained.
I am proud, self righteous and selfish.
But I want to do better. I need to be more than this!
I want to fully understand that Jesus came to me before I was all cleaned up and continues to come to me in my dirty, repulsive state so that I can understand that my fellow soldiers are experiencing the same daily surrender. It is not my job to clean them up! It is not my job to point out all that has not been done yet…lest Jesus Christ would reject me for all the lessons I have not yet learned! What a stench I still am to my perfect Saviour! Yet He loves me, He chooses to use me in His kingdom and He gently leads me along on the path He’s planned. I can walk with them on the journey, and dare to enter into their struggles. I can be honest about my own state of wretchedness. I can bring them to Jesus and bring them to Truth, but I cannot be their Holy Spirit.
Sometimes it will hurt, and it will mean leaving myself vulnerable so that I can understand their pain. It will mean ferociously tearing down the walls guarding my heart, despite Satan’s screaming, to open myself to pure, honest relationships. Am I willing to do this?
I don’t know.
But I know that I am tired of pretending to be perfect.
I know I am tired of holding inside the words I know are true, honest, pure…tired of refraining from fighting for what is right, though others may misunderstand.
I am tired of having my defenses so high I cannot simply rejoice with those that rejoice and grieve with those that grieve.
I am tired of feeling like I need to figure it all out, when it’s obvious it’s beyond what I can possibly understand.
I am tired of teaching my little ones to share, to be kind, to be gentle…while I devastate, cut down and drown others in doubt.
What happened to doing to others as I would have them do to me?
What happened to seeing the best in people?
What happened to saying I’m sorry?
It sure gets harder as you get older, doesn’t it? Or maybe it’s just that we’ve forgotten that it’s just that SIMPLE.
Maybe they’re right after all…everything you really need to know you learn in Kindergarten 🙂
I’m sorry if this post ruffles your spirit. It kind of does mine, too. Admittedly I am frustrated often, which really makes me so ill equipped to even speak to this issue. And who knows…I may be way off, right? There’s a lot I don’t know. There’s a lot I’ve never experienced.
One thing I am thankful for is that God never changes, and His Word is powerful. He holds all the answers to all my questions, and with His Presence and power in my heart I CAN make daily, wise choices to be like Him every single day.