MOVING FORWARD IN FAITH #2
(WHENEVER “I WOULD NEVER…”)
When my children were small, I vowed to remain patient with their questions and encourage their curiosity. I planned to regard each of their questions as an opportunity to gently explain my reasoning, teach them something new, or explain why certain rules are in place. I felt that I would be the perfect, patient mom with their many questions – until one day when my patience was worn and I answered one of those “Why?” questions with, “Because I said so!” My reply was one I had claimed I would never use. I had felt so confident in my parenting skills that I never dreamed I would use those dismissive words I had heard other parents say.
Then there was the time my friend and I were sadly discussing the grief and trials of his divorce. I confided that my marriage was challenging at times, but determinedly added, “but I would never get divorced.” He looked at me intently and then quietly said, “Never say never, Karen.” A few years later, the “never” happened. I had thought that I could handle the conflicts and trials of relationships better than other couples. But there I was…
And several years ago, Jim and I visited our daughter in West Virginia for the first time. Driving through the hills was intimidating, and I firmly stated, “I would never want to live here.” Then our health situations changed, and we decided to move to a more central location for our family. Once we became more familiar with the area, we found we actually liked the community. With additional discernment, we soon decided that Hurricane would be the best place to make our new home.
How easily I can claim that “I would never…” while believing that I would somehow know better, do better, or find better. The proclamations we announce, the judgments we render, and the bold stands we take, can be done so readily when we have not been challenged ourselves. We feel naïvely confident about our wisdom and our ability. Then patience wanes. Situations become desperate. Circumstances change. New information comes. And we find that we are no longer so sure of our once firmly-held stances or beliefs.
Certainty often arises from naiveite. We can so easily judge another’s choices or actions when they stem from circumstances or experiences we have not faced ourselves. Though I know in my heart that some actions are clearly wrong, I can imagine that in certain extreme or dire situations I would consider doing any of them. I also need to remember that my culture, family history, experience, education, and faith, do not form the definitive basis for the beliefs or actions of others. When I begin to think I have all the answers, God kindly (and at times, painfully) shows me that I certainly don’t.
Perhaps our deepest wisdom comes when we realize our lack of wisdom. Perhaps our deepest wisdom is to refrain from believing we “would never” and to stop judging others for doing so, even when they must face the consequences for their actions. Perhaps our deepest wisdom is to live each day the best we can, and remember that others are trying to do the same – under very different circumstances.
Philippians 2:1-4 (NRSV)
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
Colossians 3:12 (NRSV)
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
As we move forward in faith through these very trying times, who are the people you find most difficult to understand, the easiest to judge? Today, let’s bring these people to God in prayer. Let’s ask God to increase our understanding, compassion, and humility. Let’s ask God to open our eyes to the times when we have been not only prideful, but mistaken. Finally, let’s thank God for the one certainty we do have – that we are all God’s beloved children – and from this certainty, ask God to help us find ways to make the world a kinder and better place for everyone.
(In my Introduction, I had originally planned to call this post, “Take Stock of Ourselves” but in the writing, I found this new title to be more appropriate.)
Bible verses found at BibleGateway.com: A searchable online Bible in over 150 versions and 50 languages.