Thursday, August 27, 2015

How we disagree...

This little blog started as a way for me to keep close family and friends updated on our adoption process. I still don't know how it turned into a real(ish) blog where I write about things I'm passionate about. Somewhere along the way, it happened.

And I honestly don't know who all reads it. I see the stats and I know about how many "hits" it gets but I'm pretty sure I don't actually know all of you. I'm sure thankful for those of you who read my words.

Most of the time, I get sweet comments on FB or nice words when someone sees me in person from folks who agree with me. It makes me feel less alone when I hear from people who say, "me too!"  But something else happens: I also get to have wonderful, amazing conversations with open-hearted friends and strangers who disagree with me or who are struggling along with me. We find ways to hear one another, to challenge one another, and sometimes even change each others' minds or point out a different point of view. And, of course, I get the occasional hateful comment. No worries - I've developed a much thicker skin in recent years.

Honestly, it's those conversations that keep me blogging. Those of you who have engaged with me when we differ, the ones who pray for and with me, the ones who say, "I respect you and I love you and let's have this hard conversation together." You've taught me that we CAN have tough conversations, that we CAN love someone when we don't see eye-to-eye, that we CAN find unity within our Christian faith when we disagree on an aspect of what it looks like to follow Jesus. It's the most beautiful thing when we humbly say to one another "we're both working this out... let's do it together." And so many of those conversations have happened on Facebook, a place I typically throw under the bus as the worst place for reasonable civil discourse ever. (Sorry, Facebook, I owe you an apology.)

I wanted to write about it. I want to testify to the fact that in this polarized society, as we head into an election year when everything will be about THE GOOD GUYS (insert name of your political party) versus THE BAD GUYS (insert name of the other political party), true conversation is still happening. We are reaching out to one another, we are talking. We are looking at things from different points of view, we are doing the hard work of understanding each other. Sometimes it results in the realization that we agree on more than we thought. Sometimes it means we find a way to disagree yet still really love each other and encourage one another as we try to be more like Jesus. It's amazing. Y'all are doing that. Thank you.

And over the years, I've come up with some "rules" for myself for disagreeing with someone. These are just my rules, but maybe you'll find them helpful.

1. I don't make assumptions. Just because someone feels a certain way about one issue doesn't mean they'll feel a certain way about something else. If someone is member of a particular political party, that actually means NOTHING about the character of their heart. I don't assume that someone who disagrees with me is my enemy. I don't assume that I know everything there is to know about what it means to follow Jesus.

2. I make assumptions (ha- see what I did there?). I assume the best about others. I assume someone is coming from a solid place, that they are good-hearted. I assume that everyone has a story, a background, an experience that heavily influences the way they see the controversial, divisive issues. And I assume that those experiences are valid (I won't dismiss someone's experience just because it doesn't align with my own).

These are my tried-and-true rules for keeping hate from creeping in. It works. Does it mean that every hard conversation I've had has been beautiful? Nope. I've had some that were fairly disastrous.  But when I keep my focus, when I remember that we are all on different parts of this journey, I'm encouraged, even by the tough experiences. I pray all the time that I will retain a teachable spirit. I love working out the hard stuff with y'all. So thank you, thanks for reading, thanks for talking, thanks for doing the hard, heart-work of being vulnerable and talking about the big stuff. Y'all rock.

And here's a teeny tiny plug for my church for those of you who live in Greensboro: this is the stuff missio dei is all about. If you are looking for a place that keeps Jesus as the center and encourages you (and challenges you) to figure out exactly what that looks like to follow him, to impact our community for him, come visit us! We are a place where the hard conversations can happen. We don't all agree on every tiny thing but we love each other, we honor each other, and we encourage one another to be more like Jesus. We're trying to do the hard things and have the tough conversations. I am so thankful for our little church!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lessons from my 8 year-old: How to follow Jesus.

I have a new favorite activity with my oldest child: running together. He ran his second 5K back in May and has been wanting to run another. So we have another one coming up in a few weeks and he's been getting up early to run with me before school.

Early-morning, post-2-mile selfie in which I discover there are no filters in Instagram that
will make my skin look good next to his perfect baby-skin. sigh

Yesterday on our run, I asked him, "How do you think you can serve Jesus in your class this year?"

And then this conversation happened:

R: I'm not always sure what it means to serve Jesus.
Me: Well, what do you think it means?
R: I think it's doing things that help other people. Because since I can't give God a hug, I can give a hug to someone he loves.

Um, YES.

Sometimes I think we make "being a Christian" too complicated. It really boils down to two things:
1. Love God
2. Love others.

"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22: 36-40

I love this. How do we know we are loving God with all our heart and understanding and strength? Look at how we are loving others. Because Jesus said the second greatest commandment is just LIKE THE FIRST ONE! That's how we can tell. The Bible says we are to be set apart, to be holy... this is how. This is it. That's supposed to be our "calling card," our mark. It's how people are supposed to be able to tell we are followers of Jesus (John 13:35).

And you know what? This is actually harder than following a set of rules. It's messier. Christians aren't meant to be defined by what causes we are for or against. We aren't to be identified by the signs we hold, the politicians for whom we vote, or the radio station set in our cars. We love others because we love God. We love other Christians, above and through our differences over exactly what the Bible says. We love non-Christians, we see that they are image-bearers of God, that they are precious and beloved. All that isn't easy, it's deep-down, heart-level hard work.

There's nothing about loving others that means we need to be so concerned about making others behave like us. I can love you in all your weird quirkiness that looks nothing like my weird quirkiness. I can love you when we agree and I can love you when we disagree. I can love you when you are on-track and all is well and I can love you when you lose it and scream at your kids and  hide in the closet and eat chocolate chips. Jesus didn't come for behavior modification. His whole purpose was not to turn us in to moral enforcers. He came to show us how to love sacrificially. And besides, what he's working on in my heart might not be what he's working on in yours at the moment. That's okay. This might be why I'm so drawn to loving the gay community. I think good-hearted, sincere Christians have been thinking we were loving them but in ways that hurt them instead.

So there you go. We can't give God a hug, but we can hug someone God loves. We don't need to work to bring down systems that keep God impoverished, but we can sure do that for the people God loves. We don't need to identify and eradicate systemic racism that keeps God oppressed, but we can sure do that for the people God loves. And on a person-to-person level, we can love each other. Really, actually, dirty-messy-there-for-the-good-and-the-bad love each other. And there might be times we need to be concerned about the behavior of someone we love and we need to say something... but only after we've earned that solid place in their lives. Think about who has traction in your life, who has been there for you in the good times and the bad. Those folks love you. They have the right to speak truth to you, even when it's words that might be hard for you to hear, right? Well, we need to be those people. Want to speak truth into someone's life? Be there - love them. Until I truly love someone, I really have no right to make any comments about their behavior or their beliefs. And you know, once I love them, I just might find I no longer need to.