Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You Know What Your Problem Is?

I don’t.

I can tell you what my problem is, however. In fact, I can tell you a lot of problems I have.

The one I want to explore today is my problem with looking at other people’s problems. When I was a kid, I remember putting my full trust in a friend, only to have him let me down. My mom, in her own way, was trying to turn it into a teachable moment and told me “You put too much trust in other people.”

All my life, I’ve been like that; friends, relatives, businesses, landlords, other church members. And, all my life people have let me down. On the surface that sounds like I picked a lot of wrong people to trust, or my life has been full of bad people. The reality of it is that I just shouldn’t put all that faith in other people. Only God is deserving of 100% faith and trust.

That sounds harsh too, doesn’t it? No one out there, not you, not me, not some of the people I love the most in this world are worthy of 100% blind faith. That’s not a judgment on those people, or myself, but putting that sort of trust in people opens the door to pass judgment. We’re all flawed, we all drop the ball here and there, it’s just the nature of being human.

My friend Tom said last night “You should never put yourself on a pedestal, because as soon as you’re on one, you’ve set yourself up to fall off of it.”

My mind immediately flipped that to the thought that as soon as I put anyone else on a pedestal, I’ve set them up for a fall. And, honestly, that’s not fair or showing them God’s love.

Here’s how it always seems to roll out; the details are unique in each circumstance, but the overall series of events is the same, time and again:

•    I meet someone, get to know them, begin to really like them and elevate them in my mind to a place only Christ deserves.
•    Inevitably, they disappoint me. Not through any maliciousness, but simply because we’re both human and often my expectations don’t jive with theirs or they simply drop the ball, as we all do.
•    Little voices in my mind, (you hear them too, I’m guessing), start pointing out that persons flaws and fallacies. Suddenly, I’ve set myself up as their judge. “I can’t believe they did/didn’t do that!” “What’s wrong with them?” “I would never…” and so it goes.

Pretty soon, I’ve taken someone God placed in my life for a reason, wronged them and dishonored God by setting myself up as their judge. Sure, it wasn’t my intention to do that, but it happens, time and again.

That’s what my problem is… or at least one of them.

As the saying goes, recognizing the problem is half the battle. So, here’s how I hope to win this battle: Grace. God is trusting me to do things He wants done that only I can do (and He’s trusting you in the same way). But, when I drop the ball, God doesn’t sit back and say “What an idiot! I can’t believe I was stupid enough to trust that bozo! I should have known Mike would screw that up!”

Thankfully, God pulls me into His lap, offers consoling thoughts and, in His own way, turns it into a teachable moment. It’s taken me a long time to learn from those moments, but I think, with His help and more effort on my part, I’ll put this problem behind me and learn to treat everyone as they are: Children of God saddled with a sinful human existence.

Next time I engage with someone, I need to remember they’re one of God’s kids. Not God, not Jesus. Even Peter dropped the ball when he denied Christ three times. If a guy who walked with our Lord for three years stumbles, why in the world would I ever think someone who hasn’t would do better?

This also ties into the old “Judge you on your actions, but judge me by my intentions” flaw I have. Honestly, I’ve come to recognize this as a universal sin: something everyone I know struggles with daily. But, that’s a discussion for another time.

For now, I’m going to strive to keep others off my mental pedestals, so that when they do fall, they don’t have so far to go before they hit the ground. When I think about it, I would never sit my son on a wall and walk away, because I know he would fall and get hurt. So, why would I put anyone else up there, knowing they’ll eventually fall?

Matthew 23:9 And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.

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