So… I saw Bad Moms, and I laughed.

In case you don’t have any clue what movie I am talking about, here is a promo shot:

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First, I’d like to admit right out of the gate I didn’t walk into this movie with naive expectations.  The trailers gave a pretty good indication that there would be some inappropriate humor.  Second, I am not planning on giving away any spoilers.  There were definitely some parts I thought the movie could have lived without, not only for the story line but even in the presentation.  Sometimes it could go too far.  Third, there were some parts of this that were REALLY unrealistic when you are talking about any group of moms.  Lastly, there were also a LOT of truths.

Overall, I laughed and I laughed hard.  At one point I laughed so hard (as I was taking a sip from my straw) that I pushed air through the straw, which caused a small tidal wave in my cup, and that resulted in my drink landing in my eyes.  Which just caused a whole other fit of laughter for myself and those sitting around me.  I laughed until I cried and my stomach hurt.  Yet, there were some moments that I nodded in solidarity.  There were moments that were uncomfortable.  And, yes… as I said before totally unnecessary.

What I want to write about (and I’m up for conversation too) is WHY a movie like this not only resonated with moms but was drawing us in like moths to a flame.

My first thought is probably the most obvious, there is an enormous amount of pressure on moms to be it all, do it all, and do so perfectly.  Whether it is the perfect birthday party, bento box lunches, or simply making it to every school and sport activity… we feel the pressure.  We notice so much of what is around us, like the mom who has the perfect hair and make up in the parent pick up line… when we were struggling to get out of the house with a bra under our pajama shirt.  We see the kids with the perfectly styled hair, accessories, and sparkling white sneakers…. and we just spent the last 40 minutes looking for eyeglasses or a belt.  Other moms dropping their kids off early, and we are 10 minutes late because we had to go back home and pick up the flute that was left behind… or because our darling child took 15 minutes to brush her teeth.

How do these moms do it?  We cast shade in their direction, but really we are asking ourselves… why can’t I do it?

I think there are a number of moms who have run the scenario through their head of just saying no.  No to the requests by the husband, kids, school, coaches, etc.  An opportunity to just walk away from the pressure and enjoy life again.  To make the choice of not being the perfect mom anymore, and instead be the bad mom.

This brings me to my second thought, as you watch the trailers you see a group of women having fun. We are not talking bunko party fundraiser fun, but the kind of fun we had as teenagers  and young single adults.  The fun we had when we didn’t care what others thought, where it was ok to be silly, and there was an expected freedom in the general knowledge we were going to make mistakes and bad choices.  It takes us back to a time when we didn’t have to be an adult, and could just let loose and be free.

With motherhood came some sort of unwritten code of conduct, that we couldn’t be silly anymore.  We began to take everything too seriously, including ourselves.  Let’s face it, books and the advice of television “experts” reinforced this.  Reminding us over and over again that it was time to grow up, put away childish things, and get our heads out of the clouds.  As we did this, many of us sent fun sailing away for good.  We stopped smiling, we stopped laughing, and we stopped being silly.

The movie Bad Moms called out to that free spirit inside of us, that desperately wanted to laugh… and laugh hard.  So, it pulls out all the stops.  The women let loose in a way we couldn’t, and we live vicariously through them.  They say the things that roll through our minds & do the things we secretly wished we could.  (Ok, maybe not all of the things they say and do, but you get the point).

I also believe this appeals to Christian women so deeply because of the bar that is set for our expected behavior.  If other moms are feeling the pressure to be perfect in their every day life, Christian moms understand the additional expectations put on the Christian mom.  To have perfect children that love Jesus, quote the bible, volunteer with the elderly, and gladly donate all their birthday money to the missions fund.  To be women who are serious about the study of the Lord, leading small groups, inviting women over to mentor and pray together, to dress in simple clothes, and be ever diligent in our choices of entertainment.  There is a pressure that all of our time should be so seriously focused on Christ, that we can’t let loose and laugh until our sides hurt.

Confession… I saw the movie on opening night.  It’s taken me almost a month to admit I saw it, because frankly… I expected to be judged for it.  I was worried about what my church friends, my readers that look to me for wisdom, the women or leaders who are reading through my blog trying to decide if I would be the right speaker for their next women’s event… what would these people think of me?

I learned something from the movie though… my eyes were opened to how long it had been since I had laughed so much and so hard.  I realized how seriously I take myself and made the decision not to.  I embraced that silliness is okay and even healthy for my kids to see.  I made the decision that I wanted to laugh more, but with those whom I am the closest to… not a theater full of strangers.  I want that girl posse who has my back, in the most biblical way possible… and who will be silly with me.  Women who know how to laugh, smile, and stop trying to be something that is impossible to attain… perfect.

All of those parts of the movie that I thought were unnecessary, they don’t have to be part of my life.  But the good stuff… I welcome it.  We are all GOOD MOMS despite our imperfections and the times we muck things up… because we are LOVING MOMS.  In the end that is what matters.  The Lord didn’t call us to a life of misery, but of fulfillment and joy as mothers… and laughter.  So much laughter.

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When the Church Hurts

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Sometimes, we forget that the church is full of broken people.  We forget that they are sinners, just like us.  We forget that they are imperfect, prone to wander, and any other negative adjective that we could apply.  However, we do remember these things about ourselves.  And, in doing so we place some unrealistic expectations on other people.

  • We expect others to be perfect Christians.
  • We expect others to forgive us when we are not.

A season ago, I found myself in a predicament.  I consider myself an observant person.  I can usually read people well, and I really REALLY try to avoid drama.  Yet some how, there I was.  Knee deep in gossip.  What is worse, is that in my attempts to try to fix the situation… I was drowning myself.

My first mistake was that I didn’t recognize gossip for what it actually was.  What I thought I was hearing were concerns, and that I was being asked to step up and help facilitate change to happen.  Instead, what I allowed to happen was an engagement in gossip with no actual problem solving.

We need to be hyper aware that not all conversation is positive.   Even things like prayer requests can be a cover for passing on juicy gossip.  Criticism of the church, Pastor, or ministries in the church are not always constructive.  Quite often others will feed us their “issues” because they are not brave enough to say it directly to the person in charge.  Instead of being thrown under the bus, we then walk out in front of it willingly. 

My second mistake was assuming that they were coming to me because I was a person they trusted, and could help fix the problem.  I ended up woven into a web of conversations, and stepping up into role that I never should have.  It was not my place to solve their issues.

In a flurry of panic, the last thing we need to do is try to solve everything ourselves.  Especially if we are not the person who is immediately involved.  We can not become an open ear to everyone’s complaints about someone else or the way they are leading.  Instead of taking it all in, and then stepping up as a representative of the group… we should be pointing each individual voice in the right direction.  As my husband reminded me:  “If it was so important to them … they wouldn’t have called you. They would have gone right to the source.”  Clearly, it wasn’t that important.

My third mistake was the assumption that, because I was serving in ministry, that those I was serving with would be honest and upfront.  After a pretty tense incident, conversations began.  Trying to diffuse the situation myself, and find a possible solution, I engaged in the conversation and tried to pull everyone together.   Ultimately, when pressed on what happened, I was the only person who didn’t back-peddle.  This lead to a crack in my relationship with another leader, a distrust toward those I was serving with, a hit to my credibility and reputation, and influenced my attitude toward the church I was attending.

When we assume that others will be as honest and forthcoming as we would be, we are just going to set ourselves up for disappointment.  Why?  Self preservation is human nature.  What happened when Adam and Eve at the apple?  Adam blamed Eve.  Eve blamed the Serpent.  When push comes to shove, people will protect their own self interest, even at the cost of their relationship with you or risking your reputation.  Just because we are serving in a church together, we shouldn’t assume these things will never happen. 

My fourth mistake came in the form of promises that I made.  As each person approached me, conversations began with something along the lines of: “This is just between us…”   I thought I responded correctly, by giving a caveat that I would only step up if each person was willing to speak their mind openly the next time we met.  With their agreement to those terms, I felt that the promise was safe to make… because, at the right time it would all come out.    I was very, very, very wrong.  In fact, that right time never presented itself.  Now I was in between a rock and a hard place. I had opened my mouth, but I was left standing alone.

In this situation, I was left with two choices and I didn’t like either of them.  I could choose to keep my promise, and let my own reputation fall to ruin.  Or, I could break the promises I made and throw each person under the bus.  This was a no win situation, especially at the time because the question meant preserving myself or my relationships.  How could I be angry with them for throwing me under the bus, and then turn around and do the same thing?  Yet, on the other hand, if I kept that promise… I was allowing myself to go down in flames and potentially ruining any future ministry service. 

I was hurt.  Truly hurt.  Deeply hurt.  Hurt that I would be accused after having a flawless record of leadership.  Hurt that I wasn’t given the benefit of the doubt.  Hurt by those who I considered friends.  It was going to have a huge impact on me over the next year, but it was also going to usher in some truths and lessons I needed to learn.

Now, I have a keener eye for gossip and the many forms it comes in.  I’ve learned how to deal with “talk and chatter” as it comes my way.  I’ve learned to never put myself in that position again, making a promise that would back me into a corner.  I’ve learned more about the need for boundaries and avoiding assumptions.

In totality, when I reflect back on that season, the biggest mark on my heart came from the assumptions I made.  If we are being honest with ourselves, this type of scenario isn’t uncommon.  It happens in school yards to corporate break rooms.  My biggest assumption was in the notion that this wouldn’t happen in the church, not among my family of believers.   Not among those whom I called friend, and served with loyally.  I was holding a group of people to a higher standard, because they called themselves Christians and we served in the church together.

My heart was broken over the situation, and it took me a long time to forgive.  To forgive those who I felt betrayed me, to forgive myself for allowing it to happen, and even to forgive those who doubted me.  But, I have forgiven.  All of us.  As the Lord walked me through this fire, and refined me… my eyes were open.   I could understand where each party was coming from and why they responded as they did, right or wrong.  Including myself.  I was able to recognize my part, finally, and ask for forgiveness.  I’ve grown from it, and become a better leader for it.

But, I was hurt.  I felt hurt by the church, and those I served with.  What you learn in these types of situations is the imperfection of the body.  Just like in the scriptures, no matter how close we are to God and how much knowledge we have about His Word… we are still human.  Just as much as others in the church failed me, I failed myself.  Just as much as I need forgiveness and grace, when I mess up… so do they.

Our churches are full of people who are in various stages of their walk, and our flesh still gets the better of us.   If Christ could die for the sins of man, why wouldn’t I forgive my sisters in Christ for being nothing more than a flawed human being.  If I want forgiveness for all the times I mess up, I set the example when I forgive.  This doesn’t mean I neglect the lessons I have learned, that I forgo healthy boundaries, etc.  Not at all, we are warned about wolves dressed as sheep.  But not every offense is from a wolf, sometimes it comes from the sheep who is a bit smudged. Sometimes, sheep bite.

When the church, or members of the body, hurt us… it is tempting to run.  We want to leave and find a better place.  We may run to a brand new church or away from the church altogether.  Let me assure you, where ever you decide to run… imperfect people are there.   They are in every church, every office building, every community center, and every home.

Let’s not assume to the worst of people, but we should be cautious to not expect perfection out of them either.  Be quick to forgive, and forgive as you would hope to be forgiven.  And, ultimately, learn to forgive those who have not asked your forgiveness.

When I reflect back on that season, to date, not one has ever apologized.  I went through all of the emotions.  I wanted to get in their face and call them to the carpet for their part.  That was when I was angry.  I wanted to look them square in the face and simply state that I was disappointed and let down.  That was when I was hurt.  I wanted to go to say that I could never trust any of them again.  That was when I was grieving.  But, I didn’t.  I simply waited.  Surely, over time, at least some would feel bad for what happened.  There would either be an admission of guilt to leadership or at the very least an apology to me.  That was when I was patient.  But, nothing ever happened… no apology or admission ever came.  So, I lingered.  I had to be willing to forgive those who didn’t believe they needed forgiveness or who were too ashamed to ask for it.

There I found freedom.  There I found peace.  It was there I could let go, more forward and reconcile my relationship to the church.

As I took a break from this post, to give it fresh eyes, I popped over to facebook.  Another writer (more well known than myself) was also writing on forgiveness today. In her piece On Forgiveness and Freedom , Jen Hatmaker quoted from a book:

In Boundaries, Cloud and Townsend wrote: “When you refuse to forgive someone, you still want something from that person, and even if it is revenge that you want, it keeps you tied to him forever. . . . [Forgiveness] ends your suffering, because it ends the wish for repayment that is never forthcoming and that makes your heart sick because your hope is deferred (Prov. 13:12). . .Cut it loose, and you will be free.”

The moment I finally had enough of clinging and lingering in my expectation of an apology, and forgave… it was done.  I do not believe a single person involved intentionally set out to hurt me, I don’t believe they could have known the ripple effect their choices would make.  Christ asked for God to forgive those who persecuted him, stating “they know not what they do”.   This is what I choose to believe about my experience with hurt in the church, I choose to see the best in them, letting go of my hurt by forgiving them, and then by setting my sights on the road ahead vs. the path behind me.

 

Scarred by Sarcasm?

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My personality has always been peppered with wit and sarcasm.  I think it’s something in my genetic code.  Growing up it was normal within my family, and as a kid I can’t recall it ever becoming an issue with any of my friends.  Humor, wit, and sarcasm is definitely a coping strategy of mine.  It helps me navigate awkward situations or diffuse tension.  Nothing like a well timed punch line to change scowling faces into tear streamed laughter. It wouldn’t be a surprise that I would marry a man who embraced humor and sarcasm in the same way.

The first time I became cognizant of my words being harmful, was when my first was school aged.  My husband and I would joke and chide each other with sarcastic statements often.  If I wanted sushi, but my husband wanted to out to the same old burger place… I might comment:  My next husband will be an adventurous eater.   He might rebut with a jab of his won, such as:  Well my next wife will be a grillmaster and I can eat the best burgers at home.

Neither one of us were seriously considering the attributes of our future spouses.  It was just a thing we said, and we meant nothing by it.  Then one evening we were bickering over something, and I’m not sure which one of us ribbed first… but what matters is that our daughter heard us, and she was old enough at that point to know what divorce was.  The next day I over heard her confiding in a friend that her parents were fighting and might get a divorce.

I had always been taught as a child that words can hurt, hurt deeply.  I knew better than to be careless with my words, whether they were hurtfully on honest or intentionally hurtful.  However, growing up in a family that took sarcasm at the value of a grain of salt, I saw a difference between hurtful words and funny words.  What I didn’t take into consideration is that the rest of the world may not be able to see that distinction.  That includes my own children, who had been raised in a loving home and due to their age were not involved in the banter between my husband and myself.

My husband and I first had to clear things up with our daughter, reassuring her that we were just joking with each other.  We affirmed we were committed to each other in our marriage, but we also apologized for not being careful with our words to each other and in front of her.   After that, we made a commitment to her and each other… that type of humor and sarcasm wasn’t appropriate anymore.

While this was really obvious to us, in regards to our children, it was less obvious to us in regards to some of our friendships.  There were people we THOUGHT we could joke with in such a way, when in fact we couldn’t.   Being straight shooters, we could handle it when a person would say “that’s not really funny to me, knock it off”.  No problem.  The difficulty came in those who were unwilling to speak up, we were hurting them with our jokes and we didn’t even know it.  Ultimately this damaged friendships that we treasured.

It was confusing for us, because if someone would have just spoken up… we would have stopped.  At first it was easy to point the finger at others for not speaking up, when in reality we needed to realize that we were responsible for opening our mouths in the first place.  It was a hard lesson to swallow and came at great price.

Humor and even certain types of sarcasm have an appropriate place and time, but they are not tools to be unleashed without care and regard for others.  Our words can over power our character.  You can be a good person, a loving person, but your tongue can get away from you.

Proverbs 21:23 tells us to guard our mouth, to watch our words, and we will avoid trouble.

Psalm 141:3 is cry out to God to guard our mouths for us, to keep our lips shut.

Psalm 19:14 is our plea that the words of our mouths and meditations of soul be pleasing in God’s sight.

I can’t help but wonder, in every circumstance where humor or sarcasm slipped through my lips… were these words pleasing to God?

1 Thess 5:11 calls us as a body of believers to uplift one another, to encourage and build each other up.

Were my words uplifting?  Was I building up my brothers in and sisters in Christ?  Or, was I unkind and careless with my words? 

Sometimes humor and sarcasm are meant only as a joke, but when it is a joke at another person’s expense… it’s not honoring God, it’s not respecting the friendship, and it’s really not funny.  Other times, humor or sarcasm can reveal what we would never boldly say to another person.  We slip it out there with an addendum of “just kidding”, as if that makes it better. That too, is not honor God, respecting the friendship, nor is it funny.

I would encourage those who use sarcasm to be aware of the scarring effects it can have on those around us, who may never speak that truth to us.    I would also encourage those who find themselves the target of sarcasm from family or friends to be willing to speak up for themselves.  Words can hurt, words will divide…. words can also heal.

Lord, forgive me for the occasions where I have been careless with my words.  Speak to the hearts of those I may have hurt, that they know my apologies were sincere, and they can mend any broken veins that has left in their heart.   Help me to guard my mouth, so that what flows from it are words that are uplifting, encouraging, and empowering.    In Jesus name, Amen.

 

#Write31Days – Post 16 – In the Word’s of Elsa, Mom… “Let It Go!”

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Confession Time:  I can be a bit of a perfectionist.  I once had a friend refuse to let me into her home because it was a mess.  She insisted on talking with me outside.  I never realized the pressure my perfectionist qualities could put upon other people.  For whatever reason, she assumed that because I was a bit of a perfectionist… that I required it of those who befriended me.  Let me assure you, that is far from the truth.

Confession Time #2:  Right now, my house is a complete and total disaster.  I don’t want to say that I am totally ok with it, because I am not.  At the same time, I am not as neurotic about it as I once was … many, many years ago.

People who are perfectionists, or who have OCD tendencies, can often live on a pendulum.  Either everything is 100% to their liking (no room for error) or they can swing the opposite way and not care at all.  It is the epitome of “my way or no way”.

We can also expect these same tendencies from our spouse or children.  Which is funny to me, because we extend a lot more grace to those not related to us.  Perhaps it is because we have an expectation that those who share our DNA also share in our crazy.  Those expectations can cause us to be helicopter parents who are hovering over our children constantly expecting them to be just like us.  Organized. On time. Working ahead of schedule.  Clean/Tidy.   We tend to excel at so much that failure is just not part of our vocabulary.

However, children will challenge every bit of that thinking.

Mom just cleaned the house?  Awesome, let’s bring every toy we own out into the livingroom.

Project due for school?  No worries, I can tell mom about it at 9pm the night before it is due.

Failing Math?  It’s no big deal that I will get kicked from the team.  I’ll just run to mom in a panic three days before report cards come out.

These kids live in a whole other plane of thought.  As perfectionists we can’t deal in this plane… not at all.  We hollar at the kids to return the toys to their room.   We stay up working on the project for them because we can’t let their grade get docked for tardiness, nor can we let them turn in a project that is less than acceptable just to be on time.  We will implore the teacher to allow them to make up the missed work, spending ridiculous amounts of money on tutors to ensure the ace the exam.

Why?  Because deep down the perfectionist believes that their child’s choices reflect on us as their parent.  If they fail, we fail.  If they are late, we are late.  If they make a mess, we are a mess.  We try to control their behaviors because frankly we don’t want people to think less of us as parents.  Preventing their failure is more about saving our own face, than ensuring their success.

Let that sink in for just a second.

The thing is… we need to let them fail.  We need them to understand what accountability and consequence are BEFORE they are adults and the wages of those poor choices are much higher.  We need to teach them how to fail, how to process that, and how to get back on that horse.  Not only do WE need to do that for them, THEY need to learn it for themselves.  If we want our children to be successful as adults, we cannot come to their rescue.

We also have to accept that their choices belong to them, and are in no way a reflection on us as parents…. assuming we have done our best.  Plenty of children were raised in the “perfect home” and yet walked away and lived a contrary life.  Plenty of children were raised in less than idea environments and rose to the occasion, choosing to live a better life and being a positive contribution to society.

They are not us.

So mom, in the words of Elsa… LET IT GO.

I spoke to a friend who is older than I, and she shared about her perfectionist mother.  Every weekend, the entire family was cleaning the house.  Her mom was a collector of many different things, and it became the responsibility of the kids to help her maintain the cleanliness of her collection.

I wonder, how often I have burdened the kids with the responsibility of caring or tending to the unnecessary things I have chosen to bring into the house?  It reminded me of the turtle my husband brought home to the kids, that they didn’t ask for, but then he expected them to care for it’s needs.  Unfair responsibility.

I wonder, how often have I expected my children to have the same love of learning that I have?  Expecting their grades to be high, their projects to be done with excellence, and for them to have the same drive to start early as I have always had.  Then I reflect on the fact that I never actually TAUGHT my kids to be organized from an early age, I just assumed it would come naturally to them.  It did to me.  I wasn’t taught to be that way by my parents.  I just was.   Unfair expectation.

I wonder how many times my kids have missed out on fun or being children, because my priorities were different?  I wonder why I am not ok with a “passing grade” in a subject they hate.  I wonder how many times I pushed my own ideas on them, instead of allowing them to explore their own?  I wonder how many times I was controlling a child who wanted to be free to be there own selves?

It was time to stop.  It was time to let it go.

I’m not suggesting to throw caution to the wind and be a hands off parent.  Instead, I am suggesting that we stop trying to mold them into clones of ourselves.  Let them live, let them learn, let them grown.

So, I stopped hassling the kids about keeping their room to perfection.  They know the consequence is that no one comes over to play unless it is picked up.   That’s the consequence, and I stick to it.  I have found a compromise between what they think is clean, and what I think is clean.    I don’t get upset that they bring the toys out all over the house to play.  The consequence is that they know they need to clean it up, so don’t bring out more than you are willing to carry back.  I’m not helping you.

I don’t hover over their grades online every single day… but I check in.  They know the consequences of getting poor grades.  I no longer loose my mind over a “C” on the report card.  We reward good grades.  Consequences for poor ones.  I allow them to make the choice of how much effort they are willing to put in, and they know they will contend with the consequences if they drop the ball.  I have learned to accept their best, even when that best is a C- in math.

Doing their best is not being perfect.

My middle schooler is a very limited excelled program for Middle School.  If her grades drop, not only will she be removed from the program… she will have to go to another school.  She chose to be in the program and she’s knows that her longevity in that program is entirely up to her.  She can lose that spot, and I’m not going to rescue her if she drops the ball.  She knows that her ADHD is not an excuse either.

What I want is a child that grows into an adulthood who:

  • understands that her choices will impact her future, no one else is to blame.
  • is not an excuse maker.  there are no excuses in life, except the ones you make for yourself. 
  • understands they choose their consequences, becuase every choice has a consequence, good or bad.
  • believes doing your best is always good enough, even if it isn’t perfect, but who never underestimates their ability & is willing to be challenged.
  • can make mistakes, learn from them, and move forward.  there is always time to become more, become better.
  • will let go of the things that don’t really matter, and focus on what is important.

I do this by being an example of this for them.  Which means that today, when my 8 year old asks me to play with her at the dining room table… the dishes can wait.  When my 16 year old wants to watch a movie with me tonight, the mopping can wait.  When my 12 year old wants to go to the book store, my errands can wait.

My house will not look like a museum, but a home with a family of people who live there instead of existing there.  It will be clean and pest free, but you may find a pile of toys in the foyer.   I will happily spend an hour snuggling on the couch over scrubbing the kitchen.  My children will see me put friends and family above chores and to-do lists.

When you come over, things won’t look perfect anymore.  But, the cups are clean and the coffee is hot.

Being a perfectionist comes with a cost, and it is one I do not want my children to pay.

 

There Are Some Things You Simply Can’t Fix

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My husband and I were talking the other day, about friendships and just relationships in general.  Sometimes we mess up, we say things we shouldn’t have even though we were joking.  Or, we speak into a person’s life when we have no authority to do so…. or at least were not invited to share our opinions.  Sometimes the person is carrying emotional baggage and is extra sensitive & you were unintentionally careless with your words.

In situations like this, my husband and I can recognize we messed up.  We even try to fix it and make it better.   But, unless the other person is just as invested in the relationship… it’s going to be a one sided battle.  And no matter what you do, how many times you apologize, how many different ways to try to repair it… you can’t fix it alone.  It won’t matter if you saw it coming and tried to be proactive, or if the damage is done and you are trying to repair… you can’t force the other person to value the friendship like you did.  Repair and reconciliation must be something both people want and are willing to work toward.

And, if the other person doesn’t want it…. you have to be able to let it go and move on with your life.   You learn from it, grow from it, and become (hopefully) a better person from that experience.

Romans 12:18 – If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Only God can soften someone’s heart, once they have hardened it.  Only the Holy Spirit can move them and convict them into the path of reconciliation.  But through Jesus, we can pray for that person.  Because of Jesus, we can extend copious amounts of forgiveness and grace…. and ask for the same in return.  We can confess our wrongs to Jesus, and seek His forgiveness, even when others have become unforgiving.

And we can have hope that reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in Christ will happen, it just may not happen on this earth.  But, we will be reconciled in Heaven as a body of believers.  And then, as we are celebrating together, whatever it is was that separated us will be like grains of sand at the bottom of the deepest ocean.

I HAVE A PET PEEVE

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I am a person who will read bumper stickers.  Pretty much whatever is ahead of me, I’ll look.  I will admit that I have been known to even position myself in traffic, if one catches my eye that looks interesting, in order to be behind the person at the traffic light.  Maybe it is the reader in me, that is compelled to consume words.  Or, perhaps, it could be simply my humor seeking out something to make me chuckle.  Occasionally, I shake my head for wasted time.   Then there are the times, my jaw will drop and I hope that none of my children we reading along with me.  To this day, I don’t believe my children know that I am reading bumper stickers at traffic lights.  I do try to keep my crazy under wraps, as much as possible.

There is one pet peeve I have, in regards to bumper stickers.  It is when I see a bumper sticker that alludes to the driver being a Christian, particularly when their behavior on the road is anything but Christ-like.

I’m a fairly good driver, if I do say so myself.  I can drive an automatic and a manual.  I can parallel park, near perfectly, despite the fact I only have to do it about once a year or so.  I’m not overly aggressive, nor timid.   I don’t rake up tickets or have lots of accidents.  People are not afraid to drive with me, and in fact I have taught quite a few people how to drive.   But, I am also human.  Which means that it is entirely possible that I might make a mistake.

Each day, I drive our three children to three different schools.  I then make the same run in the afternoon.  My children are in 3 different schools, but, I actually pass through a total of 6 school zones, twice per day… five days a week.  Yesterday, as I was on my final trip home, my daughter had asked me a question & I was thinking through the answer.  What I didn’t realize is, in my distraction, I had mistaken the speed limit sign for the “End School Zone” sign.  (Both are white, rectangular signs with black lettering)  So, I began to accelerate to the normal speed limit for that area.

That was when the man, who had the “Real Men Love Jesus” bumper sticker on his truck, rolled down his window & began to yell and wave his hands at me.  Yes hands, plural.  Meaning he didn’t have his eyes on the road, nor did he even have a single hand on his steering wheel.  All the while, his daughter is in the seat next to him.  Yelling, at a woman in a car with her daughter.  At first I really had no idea what his commotion was about, then I saw the actual end zone sign.  I realized my error.

I wondered after the incident….

Did that scare his daughter?  Did he care that it scared my daughter, and potentially me?

Did he not realize that he was just as guilty of making a mistake as I was?

Did he not think that instead of yelling at me, he could have waited until we were stopped at the traffic light, rolled down his window… motioned to me… and calmly said “Hey, you know that you were still in a school zone?”.

Did he really think it was appropriate for a man to speak to a woman that way in the first place?

And then, I thought about his sticker…. and wondered….

Did he realize that every where he drives in that truck, where that sticker is plain for all to see, that he is a public witness to Christ?

Is that how Christ would have talked to me, to anyone?

Is that how we want to represent Christ to the world, when we make a spectacle of our selves like that?

The word says:

James 1:19 — My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Proverbs 14:29 — Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.

Psalm 37:8  — Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.

Proverbs 222:4  — Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered

That was just a sampling of the scripture that warns us against our anger toward others.  Scripture also offers us the suggestion of how we are to treat others, such as:

Ephesians 4:29 — Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

We are supposed to forgive as we are forgiven, to extend mercy and grace in the same measure (if not more) than it has been extended to us; and we are supposed to help each other by guiding, shaping, building up, redirecting, mentoring.

Ephesians 4:32  —  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

There was nothing wrong about this man choosing to address the mistake I made, but there was definitely error in the manner in which he did it.  The world was watching, because we were not to the only two people on the road.  There were cars around us.  I bet they saw that bumper sticker too.

Which reminded me of another situation I saw recently.  A man was wearing the t-shirt of a ministry he works with in the local grocery store.  It was vivid and caught my attention, but only after I heard this 40+ year old man yelling and berating his elderly mother.

When we walk out the door in that Christian t-shirt, or drive off in our car with the Jesus fish bumper sticker…. we are openly professing our faith & people are watching.

What do they see?  Do they see Christ in you?  Are they blessed by their encounter with you?

Or, do they see something else?