20/20 Vision

In the first four chapters of Deuteronomy we find the account of the people of Israel poised at the edge of the Promised Land and their resulting fear. Several times Moses reminds them that God had promised them the land so they should act on the promise. The people lacked the faith to do so. Instead they asked Moses to send some scouts in to the land and come back to report what they saw. The plan seemed to make sense to Moses because he figured that the report would remind them of what they stood to gain and reinforce the need to act on the promise and take the land.

Reading about the tension that was rising between Moses and the people reminded what a difference perspective can make. Moses seemed incredulous that the people were so reluctant to move forward when God, the God of the universe, the God who had parted the Red Sea and cared for their every need in the wilderness, would fail to come through for them now. The people were equally mystified in Moses’ obvious lack of understanding regarding the impossibility of the situation. Sure, the land looked good, but the giants loomed that much larger. The two perspectives couldn’t be more diametrically opposed.

The whole thing sounded like the old proverb that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. God can lead you to his promise, but he can’t make you believe it. The people were looking at the situation through the lenses of “what is” and it resulted in great fear. Moses was looking at the situation and seeing the great potential that awaited them.

What happens when you look at what is going on around you? When you consider the circumstances where you find yourself are you overwhelmed by what you see, or hope for what can be? In terms of MBTI, are you more of an intuitive or sensate? Are fixated on what you can draw from you situation with your senses, or do you find yourself stuck on the potentialities? Certainly we need balance in the two dimensions, but we will always more naturally lean to one response or the other.

So what about God? My first thought was that He must be a strong iNtuitive. After all, the grand quote about God is that with Him “all things are possible.” That, in fact, we can do all things through Christ (God incarnate) who strengthens us. Talk about potential!
But what about those of us who were born in Missouri? You know us, we are the descendants of Thomas: we need to see it to believe it. God created us with our wiring as it is, so there must value to be a sensory oriented person, one who makes decisions based on what ‘is’ not the illusive “what might be.” Here’s what I think. I believe that God created both ends of the spectrum not only so that we would balance each other, but so that we could be more balanced individually. One is no more valuable or “right” than the other. While understanding our personality is helpful to getting a handle on our behavior, it seems to me it would best to understand God better. We need to learn to take Him at His word, that we can trust Him to come through on His promises.

Here’s what I suggest you do if you find you’re coming up a little short in the trust department, if the task God is asking you to face seems full of giants. Flip to the end of the book. It’s okay. God won’t mind. When you read the end you find that we win. Now turn back to Romans, and catch how Paul describes your position: In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37, NRSV) Oh, and here’s the one I really love. Find 2 Chronicles 20:20. Ezra leads up to this great verse by telling the people in verse 15: Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s. Then he reinforces this with verse 17: The battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf. Then the 20;20 moment comes the next day when they get up and go out to battle, he tells them: Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed.

Our dependence on God results in 20:20 vision. So whether you more naturally get focused on what is right in front of you or you jump into all the potentiality of the moment, your vision will be perfect when you trust God and take him at His word. That’s the response that makes the most sense, because if you read on in Deuteronomy you’ll find that it really didn’t go very well for those who gave into their fears. For them it was back out into the wilderness and they never were able to experience the blessings of the Promised Land. And all the possibilities of that kind of experience make me want to be sure I’m holding onto God’s perspective. How about you?

-Are you struggling with a difficult situation? Are the Giants closing in?
-What promises are you clinging to? What promises do you need to find to hold on?
-You may not feel like a winner right now, but keep reminding yourself that the battle is God’s and he sees you as more than a conqueror!

Wondering and Wandering: Ah, Gentleness

“Compassion is expressed in gentleness. When I think of the persons I know who model for me the depths of the spiritual life, I am struck by their gentleness. Their eyes communicate the residue of soitary battles with angels, the costs of caring for others, the deaths of ambition and ego, and the peace that comes from having very little left to lose in this life. They are gentle because they have learned the hard way that personal survival is not the point. Their caring is gentle because their self-aggrandizement is no longer at stake. There is nothing in it for them. Their vulnerability has ben stretched to clear-eyed sensitivity to others and truly selfless love.” From Healing of Purpose by John E. Biersdorf

The older I get the more I treasure the “gentle” people around me. They are like the softness of a cashmere blanket wrapped around us, warming us with soft caresses. I sat and soaked in that image for a moment and then went back and read the quote…not an adequate image. But isn’t that just like us? We want to the softness without the process.

Right now there’s a Dick’s Sporting Goods commercial that left me needing a tissue the first time I saw it:

This of course reminded me of one of my favorite tidbits of literature: The Wisdom of the Skinhorse (“The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams)
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

This proces and transformation are not something that we have to hunt for and try to accomplish all willy-nilly. Someone has offered to walk us through it, to teach us, to be with us all along the way:
Are you tired? Worn our? Burned out on religion? Come to me Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show
you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I
won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

Jesus, the One we preparing to meet this holy season, the One who came as Immanuel (God to be with us), invites us to journey with him, to learn from him for he is gentle and humble of heart. Nothing much more humbling than the helplessness of a baby. Helplessness at any stage we might find ourselves.

Where does gentleness come from? From learning we don’t have all the answers, that we can’t do this on our own, and from learning to wrap our brain around how okay it is to be dependent.

We’ve already considered your IQ (imitation quotient), so now I’m wondering: how’s your GQ, your gentleness quotient?

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