Friday, December 28, 2007

Getting in the Way

My wife and I journeyed back to the Midwest for Christmas and we had a wonderful time hanging out with our family. Yet one family member sparked something in me that I had to share with you.
I have to start by saying that I love my grandma dearly and every trip home is not complete without seeing her. But over the course of the last few family gatherings I've noticed something a bit strange going on with my grandma: she feels that she is getting in the way of my family's time together. This causes only one response from me: WHAT?! Why would my grandma, who is part of the family, feel like she is getting in the way of the family's time together? A bit strange, don't you think?

Now I'm sure there are all kinds of psychological explanations for this and my family is certainly not free from from any sort of dysfunction (is any family?), but this situation has made me more observant of how overly courteous we have become as a society. We don't want to interrupt anyone or anything, but if we do, we want to draw as little attention to ourselves as possible. We simply want to get out of the way of other people.

This is quite a contrast to the way Jesus lived roughly 2000 years ago. Sure, he was born in the quaint, little town of Bethlehem to a very ordinary young woman, and we don't know much about his childhood other than that he liked to hide from his parents in the temple (definitely an ulcer-causing experience for Mary!). But when Jesus began ministering to those around him, he certainly didn't stay out of the way of other people. In fact, we was probably a bit pushy by our standards. Think about it: he invited himself to Zacchaeus' house for dinner (ever done that to anyone else?); he placed himself directly in harm's way when he confronted the religious rulers of his day; and one of his best-known parables is about traveling on the same side of the road as those who have been stripped, beaten, robbed, and left for dead (the Good Samaritan). Apparently, Jesus was pretty intentional about getting in the way of others, perhaps because he had something to offer those he encountered.

The beautiful thing about following this "in-the-way" Jesus is that he invites us, a bunch of ordinary people, to continue his ministry of getting in the way of others not because we have something so special of our own to offer people but because we have the life of Jesus to offer other people. His life--one of healing, encouragement, justice, compassion, love, joy, and peace (to name a few)--is the very life we have to offer others.

From the perspective of Jesus, getting in the way of others is not an impolite act, it is the most life-giving gesture we can offer them. May we become the kind of people who intentionally get in the way of others so that they may brush up against the risen Christ who works in and through us.

Peace!


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Restoration

A very strange yet powerful thing happened the other day. In lieu of our regular staff meeting on Friday afternoon our director came in and announced he was going to lead us through an intervention. The timing of it and the need for it were surprising to us all, yet something powerful occurred during our time together.

The way the intervention worked was that the first time around the room each person was allowed to share his/her frustrations as specifically or vaguely as one wanted and no one could respond. Our sentences had to begin with the words, "I feel..." It was an uncomfortable situation to say the least given that our team has had a few conflicts in the past. Anyway, on the second time around the room and after hearing the frustrations of others, each person shared what he/she was going to do to lower the frustration level of others. This process seemed to lower the tension level in the room and among the team, which I think was the director's purpose in doing it.

I found this intervention experience to be similar to the biblical practice of confession. Historically, Catholics have been much better at confession than Protestants, yet I feel that confession is more than a religious duty as it brings us face to face with the image of God in which we human beings were created. When we take a moment to reflect on all the ways we are not becoming the kind of people God created us to be (by gossiping, lying, cheating, holding grudges, etc.) we find ourselves as distorted images of the good, beautiful, truthful, compassionate, generous people we were created to be. It's truly a humbling experience.

Now there are at least two wonderful things about biblical confession. First, confession is a great reminder of who we were created to be. And second, confession does not allow us to stay in a depressed state--because we realize we haven't measured up--but rather it invites us into the realm of forgiveness where, whether we believe it or not, life can truly start anew. In a way, confession is like a mini-resurrection, a restoration of our being.

The apostle James gets at this point when we encourages his community to "confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed" (James 5:16). It seems that James views confession and healing as part of the same process, the process of restoration.

There's much more we could discuss here and I hope I have articulared myself clearly enough for you to grasp some of what I'm trying to communicate, but I want to wrap up this post by inviting you to take a few moments to reflect on the image of God in which you were created and then spend some time confessing to God and/or to others where you haven't quite been the person you should have been. And at the end of it all, I pray that you will experience a lightening of your burdens, a healing in your soul, the hope of forgiveness, and the restoration of your life which is only possible through the resurrected Christ.


'Til next time. Peace.