I Beg to Differ….

It’s been difficult to write, read, speak, or think lately as polarizing opinions continue to wreak havoc on my country and my heart. God taught me the importance of differing differently this week.

As Christians, we are not supposed to be fused to a particular ideology, theology, doctrine, or opinion. We are simply to be who God created us to be. It is the sincerest form of praise to Him and the most beautiful witness of His creation and His love for us. As friends, we are supposed to love one another as we are without having to agree on everything. As family, we love unconditionally and without the need to control. Love is not about control; it is as natural as breathing when it is real. When it is controlled, it is like being on a ventilator. You may be breathing, but it isn’t natural or comfortable!

Each of us was created to be different by a Creator Who knows us better than we know ourselves. He could have made us all exactly the same, but He knew better. He could, and can, make us all love Him and one another as He desires; but He knows that would showcase His power rather than His love. God doesn’t want control because He already has it. He wants holiness. That word doesn’t mean perfect; it means maturity, ripeness, readiness to be who He created us to be. Self differentiation allows us to love as God loves.

Fusion is the easiest way to connect, so it is the way most connect. Individuals get lost, and polarization abounds. Our world is fusing and fighting in ways that break God’s heart. It’s bad enough to fuse, but to use His name as the agent of such fusing is inherently wrong. It’s getting more and more difficult to differ, and that hinders differentiation and creates division. God helped me see how differing differently can actually help with the process of differentiation.

I used to feel the need to be who those around me wanted me to be. That need caused me to adapt a Pollyanna approach to living and loving in community. Make everyone happy, and they will love you. All will be right in the world. The world around me will be much more pleasant, and life will be much simpler. That didn’t pan out, so I decided to try being myself and forgetting about whether or not others like me or not. That doesn’t mean being mean; it just means saying what I believe in a respectful way.

God gave me three loving sisters who have, do, and always will love me just as I am. They have surrounded and tried to protect me from the harsh realities of this world all of my life. Their love was a safe harbor for my heart, but God knew I needed more than a harbor. He sent a dear friend who heard my heart and helped me move away from the harbor and into the open sea. It was very scary at first, but my heart found its sea legs and eventually began to enjoy the freedom a non anxious loving presence brings.

I had a discussion with two folks this week about a subject I didn’t realize we disagreed upon. One showed grace, but the other showed rage. I was a bit unnerved by the anger, but I maintained my opinion while giving room for another opinion. When the conversation ended, two of us were still smiling, but one carried her anger with her. I felt our friendship may have been compromised by our difference of opinion, but I didn’t try to fix or convince. I’ve felt that way often during the past year.

I beg to differ because it is in our differing that we learn and grow and change. I long for the day when we can agree to disagree and move on with our lives. When we cannot disagree, we lose so much more than an argument. We lose the ability to self differentiate. Psychologists, medical doctors, guidance counselors, parents, teachers, and ministers will tell you the ability to be who we are created to be is at the heart of living a happy, healthy life.

God made His feelings about self differentiations very clear to Moses and to us. He is Who He is. He is not going to be who we want Him to be, and that is a beautiful lesson for all of us to follow.

God said to Moses, “IAM-WHO-IAM. Tell the People of Israel, ‘IAM sent me to you.’”(Exodus 3:14)

 

That Sweet By and By

Happily ever after used to be my battle cry.

I was sure I would see Jesus in that sweet by and by.

I couldn’t seem to find my dreams no matter how I tried,

So I began to drown inside the ocean I had cried.

 

Jesus never seemed to tire as He caught each falling tear.

I know He wished I’d let go of my paralyzing fear.

He made sure that the way to Him was always crystal clear,

But I put up my obstacles and would not let Him steer.

 

He bid me trust and promised that He’d never told a lie,

His precious love so much more than simply pie in the sky.

I loved Him more than anything and said that I would try,

But wondered if I had been wrong when I began to die.

 

I gave up the steering wheel and prepared myself to veer.

I let go of everything but decided to stay near.

His sweet loving word of comfort was all my heart could hear.

He showed me miles of faces, and I saw those I held dear.

 

Some were here and some in heaven, but all were filled with cheer,

When they saw I realized their love would always be near.

That sweet by and by is not in the sky; it’s always here.

The love I sought, already bought, by Someone very dear.

The Narrow Gate

Matthew 7:13-14 describes the way to a life in God’s presence. There are various interpretations of these verses, most having to do with exclusion. I believe they simply mean we must all come into God’s presence individually. That means stepping away from the crowd.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (NASB)

A crowd cannot pass through the entrance described in Matthew. Groups are great, and I love the sense of belonging I get from them; but my relationship with God is personal. I can’t depend upon a church, a denomination, a team, my family, or my friends to replace my relationship with God. Christ came so we could all have an intimate relationship with God, the Father. That humbles and makes us want to disappear into a crowd. Intimacy is intimidating in human relationships, so it’s understandable that many run from intimacy with The Creator. A group date is easier than a candlelight dinner for two, so many miss out on the relationship and the gate.

Families foster love and give the grounding we need when they are healthy, but they can also be our most painful source of disconnection. Corporate worship brings harmony when those present are in one accord, but it creates discord when they aren’t. No group is perfect, and that includes God’s family. We are all broken, and that will not change until we walk through that narrow gate and meet him face-to-face. The gate is not for groups, and groups cannot decide who gets to walk through the gate. It was forged by a love unlike anything we can imagine. A love designed for all, but not accepted by all. The narrowness of the gate is uncomfortable for some, so they choose the wide berth and imagined comfort of a familiar group.

Groups appear to offer protection and safety, but they rarely do. That is especially true when it comes to religion and politics. The need to win, be the best, or be right cause an unhealthy fusion that forces many to stay on the wide path. I hate election years because the divisions seem to get uglier and uglier, but perhaps I’m just paying more attention as I get older. Lines are darker and deeper, and the stakes are higher than ever. So, we choose sides and battle it out or sit on the sidelines and settle into a seething silence. Sadly, the same thing is happening with religion.

Oneness is at the heart of God’s Word, yet the scriptures divide us more than any political campaign can. How it must grieve God to see His children fighting over His Word. The need to be right is at the heart of division. It begins in the family unit, grows in heart, and reaches out into the community. Christ offered a beautiful solution when He took it upon Himself to breach the divide between God and His children. His unconditional, sacrificial love creates a path to a gate that is open and ready when we are willing to step away from the crowd and enter in.