Thursday it was a challenge. I attended a meeting outside of church. Prior to going, I had decided that I would practice my Lenten discipline of listening, more than speaking. I thought that should be easy. Usually I am a good listener. I was doing well until we broke into small groups and one person began to dominate the conversation. I would have appreciated the one-way conversation if I had heard clear, wise, helpful ideas. But the whole time I listened, I kept thinking, “this is not valuable to me. This person is too self-absorbed to help me.” As I listened, I began to realize the hardness of my own heart towards another’s life journey.
Since that conversation, I have been wondering if that might not be how God hears many of my prayers, as self-absorbed drivel. There are times when I pour out the deepest parts of my heart to God, but too often it is the superficial complaints of a spoiled child. Still God promises to be gracious to me, to listen and uphold me, to seek my presence. Can I not do that with another? Can I simply be gracious and attentive to God’s children around me?
The heart of the Lord’s Prayer speaks volumes for my relationship with others. Forgive me my sins as I forgive those who sin against me. Yesterday I discovered once again how challenging it is to love my neighbor as God has loved me. Yet I am forgiven and can start fresh today.
What does forgiving others mean for you?
Is Your Apple Finished?
Yesterday’s I mentioned my childhood friend, David Brown, and our logging adventures. Our friendship had many ups and downs. He was bigger and more athletic than I was and so he was often selected for playground teams when I was not. I thrived in the classroom, where he often struggled. On most days these differences did not bother us. We were best friends. Occasionally, however, we get into intense disagreements over trivial matters.
I remember the day my mom gave us each an apple to eat. I ate my apple down to the core, savoring every bite. David nibbled around the outside and said it was finished.
I said, “Your apple isn’t finished. You barely started.”
“Oh, my apple is done.”
“No, it’s not!”
“Yes it is!”
He stormed off home and I swore we would never be friends again. But the next morning, I stopped at his house on the way to school and we picked up as if nothing happened, until the next argument erupted.
In Simply Christianity, N. T. Wright describes our hunger and deep desire for relationships and yet our daily struggle to make our relationships work. Wright writes, “We are made for each other. Yet making relationships work, let alone making them flourish, is often remarkably difficult. We all know that we belong to communities, that we were made to be social creatures. Yet there are many times when we are tempted to slam the door and stomp off into the night by ourselves, simultaneously making a statement that we don’t belong anymore and that we want someone to take pity on us , to come to the rescue and comfort us. We all know we belong in relationships, but we can’t quite work out how to get them right. The voice we hear echoing in our heads and our hearts reminding us of both parts of this paradox and its worth pondering” (p. 30). He goes on to suggest that the “echo” we are experiencing is the love God created us to experience with God and our neighbor, but our human sin has clouded and twisted our capacity to give and receive love.
How have you struggled in your relationships? How has God been faithful?