Loving Others Well

I wrote a letter to a friend in jail today. Never quite thought I’d write that sentence. But I did and it was probably a good and healthy thing for the both of us that I chose to do that with some of my free-time this afternoon.

I remember a time in my life where I wouldn’t have had the strength to do such a thing. To reach out to and love on the ostracized or to understand the world from the perspective of another, but that’s something I’ve yearned to change about myself. It’s easy to judge others from the outside, but it’s much more difficult if we actually get to know those around us. Having conversations with different people at work or church or in any social setting has a stretching affect on the heart. You’ll feel uncomfortable at first but before you know it, you’re caring about someone that you typically wouldn’t.

This gentlemen wasn’t my enemy – but did you know that we’re called to love even our enemies as Christians? That’s a hard pill for me to swallow. If you’re a Facebook Friend of mine you’ve seen me quoting Bob Goff’s “Everybody, Always” fairly frequently over the last month or two. What a phenomenal book about loving our stranger and enemy – if you haven’t read it yet, you should. Goff’s love for his enemies has led to witch-doctors sharing the Gospel to their fellow inmates in prison…with Goff in the audience…and he’s the one that put them there (as an attorney)!

You know what makes an ass out of you and me? When we ASS-u-me things…

All puns aside, we do a huge disservice to ourselves and to others when we assume we know the whole story about other people’s lives. Until you’ve given them a chance to share their perspective and journey and asked them about their heart, where they’ve been and where they’re going, you really have no insight into who they are.

Why do we do that? Judge people before we know the whole story. It’s one of the first things we try to train out of good salespeople. Never assume a customer’s situation…always discover what they want and need, then make a recommendation based on what you’ve learned.

We’ve all heard the stories of someone deciding to ask a young lady if they were pregnant, when really they’d just been enjoying the Fall Weather’s pumpkin-spiced lattes and coffee-cake like I have this afternoon. You don’t know people you haven’t actually had a conversation or shared a meal with.

The moral of the story is we cannot know where people are going if we are unaware of where they’ve come from. And even that won’t tell us the whole story.

If people judged you solely off of your past, would you enjoy seeing the trajectory that they displayed on a white-board for you? Probably not.

Keeping God’s Grace on the table, like a bowl of sugar with a big spoon in it can really help sweeten one’s vision for the future. There’s always hope in Christ. Recovery from addiction, reconciliation for relationships, development of a healthier individual with better habits and weekly rituals; these are all possibilities that we as Christians should be able to pray for, speak over, and believe for another person.

We should be reminding people of the grace and love we see in them. Pinning them with medals of excellence for who they’re becoming.

If God were writing you a letter right now, he wouldn’t tell you who you’ve been, he’d tell you who you are. But he’d have permission to do that because he knew us first.

Our words have power. Created in His image, our words can give life and take it. Do you breathe life into the sails of others ships? Or when you encounter others, do you shipwreck them with a powerful storm of assumptions? Do you encourage them with who they’re becoming or shame them with who they’ve been?

You’ll build strong, deep, faithful, loyal friendships if you take the time to love others well and choose to breathe life into their sails even if their ship isn’t sea-worthy today. You’ll be better off for it, as will they. We’ve all had bad hair-days after all (I just got a haircut that I don’t really love…a little too short for my liking). So it’s probably time we stop thinking we have our life more pulled together than anyone else.

Learning With You,

Justin

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Quarter-Life Crisis: Grace’s Direction

I graduated from K-State a year ago. Yes, it’s really been an entire year. Do you remember when you were younger and you thought “Once I graduate high-school, I’ll have life figured out. Before you know it, I’ll have a bachelors-degree, be married, have [insert number of children – to be determined by wife here] kids, have a successful career, and everything will just sort of fall into place.” Well, things have fallen into place – just not what I would have originally planned or dreamed up for myself. That’s okay – it takes some flowers longer to bloom than others – thankfully, it does not negate for their own splendid value, or beauty.

A friend of mine recently asked how I was doing, and I replied something along the lines of, “Well, things are good. It’s difficult to remain on the straight-and-narrow. Some days, the flesh wins. Others, I remain faithful. Still fighting the fight.”

For some reason, I’ve always had this idea of myself. Perhaps I’m an idealist – in reality, it’s most likely that I’m a perfectionist, optimistic-realist. A bunch of fancy words that basically mean I’d like very much to credit my goodness to myself and to believe that I am, indeed, capable of said, ‘goodness’ (whatever that is). 

The humbling reality, is that I am, indeed, not capable (on my own). I’m not quite sure how many times God will need to patiently, graciously remind me, but I’m grateful that He does – even more grateful that afterwards, the gentle, amplified reminder of His grace follows.

Back to my incredibly frustrating ideal. It’d be wonderful if I could once and for all learn all that there is to know – to be perpetually blessed with wisdom and insight, then also to be blessed with the will, self-restraint, discipline, and prayer-life to move those mountainous obstacles. That’s my ideal. Turns out, it’s really not possible on your own. If it were, I’d be doing it, and selling you my “Five Steps to Success” book, but I’m not Joel Olsteen or Oprah.

But I know Grace.

Do you know Grace? Oh Grace, sweet Grace. Jesus. I know Him.

It’s easy to get caught up in the future. There is nothing wrong with visionaries. If there were, then there would be something immensely wrong with my genetic makeup. I’m a planner. There is, however, something wrong with letting your aspirations for the future, or assessment of the past, take precedence over the right-here-right-now. Why? Because Jesus, is right here, right now. In the heights, in the depths, Jesus is here. The source of your utmost joy and holding your hand throughout the depths of this fallen world’s agony – Jesus will “never leave, nor forsake you.”

Do you and I believe that? If we do, it changes our lives entirely.

If we believe that He will never leave, nor forsake us; if we believe that He has good plans for us; if we have tasted and know that He is good, then we can rest. Rest is an immensely precious gift in a restless world. And God desires to be that place of rest for you and I.

Will we rest in His arms? Will I rest in His arms?

The straight-and-narrow path is worth the daily fight. It leads to Life. Our victory, it turns out, lies within our surrender. If we can surrender our pride and submit to the Holy Spirit’s leading, then the LORD will go before us, and we become heirs to the Promised Land. The thing about the Promised Land – you’re walking on it – right here – right now. His Kingdom is already invading – it’s already here. For the sake of many’s salvation, He is graciously patient, waiting yet another day to pour out His wrath on darkness.

In the days, months, and years to come I want to learn more about abiding – about being present in the here and now, and about trusting the LORD in the moment, rather than impatiently grasping and fighting for my future. Would you join me? Would you pray that in my struggle with LORD – in my wrestling – that He would bless me, taking away my old identity and giving me an entirely new one?

So yes, I’ve been wrestling through a quarter-life crisis of sorts. And yes, I’ve let the flesh win a time or two (or three). But Jesus is still with me, and I refuse to leave the Church’s side. I will fight for the Lord’s Bride, just as I will one day fight for mine.

Rather than plan out my course and choosing “North”, “South”, “East”, or “West”, I’m learning to trust Grace’s direction.

Preach it and teach it,

but you’ll never reach it.

Perfectly imperfect.

Immoral moralists.

Purity died, then resurrected.

Now dressed in His perfection,

yet merely a reflection –

I’m learning Grace’s direction.

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