Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get yourself turned around before you even realize it? That can happen to me easily when I am trying to follow a map on a trek somewhere. Yes, I am grateful for those apps that now tell me where to go and hope they know where I am going. But even with those apps there can be times they must be lost. A week ago, I was following them to a bakery I had never visited and when I arrived at the site there was nothing there but an intersection and fields on every corner.
Life seems to easily get us turned around and sometimes upside down as well. It should be obvious to us when that happens and yet it is noteworthy that it can sometimes happen so slowly that we aren’t even aware of becoming disoriented.
We need to be more aware like Topsy in the 2018 film, Mary Poppins Returns, wonderfully depicted by Meryl Streep. She knew that every second Wednesday things would be upside down in her world and it would be “turning turtle” and those days she needed to not try to do certain things that required her precise skills of fixing broken things. If we had her self-awareness, we would know which days we should not be following directions to a new location or making a recipe where it would be easy to make a mistake between salt and sugar or baking powder and baking soda.
But recipes and directions are not the only places where things get turned around. Our thoughts and understanding are fertile fields for that to happen before we even become aware of it. We are influenced by input from untold numbers of directions and sources over time that begin to become so much a part of us that we believe them as truth instead of evaluating them to determine their source, value, and truth. And if we don’t do that evaluation, we start making decisions and choices based on incomplete or erroneous information that is value loaded with values and information that do not line up with what we believe about ourselves, others, the world, and God. I wonder if you have noticed that too.
Amid the best of times or the worst of times, times when we are on top of the world or times when we feel the world is on top of us, we forget that life is never static but rather ever-changing.
“Life, I have realized, ebbs and flows like the tide outside my old bedroom window. Some days the wind is too strong, and sometimes you are carried along on a gentle breeze. The hurricanes come; the landscapes change. Any expert seaman will tell you that, in the roughest seas, it’s best not to fight the tide.”Kristy Woodson Harvey in Under the Southern Sky
The key in the quote is to remember it is an expert seaman who understands how to respond in the seas, whatever their condition. That seaman has learned to know the sea and all its moods and how to navigate each one. I think the disciples knew just such a seaman. Even though some were expert fishermen, Jesus was the one who understood where to find the best fish and how to tame a storm. Their life with Him was designed to teach them to discern more completely what they could not have known without Him. And that is true for us today as well if we are truly listening and tuning into the voice and heartbeat He offers us as his children.
Our challenge is to keep in mind He will not scream at us as so many other influences can be prone to do. That is the often-tricky part for us because it is the loudest voices that can turn us around and taint our understanding of Him. The enemy gets his enthusiasm in knowing this is an area he excels in. He likes to twist our thinking about ourselves, others, and God. If we are honest, we know that he sometimes succeeds.
Other voices and influences want to remind us that in this world our hearts will still get broken (even as his followers) but fail to remind us that even so, light will ultimately overcome the darkness of this world and all the evil that can abound. These other voices and influences will want to haunt us by reminding us of every failure, mistake, and sin we ever committed to convince us that is still who we are and there is no escape. But Jesus wants us to hear his whisper that what we are now is what is important, not what we were (no matter how good or bad that may have been). He wants us to remember that none of us is more worthy than the other, better, or more valuable than the other, He needed to die for each one of us because none of us was or is perfect.
We can believe that God responds to what we do, but miss what Paul is pointing to in Romans 3 about who initiates the pace. I love the way Eugene Peterson translates a portion of two verses:
“What we have learned is this: God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade.”Romans 3:27-28 (MSG)
If we tune into his voice. we will be clearer on the truth that his purposes for each one of us are not random, not hit or miss or dependent on what we do or don’t do but rather dependent on his decision and purpose. Understanding that will help to remind us we are not supposed to adjust to the other voices and influences or to the culture that would seek to shape us. It is we who are to influence the culture. We must not get that backwards for his purposes to be fulfilled.
To allow that to permeate every aspect of our thinking means we will pursue listening to the stories of others more than insisting our own be heard. Listening to each other’s stories will be how we connect and learn that even though we may look different, be different, come from a different place, have a different income, or speak a different language, there are threads that we have in common.
And we can discover them if we listen instead of shout and demand we be heard.
“People always think being loved will change them. But that’s not true. It’s really, truly loving – with the kind of love you couldn’t take away even if you wanted to – that turns you inside out.”Kristy Woodson Harvey in Under the Southern Sky