Pageant of Mistakes: No Winners

Love the heart, not the mistakes.

Love the heart, not the mistakes.

I believe the most involuntary of all pageants would have to be the Pageant of Mistakes.  You don’t put yourself in it — other people do.  Consequently, everyone and their cousin seem to be self-appointed judges.  But don’t worry, no one ever wins.

I get so tired with people picking apart others.  “So-and-so has a bad past, don’t hang out with them.”  “What’s-their-face does things that look bad — you don’t need to be seen around them.”  “That one person doesn’t seem quite up to your standards.”   And the judgments continue, on and on.

I understand looking out for your family or best friends.  I understand wanting the best for the people you care about, which includes the best person to do life with them.   I understand all of that.  I do.  But what I don’t think most people understand is: if you expect a perfect person according to whatever fantasy “ideal list” you have created in your mind, you will always be disappointed — no matter what.  And guess what?  Your loved ones (and YOU) are imperfect, too!

I’m not saying that people should just settle for what or who comes along.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a list of attributes you look for in someone.  I’m not saying that it’s wrong to give your opinion of someone who is pursuing someone you care about.

I’m simply saying that you are imperfect, your family members are imperfect, your friends are imperfect, and every other single person you meet is imperfect.  That imperfection is perfectly fine, though.  Two imperfect people can have a perfectly wonderful love story.  In fact, a lot do, just ask your grandparents.

There comes a time in life when you just have to say about the person you love, “I know what you’ve done and all the mistakes you have made, but I love you without hesitation.  You’re not perfect, and neither am I.  That’s why we’re perfect for each other — we know what it’s like to live through mistakes and we have learned our lessons.”

When you really, really love someone, you don’t notice their flaws as much.  You just simply want to love them.  That’s how Jesus looks at us.  That’s how Jesus always saw people.  He made friends with prostitutes, murderers, liars, adulterers, etc.  Guess what?  He didn’t sit there and tell others to shy away from one another because of all the sin He saw in each person He encountered.  Instead, He looked at the heart of the person and loved them more than they could imagine.

Jesus, well, He’s my role-model on how to love people.  He just so happens to be the one teaching me daily what it’s like to see someone for who they are, not necessarily what they have done.  He is the true judge of the Pageant of Mistakes, and His judgment is simply:  “I have taken the crown of thorns to cover any and all mistakes you have and will make.  You are all disqualified from the pageant of mistakes.  Instead, I invite you into My kingdom.  All of you are sons and daughters of the Most High King.  You do not belong in a pageant for a crown — you were already crowned with grace and love for your birthright.  You are royal by birth into My family.  THAT makes you perfectly Mine.  Be loving, be humble, and act like the co-heir that our Father made you.”

That’s the way I want to see the people I meet, the people I see regularly, and even the people who irritate me.  I want to seem them through the eyes of the man who loves them so much that He wore a crown of thorns and took the place of their mistakes for them.  I want to see and love like Jesus.  You should, too.

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Lawn Mowers and Relationships: Country Musings

Lawn Mowing Is Like Relationships

Lawn Mowing Is Like Relationships

As I was helping mow our land the other day (in the country, that’s a much more time-consuming task than you would think), I got to thinking how relationships are a lot like mowing with a riding lawn mower.  Don’t believe me?  Here are my findings:

1.  You have to know what direction you need to go in.  On the lawn mower, to be able to get all of the tall grass you have to know when you need to turn and in what direction.  Same thing with a relationship:  you need direction.  You can’t just jump into a relationship with no idea where you want it to go.  If you do, that relationship will not go where you want.  Believe me.

2.  Pay attention.  When mowing the lawn here, I am always having to look out for large rocks or tree stumps or holes to avoid.  Things that could harm the lawn mower.  With a relationship you always have to be on the look-out for things that could harm one another, and avoid them.  Don’t put yourself into compromising positions.  Pay attention and deliberately avoid such places/things.

3.  Even when it’s rough, enjoy the goodness in what you are doing.   Now out here in the country, the land is not all smooth.  There are hills, holes, and rocky patches here and there.  So atop a lawn mower, the ride gets rough.  However, no matter how rough it gets I keep going because I love the way a freshly cut lawn looks and I love how much more functional it is.  With relationships, it’s the same way.  There will be rough times, but you just have to be forward-looking and know that the rough times are worth the goodness of the relationship.  Don’t give up on a good thing just because things get difficult.  That would be like giving up mowing the lawn half-way through just because I hit a rock.

4.  Don’t go too fast or you’ll miss something.  With a riding lawn mower, you have the option to adjust the speed.  If you go too fast, you’ll inevitably end up missing a patch of grass here or there.  Relationships are a lot like that.  If you move too fast, you’ll miss out on something.  If you go straight to the bed before the altar, you’re going to miss out on a lot.  A lot.  You should go at the same speed emotionally, spiritually, and physically.  That way, you won’t miss something.

That’s all I have for now, folks.  Just a few musings of mine out here in the countryside as I mowed my parents’ lawn.  It’s a nice place for pondering.

Make Your Trade: Completeness or Self-Worship

The goal of your faith should produce joy.

The goal of your faith should produce joy.

 

Joy.  There’s something different in joy than in happiness.  In the words of my favorite pastor (Dan, Journey Campus), “Happiness is self-worship.  The trouble with happiness is that it depends on what’s happening.  But joy is built on the foundation of knowing someOne, not having something.  Joy is completeness in Christ.”  Joy, true unabated joy in the Lord, is something that cannot be substituted for.  Why?  Because there simply isn’t anything else like it.  Happiness is a temporary, cheap knock-off.  Happiness fades and wears with time, but joy grows with time — if you let it. 

I was thinking, “what do I so often trade in my joy from the Lord for?”  My answer: temporary happiness because of someone who isn’t the Lord.  I am confident I am not the only one who does this.  To be completely, transparently honest, I decieve myself into thinking if I start hinging my happiness on “Christian people” and let that become more important than the joy of the Lord, it’s still okay —- you know, because those people love God, too.  No, it’s not okay.

I have been guilty of letting that text message from that “oh so sweet Christian boy” bring me happiness in place of the joy of the Lord through prayer.  I have been guilty of substituting my quiet time with God for “hanging out” with God’s people — or just ONE person who loves God.  I have been guilty of letting the compliment from “that special person” mean more to me than God’s Word telling me “Mary, I -the Creator of Life- love YOU.  I made you.  I say you are wonderfully made.  I love you more than the sun and the stars.  I chose you to be Mine.  I whisper good morning to you every single day.  I let you rest in My arms every single night.  I show how much I care about you with every breath you breathe.”   Really, is there even a comparison?  No, not at all.

There’s a certain pang of remorse that I feel with the realization that I trade my joy from the completeness in the Lord for temporary, always-failing happiness from the acceptance of someone else (even if that someone else is a God-fearing Christian person).  To accompany remorse is guilt, shame, sadness, and anger with myself.  But as it always is with my merciful and loving God, there is redemption:  He is still here, holding joy out to clothe me in.  No more wearing around happiness like a tattered, weather-worn jacket.  God is clothing me in a cozy, withstanding coat of joy.  He is offering me the joy I was so eager to dismiss.  He is dismissing my shame, guilt, remorse, self-anger, and sadness of knowing I have given up joy.  Why?  Because He loves me.  Because He is faithful .  Because He knows what I want even when I am confused.  Because He is merciful.  Because He is forgiving.  Because He is Yaweh.

I invite and challenge YOU to find what you trade in your joy for.  What do you allow to bring you temporary happiness?  Get rid of it.  Ask the Lord for His joy to fill you.  Ask for Him to remove what thing or person you let dictate your happiness and your degree of joy.  (I’m not saying that if someone makes you happy to get rid of them.  But if you rely on them making you happy instead of having joy from God, then yes — make some changes.)  Seek joy in Him alone, and I can promise you:  it will stand every test and every trial.  It’s a hard thing to do, given that we are selfish beings by nature and would rather have happiness (remember, it’s self-worship) than joy (completeness in Christ).  But wouldn’t you rather be complete in your Savior than bowing down to yourself? 

Let me be clear:  I think it is acceptable and encouraged to find joy in Christian fellowship.  I am NOT saying that being joyful or happy because of or with other Christians (or non-Christians) is a bad thing.   I am simply saying that the core of your joy….it should be from Christ.   I am saying that at your core should be joy in Christ above happiness.   But is all happiness bad?  No, I think not. 

It is my goal to lay aside the things and/or people that I have sought happiness in and seek only the Lord further, to seek to grasp the joy of the Lord and live on that.  Let His whispers and His displays of love bring me more joy than anything else.  Let His Word touch my heart more than the words of anyone else.  Let my worship be His and not my own.  Let my joy be in Jesus.  Let my life be joyful.