When I started with this post, I thought it would just be a simple editorial post with a casual text. I picked the title because it worked with the images, uploaded the photos, made myself a cup of coffee and sat down to write. Somehow, I couldn’t get the concept to develop into something monotonous and mundane. When I thought about the title ‘Are We Sleeping on the Job?’ it just didn’t resonate with me on a casual level. I am not one to sleep on a job; as a matter of fact, I’m not one to sleep much at all. But the words that started flowing were of another chord, a different tone; a much unintended and profound way.
SEE ALSO: EVEN WHEN IT’S HARD TO FIND THE WORDS
What is life’s purpose anyway? What is the point of running around, furthering your level of personal maturity, procreating, dying…? What exactly are our responsibilities while here, what should be our focus? Of course you can make yourself sound wise and spiritual and reply that our focus should be on striving to grow in God’s likeness. But see, when I think about that I can’t help but recognize that it suggests that there is actually a possibility that we might be missing the point.
When I typed the word striving, something hit me. Wait. I don’t like that word striving. So I tried to substitute it for other words that I also didn’t like: work hard, attempt, endeavor. It also didn’t sound right, so I tried to exclude the word altogether. But are we so bold as to exclude the word striving, saying then that the purpose is growing in God’s likeness; suggesting we can actually improve or succeed? What if it all comes down to love? What if the more we grow in love- which sounds more accessible- the more we grow in God’s likeness? We all know we should grow in love- no one will argue with me here; but what if that is ALL we have to do? Are we sleeping on the job?
If you think about it, everything else stems from love. Habitual, spiritual and relational. But if we are not focusing on love, are we running around in circles? Note that although I am speaking in general and including us all on this boat, I would like this message to be very personal. I would like you to insert your name in the text, to ponder. Reading this might bring up a couple of questions, feelings, and maybe even some disagreement. But nonetheless, this is what flowed out of my heart.
Are we fully understanding and grasping the meaning and purpose of our lives? Do we see a clear growth pattern or are we sleeping on the job? What if we are just missing the point, focusing on others and comparing ourselves, pointing fingers and being jealous of other’s gifts, talents and accomplishments? Are we wasting time focusing on the wrong things? Those questions sound so complicated, they require some serious self-evaluation. We’ve all thought about them, have a general idea of the answer, but, somehow, the majority of us don’t really seem to know. What do we do then, if we are sleeping on the job?
When I ask myself what would be the ONE practical thing I could try to master on this earth, I tend to come up with more than one answer. To love God and people, to serve and to help others, to keep a strong family, develop my character, improve in areas of weakness, grow in understanding and in wisdom… So many answers but not the ONE answer I was looking for. I want ONE thing to focus on, one thing to write on post-it notes and plaster around my house.
It is mind blowing how easily we can fool ourselves into thinking that we are doing the right things because we just haven’t stopped for long enough to really think and evaluate our life and motives. We are, instead, either going through the motions or caught on emotion-based convictions; and we don’t even know it. It is crazy how our minds can play tricks on us, specially emotion-based tricks. For example, have you ever been in a relationship with who you thought was the love of your life, to then realize that JUST KIDDING! Or worse, to realize that EW!? Or, have you had negative preconceptions about a person, but after getting to know them you realize they are nothing like what you thought they were? All these feelings are very real at the time, all these reasons we come up with, all these emotions that come storming in and flooding our minds, overpowering our will and clouding our judgement.
But here is a fun fact about feelings and emotions: They feel VERY real, but they are not as real as they feel. What feels like a matter of utmost importance one day, may not feel as crucial as time goes by. As a matter of fact, everything you FEEL will change with time; feelings aren’t always the reality, but only our perception and interpretation of one’s reality. That is where we depend not on our feelings and emotions, but on our choices, convictions and what we recognize as truths. That is where we get our chance to walk by faith, not by sight; and most definitely not by feelings.
One of the things that I find of the essence in keeping us in check is talking openly and honestly about our shortcomings and struggles and giving people an opportunity to do the same, without judgement and without imposing on them our feelings towards their behavior when it does not match ours. One of the problems I notice, is that we’re just not talking about our own frailty enough- we’re too scared! And most of the time we are more scared of the church and of people than we are of God Himself. We usually understand that God loves us, we get that; but we just can’t seem to wrap our heads around the idea that people will know that we failed. But you see, there has got to be something wrong there. Isn’t perfect love supposed to cast out all fear?
When did we become more fearful of people than we are of God? When did we start taking into consideration people’s opinions about us and choosing to live according to what appeases and pleases them? How can we choose to do that over desiring to make a difference in their lives by being transparent and honest, starting relatable conversations and developing relationship? And on the other end of the spectrum, when did we become self-righteous, finger-pointing and eye-rolling Christians that are allowing such calamity to take place?! If one is afraid of another’s judgement, it can only be because they have experienced it. So my question is, when will we become people who celebrate other’s wins and cry with them at their losses? When will we be able to love our neighbors as we love ourselves; without judgement and without behavioral conditions?
All of a sudden, we want to forget that we, too, have struggles of our own and we want to focus on ‘keeping others accountable’. Yes, it is biblical to keep others accountable, but that, the way I see it, is referring to close friends and family, your leaders and your church family- which I believe in this case it’s alluding to your actual church family, those who have invested time in you; not just any Christian with WiFi.
To keep someone accountable you must first know their hearts and circumstances, not only base your words on your perception of one’s situation. And definitely not base your words on your temporary feelings about them. Base your words on love, use your words to edify those who God has put around you and entrusted you with. Why use your words to argue facts, disagreeing with people who you don’t even know personally, defending your perspectives and points of view to people who don’t really care? Ah, isn’t our pride fabulous… We just need to make our points no matter what, we just need to come up with a higher thought, a better solution, we just need to be right. But are we missing the point? I have yet to see a life that was changed by a mean-spirited or ‘corrective’ tweet.
But sometimes we sleep on the job. We want to throw stones at others so we feel better about ourselves. We want to find someone who is doing something we aren’t so that we can roll our eyes and think about how much better the world would be if they only lived by OUR personal convictions. God’s approach is tailor-made for YOU. How He works with one isn’t necessarily how He works with another. His ways are higher. But we like to underestimate God.
Who are we to throw stones at anybody, no matter who they are or the nature of their so called sin? Homosexuality, for instance. (HOT TOPIC RIGHT HERE! All of a sudden my keyboard heated up enough to almost burn my fingers as I type. But unfortunately for some of you, it turns out I like the heat.) Let’s touch on those sore subjects, shall we? How can there be any talk about not taking a “strong enough public stance” on it, when our stance is the only one there should be? One that loves people as people, tells them to ‘come as you are’, places value on their lives regardless of what they are going through, and works with them on a case by case basis. Blanket statements work for no one, as no case is like the next. And that applies to ALL.
When dealing with people, we must first love them, respect them, welcome them, get to know them, and only then, when we have done OUR part, allow God to do HIS. Conviction is His job- ours is to love without prejudice.
Before you start to look for the “escape” button (how is that for a metaphor), let me remind you that I am no theologian. I have never had any training to become a ‘professional Christian’ such as some surely consider themselves. I am just a sinner saved by grace. I am just a thinker. I am just a lover of people who is now able to do so because people have loved me in my own sin. I am just a believer in people because I was the least likely to come around. I am just fresh and still in awe of God’s ability to love, change, reveal AND convict without using any of His finger-pointing people to do the job on His behalf. Just saying. But I only speak from experience and observation, not claiming to speak as if I were “the voice” of God or on behalf of any organizations of which I may be a part of. Again, these are just thoughts.
I don’t consider my sin to be any different, smaller or bigger than anybody else’s. Sin, by definition, means that we have naturally missed the mark, deviating from God’s perfect plan and thus, causing separation from God. It’s holistic in God’s eyes, not individual. That is what puts us all on the same boat, the fact that we have ALL sinned. People are just people, doing their best and trying to figure their lives out. If they have a heart for God, He will meet them where they are. But we like to underestimate God’s power to show up, and so we like to take on the job ourselves. Just in case God doesn’t come through. Hah. What a ridiculous thought.
Much easier to ‘hold someone accountable’ (AKA feelings of disapproval towards one’s behavior) than to simply LOVE them. Who wants to deal with this “love” thing anyway? That is a lifetime commitment to getting hurt, forgiving and forgetting, accepting people despite behaviors that differ from our personal beliefs, showing up with encouragement and not with I-told-you-so’s… Too difficult. Too much work. Let’s just create our own grade system for sins and then put people in categories, accordingly. Easier to first filter through who is worth loving and who is worth ‘convicting’ and ‘holding accountable’. Right.
I encourage you to reconsider your motives. Our motives can be sneaky, just like our feelings. They sometimes hide behind our emotions and partial self evaluation; and we don’t even see it happening. Sometimes, we miss the point. By the time we realize it, it’s already too late. By the time we even notice that we have been bothered by the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye it’s almost too late to try to remove the plank from our own. Sometimes we sleep on the job.
But we never meant to, we didn’t see it coming, we were just “trying to help”. Listen, I fully believe that is the case; as a matter of fact, if I don’t keep focused on my own “plank”, I end up doing that very thing to others. But that is the beauty of focusing on your own struggles and living by your own convictions and only for the audience of ONE. Not only does it keep you humble, but it also keeps you in check. By doing that, you are loving yourself. By doing that, you are also loving others. By doing that, you are loving God. Know your flaws so well and watch them so closely that it causes you to miss mine. What a beautiful place to be, when you are so consumed with love that you almost miss the wrong others are doing towards you. The world calls it weakness, I call it an abundant life.
We were called to love ALL and welcome ALL. Get to know ALL and point ALL in the direction of Jesus, who spent His time on earth doing just that. It is our LOVE that will reach people, not so much our own carefully curated display of ‘righteousness’. Although we are called to live by example, I think we are much more effective when approaching ALL people and subjects with more love and less disclaimers and conditions; a little less fine print. Our job is to love, not to show people how good we are or how we supposedly know something they seem to be missing. Let us all come down from our high horses, we are not that good. Let’s just love instead. We were given ONE job.