I love snow! I love when everything is transformed into the winter wonderland of clean, bright and so quiet you can hear your own thoughts. I just love it.
But when there is only a little snow…the grass still comes through, the leaves are still exposed and if you run across the lawn you still find (unfortunately) those doggy landmines and have to scrape it off the bottom of shoes all they while thankful that you didn’t choose THAT particular location for your snow angel! And you’re thinking, “Why couldn’t it have just been a little bit more?”
There are other times when we wonder the same question. Thanksgiving dinner, staring at our still-loaded plate wondering why we feel so full and yet want to put more into our system.
“Why couldn’t I have more room for this, it all tastes so good!” Or your favorite team, wondering why their score could not have been more.
But I wonder, do we ever think about our relationships that are not what they could be and say, “I wish they were more?”
Jesus was all about relationships. In fact one of his strongest statements has everything to do with our relationships. In the Gospel of John, Jesus, on the eve of his betrayal and when he is recognizing how little time he had left with his disciples, says to them, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
But sometimes loving others comes out looking more like the partial covering of snow. Some great sections of white with ugly specks and sticks coming out of it. And the same in conversations around the dinner table. Stories start to flow and all seems good for a time; and then a slight turn, a less than positive comment, a joke that didn’t really need to be told. And from somewhere within, feelings that are less than loving surface and our own mouths begin to engage. And what had been looking so tranquil, so inviting, such that it would call others to want to be involved, begins to look more and more like an unfinished painting that hasn’t determined if it will be snow scape or a mud scape.
So what changes this? Two things: perspective and forgiveness.
Perspective is the aspect from where we base our observation and the filters we look through which have been created within our lives. It is most difficult to get outside this vantage point. If all of your life you were told “X” about certain members of society, religions, officers of the law, etc., it molds your interpretation about events. Even as we gather at a family meal, we hear something from a family member and think, “here they go again” and find ourselves instantly falling into the feelings and roles that have always happened. We see the rioting on the news and feel pulled toward one direction or another because of our past experiences and beliefs about the participants.
It makes sense. If you were a store owner in Seattle during the rioting of the G-8 Summit years ago and your own store was damaged, then seeing images of Ferguson are likely going to bring out feelings of animosity as your mind recalls the emotions of your past experience with riots. If a friend of yours tells stories of being harassed by a certain group of people, then you encounter those people, what thoughts come to your mind about their actions?
But how does this impact our ability for better relationships and more importantly, what are we supposed to do about this? How can I actually love others in such a manner as to cause others to think, “Hey, you follow after Jesus don’t you?”
When we meet people, take a moment to recognize what you are thinking about them and why? Do you automatically fear? Trust? Expect good things or bad? Now ask yourself, “How do they perceive me?” Do they fear, trust, respect, expect good or bad?
While part one of the equation was to acknowledge our perspective, part two is the process of forgiveness.
Forgiving someone isn’t about forgetting what they have done. It isn’t about just shoving down our own hurts and wounds or staying in a relationship or place to be hurt again and again. Forgiveness is a process that begins with our recognition that we are in need of forgiveness ourselves. Because we are not perfect, we don’t do everything perfectly and will make mistakes. We will say the wrong thing, we will be selfish, we’ll have times of being tempted to be less than fully honest. Forgiveness begins when we recognize we don’t know everyone’s story and they don’t know ours. We begin to recognize each person we come in contact with has their own perspective and just reasons for their view. Loving means to accept who they appear to be may not be the whole story.
Lord knows this has been true for the church, too! How many people feel that God is some being waiting for them to mess up so he can sentence them or watches for them to fall short to wag a finger at them.
Instead, there is a God, perfect in love, perfect in his judgment, who meets us right we are. Sees our perspective and doesn’t expect more from us than we can give while at the same time empowering us through his spirit to become more than we are. To love the person at your dinner table even though the two of you are on opposite sides of whatever issue. Or the person at the mall, or the office. We can love as Jesus does, and when we do, the whole world will notice.
So as I gaze out my window and pray for more snow, I recognize that we can choose to focus on what brings us together or what separates us. May this Christmas season bring you the joy of the savior and may the grass and leaves be hidden!