Thursday, July 17, 2008

Words of criticism hurt, especially when it’s directed at you and not in any way constructive. We could argue that constructive criticism has some merit, we’re only trying to help, right? However, criticism just to express your opinion is both selfish and just plain wrong. The Christianized term is “sharing in love” and I don’t really get that because most often love is the furthest thing from your mind.

I’m still trying to recover from a recent “hurt” by examining myself and praying to be open to what God might be teaching me through it. With hurtful words spoken in the past, I learned valuable lessons and was able to reconcile with the people involved. This time I don’t even think the person who spoke these devastatingly critical words thought about it having an impact, if any, on me. Brent and I have often talked about how sensitive we are but I don’t think we are unreasonably so, where every little petty thing upsets us. Not so.

Even the old adage “consider the source” is not particularly comforting because of who it is. The source of the criticism is a respected person in my life. To be fair, I’m sure I have hurt in return with words I have spoken. I’m racking my brain to remember, have I been callous and spoken thoughtless words, judgmental words? Probably and it’s even worse that I don’t remember. Maybe it’s a wake up call for me to be more careful with the words that I speak and the judgments that I make.

Donald Miller is one of my favorite authors, I’ve probably said it before. You mostly laugh, you cry, you relate to what the man says, especially through very simple, everyday things. He seems so down to earth. I don’t even think it would be intimidating to meet him, if I ever get the opportunity.

In “Blue Like Jazz” he talks about many things but this is an excerpt from the “Community” chapter: (I trust Mr. Miller won’t mind me sharing this with you)

“The most difficult lie I have ever contended with is this: Life is a story about me.

God brought me to Graceland to rid me of this deception, to scrub it out of the gray matter of my mind. It was a frustrating and painful experience.

I hear addicts talk about the shakes and panic attacks and the highs and lows of resisting their habit, and to some degree I understand them because I have had habits of my own, but no drug is so powerful as the drug of self. No rut in the mind is so deep as the one that says I am the world, the world belongs to me, all people are characters in my play. There is no addiction so powerful as self-addiction.

In the spring of my year at Graceland, when the ground was beginning to dry at Laurelhurst Park, a friend and I traveled to Salem to hear Brennan Manning speak…

Brennan talked about how an entire town, with their ridicule and hatred, could not keep the little man from oppressing them through the extravagant financial gains he made as a tax collector. Christ walked through town, Brennan said, and spotted the man. Christ told Zacchaeus that He would like to have a meal with him.

In a single conversation Christ had with Zacchaeus, Brennan reminded us, Jesus spoke affirmation and love, and the tax collector sold his possessions and made amends to those he had robbed. It was the affection of Christ, not the brutality of a town, that healed Zacchaeus.

Manning went on to speak of the great danger of a harsh word, the power of unlove to deteriorate a person’s heart and spirit, and how, as representatives of the grace and love of God, our communication should be seasoned with love and compassion.

While Manning was speaking, I was being shown myself, and I felt like God was asking me to change. I was being asked to walk away from the lies I believed about the world being about me. I had been communicating unlove to my housemates because I thought they were not cooperating with the meaning of life, that meaning being my desire and will and choice and comfort.

There was nothing fun about going home that night. I went with new eyes, seeing my housemates as people. For the first time I saw them as people, and I could sense God’s love for them. I had been living with God’s prized possessions, His children, the dear ones to Him, and had considered them a bother to this earth that was mine, this space and time that were mine.

In the short year at Graceland I hurt all the guys at one time or another. Fixing the carnage would take time…

I was in San Francisco recently staying at this bed and breakfast place for people who are in the city to do ministry. It was a small house, but there were probably fifteen people living there at the time. The guy who ran the place, Bill, was always making meals or cleaning up after us, and I took note of his incredible patience and kindness. I notice that not all of us did our dishes after a meal, and very few people thanked him for cooking. One morning, before anybody woke up, Bill and I were drinking coffee at the dining room table. I told him I lived with five guys and that it was very difficult for me because I liked my space and needed my privacy. I asked him how he kept such a good attitude all of the time with so many people abusing his kindness. Bill set down his coffee and looked me in the eye. “Don,” he said. “If we are not willing to wake up in the morning and die to ourselves, perhaps we should ask ourselves whether or not we are really following Jesus.”

Brad's computer has crashed so he is working on that situation.

The Awe Star teams are in their final days of ministry so we covet your prayers for their continued stamina and health. They have seen a bountiful harvest for the kingdom and are full of excitement to share their stories of how God has worked. I hope many of you reading get to hear from them. I know Brent will be sharing here in more detail when he returns. We are rejoicing at what God has done through the challenges as well as the blessings.



At 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry that you were hurt. I, too, was hurt by someone's thoughtless words this week. It also caused me to think about my words and to try and not be so careless when tossing them out.

But, you are right, it really isn't about me. And that thought helps me to put into perspective moments like these.

At 11:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deanna-you would never hurt anyone on purpose. Isn't it funny though that we can sail along, living life and thinking all is good, then-zing-someone zaps us with a hurt that makes us step aside and search inwardly to see if it is true or not. The funny thing about the whole part is that we search within our selves to "prove it to ourselves" mostly without considering the source from which it is delivered or the reason and forget that the other person is human too and therefore not perfect in action or thought and could possibly be wrong!


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