Friday, June 10, 2016

Quality Control

I am blessed to have friends that walk beside me through life. I have this one friend, let's call her a mentor – friend, who has known me for probably eight or nine years. She's the kind of friend who's walked through some stuff with you. She knows you, she knows your life, she knows your weaknesses and your strength, and she loves you anyways. This friend is significantly older than I am, in fact she has children who could be my siblings. But she doesn't let that come between us, she doesn't look down on me in my "youth" 😊

A few years ago we were talking about our husbands, our homes, just life in general. And I was just down about some things not turning out the way that I thought they would. I had expected a certain outcome and my expectations were not met. She looked at me, with all seriousness, and she said "You know, I'm the best quality control I know."

I laughed, and I asked her what she meant by that and she explained a concept that I realized I had been chasing after for sometime. A longing for something within me, a greater peace.

She said "When my husband makes a plan and I don't quite like how things turn out, I'm really great at pointing out all the flaws in his plan. Or when my kids come home and they tell me about their lives, I am just the best at seeing all the things that could be improved. I look around my house and I notice every little thing that is out of place. I see my schedule and I see unmet obligations. I can even look at my friends and see how their lives could and should be improved upon." "Occasionally," she confided, "I have found myself sharing with someone my 'quality control' advice how they should straighten up, or how their household might run better, how my husband could make a better plan or how my friend could manage her time better. I even told my pastor how a ministry at our church could be more efficient. You know, Quality control? The thing is nobody really appreciates quality control. Quality control isn't really my job, and it's not yours either."

Her statements struck at something in my heart. There was this nagging discontented feeling there that, instead of squashing, instead of uprooting, it seemed I had been feeding and nourishing.
My first response was not acceptance, but to strike back. "I'm just trying to help" and "it seems to me that some of these people could use some help." And "don't you think that's the loving thing to do, to reach out and help other people?"

I'll never forget how she looked at me when she said "No, I don't think that is the loving thing to do."
And then she read this passage, which was so familiar to me, and it seemed like I was hearing it for the first time.

1 Corinthians 13:4-6 Love is patient and kind; it does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I think I sat there speechless for a moment. I realized how all of my "quality control" was probably the most unloving thing I could do to the people around me.

Love is patient and kind – it's patient and kind when things don't go my way, and patient and kind when I have an expectation that is unmet, it's patient and kind when I think I could've made a better plan.

And speaking of making a better plan – love does not envy or boast. Love isn't the smartest person in the room, it's not the person who has the highest education, the best car, the nicest home. It's not the person with the most well behaved kids, it's not the person with the cleanest house. Love can rejoice in order and blessings but it does not envy those things or compare to those things. It does not stand alongside and brag nor does it stand alongside and demean.

Love is not arrogant or rude. Which means I might have to stop some of my quality control! Who am I to say that there is only one right way to load the dishwasher? Or there's only one right way to organize something, or to plan a trip, or to raise a child. I am no one. Love understands my position is that of the wretched beggar, the dressed in rags sinner, longing for Mercy. Love is not arrogant or rude because love recognizes where love came from. We love Him because he first loved us. And this gives us the strength to love each other, in all of our brokenness, and all of our imperfections, without the lens of quality control.

Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful. How often is my quality-control simply insisting on my own way? As if my way were the only correct way. And how often, when things don't go my way, do I become despondent, irritable or angry? Worse yet, how often do I harbor resentful feelings towards those around me, towards the person who I feel got their way! Love isn't focused on my way because love is focused on His way. How can I be irritable and resentful, even when I don't get the things I want, if I am trusting that the things I get are the things God wants. If I really believe that everything that comes into my life first passed through the will of God, how does my quality control jive with that belief? Because if I'm really honest, it isn't as much about "quality" as it is about control.
Because if I'm really honest, it isn't as much about "quality" as it is about control.
Love does not rejoice at wrong doing, but it rejoices in truth. Quality control only sees wrong doing. And that is where I wrongly presumed that my idea of correction and quality control is actually being loving. "Wrong doing" here means injustice. Love does not rejoice at the hardships and injustices of the world. Love rejoices in truth. And not just any truth, but rightly dividing the Word of Truth. Love rejoices at our understanding, understanding our own place in the world, understanding God's place in the world and understanding how we can address injustices, not through quality control, but through being the hands and feet of Christ.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love bears a messy house, a husband who's plans don't always fit my agenda, children who sometimes get it right and sometimes get it wrong. Love bears prosperity and famine, the good times and the bad times. Love takes them together, makes them bear-able. Love believes the best of others. It doesn't look for hidden motives, it doesn't bend circumstances to it's will, it believes that God is good, and that God has a good plan. Love hopes all things – it sees the good in plans that were not my own, it rejoices in a messy home because in Love- home is found, it holds onto hope when it seems that all hope is lost. And love endures all things, endures plans that are not my own, things that I do not enjoy, trials, suffering, and frustration. Love endures and brings me out on the other side.

1 Corinthians 13:3 ...and if I give up all that I have and deliver him even my body to be burned. And I have not love I have nothing

Too often, in the course of my daily routines, in the course of ministry, in the course of child rearing, in the course of marriage – I become focused on the sacrifices I'm making for those around me. But even if I sacrifice everything I have, if  I do so without love, if I do so with my "quality control "attitude, I have gained nothing for all of my work.

And more than likely my words, my corrections, my "quality control" has fallen on ears made deaf by my own actions.

I will never forget my conversation with my dear friend. It was the beginning of understanding a way of living that was foreign to me but was filled with joy. When I remove the glasses of quality control, when I let go and let God, I learn how to truly love.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Verb - it's what you do...

I remember when my oldest son was 7 years old.  He laughed and played like any other little boy, but when he heard an encouraging word from his mom, a kind word, a "that's my boy" or "you can do it", his face would light up.  I can so vividly recall - his smiles so bright it was blinding for a minute. This overwhelming joy and beaming happiness is seared into my memory forever. 

Encourage is a verb.  It's something you do. 
 Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness,” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 

Throughout the Bible we see instructions to encourage one another and verses that are meant to encourage us. Why is encouragement emphasized in the Bible? Primarily because encouragement is necessary to our walk of faith.  When we En-courage we give each other the courage to walk forward in faith, to face with courage all that life throws at us - to build us up.  The actual word used in Hebrews is paraclete - which means advocate or helper.  It is most commonly seen referring to the Holy Spirit. We are literally called to encourage one another just as the Holy Spirit encourages us.  

As clearly as I recall that bright happy face, I also recall the face of discouragement.  When they stuck out at bat or lost the big game or heard hurtful words their faces would fall, sometimes tears would fall as they experienced what it was to be discouraged.  Discourage is also a verb.  Dis-courage, to take away someones courage, to take away their ability to walk forward in faith, to take away their ability to face what life brings, to tear down. 

John 14:1 Let not your hearts be troubled....
In the proceeding chapter of John, Jesus is eating the Passover meal with his disciples.  He has told them he will be betrayed by one of their own, he has predicted Peter's denial and his own death.  Jesus knows how this has hit them - and he says "Let not your hearts be "troubled" or "athumeo" 

athumeo -  disheartened, broken in spirit. 

We quite literally hold the power to encourage - giving each other the same help as the Holy Spirit gives us, or to break the spirit of others through our words and actions.  It's all about the spirit. 

And this is the choice we make every moment of every day.  

Each word we speak, each interaction, everything we do has the power to en-courage or dis-courage, we can build up or we can tear down.  Every. single. moment. 
Think about that for a minute.

Every word spoken to your spouse.....
Every word spoken to your children....
Every word spoken to your co-workers....
Every word spoken to the cashier at Walmart...

Literally every word is your verb - what you do - the legacy you are leaving built one word at a time. 

Proverbs 16:24 “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”Proverbs 21:19 "It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman."
Are my words healing grace or a spirit breaker?  Lord, let them be healing grace. 

Proverbs 14:1 A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.