Can you recall the moment when you realized not everyone thought, behaved, or lived like you? I remember back to first grade when I was able to ride the bus home with a friend. So cool. We jumped off the bus and skipped down the dirt road leading to her house. My friend opened the back door, we stepped into the kitchen and were greeted by an inviting smile from her mom but most importantly – a snack. The cookies were yummy! I took a sip of the milk and…ICK. What-is-this? Who knew any family would drink unprocessed whole milk. What is wrong with these people?
My family doesn’t do it that way.
Through out my childhood I found to my continual surprise and sometimes envy, other families lived life in various ways from mine. Some went to church, mom and dad worked outside the home, some didn’t have set bed times, others ate food I’d never heard of and each spent their free time differently than what I was accustomed to. From home decor to the family dynamic, each was unique.
We don’t do it that way.
Getting married brought the same predicament. The menu served on Thanksgiving. Best Food mayonnaise or Miracle Whip (soooo good). The Christmas tree – Douglas Fir or silver tipped, colored or white lights, large lights or small bulbs. The direction the toilet paper rolls (from the top!), where to grocery shop, owning a dog or a cat… seemingly simple, non-issues of life.
This dilemma brought me to the question: Is this a matter of who is in the right? Horror of horrors, does it make me wrong? Do I need to be defensive? In my most insecure of moments I confess I have succumbed to slamming differing ways down to prop mine up.
Because I’ve always done it this way.
Let’s face it, my thoughts, my opinions, are a direct result of what I have learned from others, education and life experience. Add those together with all my choices, equals me.
Are you familiar with Oswald Chambers? His writings go beyond the devotional titled My Utmost for His Highest. I highlighted and saved this quote from the book titled The Moral Foundation of Life: A series of talks on the ethical principles of the Christian life:
Never run away with the idea that it does not matter much what we believe or think; it does. What we think and believe, we are; not what we say we think and believe, but what we really do think and believe, we are; there is no divorce at all.
Considering Chambers words I wondered: Just how much of what I believe, how I think, remains from someone else? If I ask God to search me O God and know my heart (Ps. 139:23-24), would He in His search, find someone else? Would God find more of my husband, a pastor, a parent, a friend, a politician, a talk radio person, a teacher, an author – more of them, than me? Just how much of me – what I think and believe – is my own?
What we think and believe, we are.
I’m talking about the things of everyday life; the things that aren’t written in black and white. Examining the motive behind the stuff of life that has become automatic and taking the time to understand why. Am I following someone else’s lead or have I come before the Lord and asked Him what His will is for me? It feels a bit risky; I mean, what happens if I discover I’ve been just going with the flow without investigating why?
It is quite the challenge to allow the tension between what I’ve always been told to be present and listen to another point of view (Prov. 18:2). I wonder if I can withstand the uncomfortable feeling, allowing the tension to push me to learn instead of immediate rejections or quick judgements. But, also be able to dismiss tension born from knowing something is not right. You know, when the red flag is unfurling and beginning to wave!
What we believe and think, we are.
I often pray to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord; it seems I’m being called out of my comfort zone to uncover the motivations behind the actions; sorting through the ‘we don’t do it this way’ I can be prone get in line with. I have no delusions of grandeur, I have been and will continue to be humbled by this process. I am ever reliant upon the word of God, starting here in Matthew 22:37-39
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and the great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
This is a command, the greatest one (Matthew 22:38). But I believe it’s an exceedingly generous invitation into an intimate relationship with The Almighty God. This relationship includes the small things; maybe not how to stuff the turkey or decorate a christmas tree, but the habits, attitudes and the bias’ I’ve accumulated, which add up to the stuff of life.
For when the math is done on what amounts to me, I want the first influence to be God’s word, learning from the life of Jesus and the leading of His Spirit; not me defaulting to ‘this is just how I’ve always done it’.