In Matthew 9:12-13 Jesus also told the Pharisees who were criticizing him for spending time with sinners, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”(…or put another way, “‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.”) What do people who already think they know everything have left to learn? They will not learn until they understand that WE ALL have A LOT left to learn. We all have flaws and blindspots and pride. Going into a church building is not the same thing as finding God.
If a person could do NOTHING for you…not advance your career…set you up with the “in-crowd”….give you access or credibility…etc. etc. etc. would you spend time with that person? What if spending time with that person would actually have the opposite effect? Take time away from “getting things done”…make you look uncool…make you appear weak, ruin your reputation… ? What if spending time with that person was just plain old not something that YOU wanted to do…not on your “to do” list, or your “bucket” list?
I am going to try my hardest over the next few days to summarize the chapters from the book 14 Secrets to Better Relationships by Dave Early and share with you the parts that were most meaningful to me. The verses above and the questions I have posed remind me that we can either be easily accessible… or let others know that our time is too valuable to be available. Do we hear, or say, or think, “Make an appointment! Have your people call my people! Let’s try to get together sometime!” Do we get together sometime?Did we say we wanted to…do we want to? Is it s too much hassle?
“You and I desperately need each other. Yet it doesn’t take long to realize that healthy, strong, growing relationships don’t just happen. They aren’t quick and easy. They take wisdom and effort…We will look at thirteen of the most important ‘one another’ commands of the New Testament. It is up to you (and me!!!) to add the time and effort needed to apply that wisdom.” Dave Early (and me!!!!)
Accept one another…just as Christ accepted you. Romans 15:7
“Whether it is a parent helping their teenager feel accepted at home or employers making their employees feel valued or a wife accepting her husband without trying to change him, never underestimate the power of acceptance.”
I am not saying that I am the best at this…not by a long-shot…but I saw something happen that made me mindful about what I DO NOT want to do. I was at a neighbor’s house one day several years back…standing in her kitchen…watching our early elementary school children talking and playing, and the neighbor’s teenage son walked into the room where we all were and the mother said, “what do you want?” in a tone that made it very clear that she did not want him in the room. It was painful to me to hear and to see. I wish I had that time back and I wish I had known what to say to make the child feel welcome among us and at the same time not seem to be critical of the mother’s careless and hurtful words.
Like I said, I am FAR from PERFECT…but that little scene had a forever impact on me. I promised myself that when my children grew up and were teenagers that I would always TRY to make them feel like they were important, special, precious…wanted… and make them know by my words and actions there is nothing that I would rather do than have them in my presence. Do I always succeed in that? Of course not… sometimes I am cooking and I want them to “clear out” until the food is ready…or sometimes I am cleaning and I want them to “Stop making messes quicker than I can pick them up.” In other words, “clear out!”. But since that day at the neighbor’s house, I am ever mindful of how I want my children to feel with me. And when I fail at it, I feel bad because I know that I have made them feel bad. If I can, if it is possible, I try to make it right.
My almost eleven year old will often ask me to sit down beside of her and watch a show…I don’t watch shows and she knows that…but she will ask anyway. Sometimes I will say, “Not right now.” And I will feel bad…and other times I will say, “No, I can’t or I don’t want to…but I will snuggle you for a minute. ” That’s all she wants after all …to know I am willing to stop what ever mundane task I am doing and make her more important. Laundry can wait, after all. Right? But if I always say “No” when she asks me for my time and attention she may one day stop asking…and that would break my heart…and likely hers as well. We don’t realize it, but it is not the big rejections that make us build up protective walls…it is the little bitty rejections by the people who are supposed to love us and care about us. “If my family doesn’t even love me…if my mother doesn’t even have time for me…I must be bad….I must be annoying…I must be unworthy of love.” That is NOT the message I want to send to ANYONE…
My boys expect for me to make them their breakfasts and pour their drinks, and make their beds and do their laundry. They are very willing to accept anything and everything that I will do for them. Do I have to do things for them? Can they do the things for themselves? Yes. And they do sometimes…but if I can do it, and they ask me to do it and I am spending time with them and loving them and they are appreciating it, then how sad if they asked and I said, “no! do it yourself”…or “I’m too busy for you!”… and they stopped asking? They will only be young for a little while. They will only be here in this house, eating breakfast, sleeping under my roof for a little while. I am not spoiling them. I am loving them… and savoring every minute that I have them near.
My older daughters are servants too. And that makes me proud. There is nothing wrong with that…it doesn’t make us doormats to serve, it makes us “Welcome mats”. It’s one thing to be forced to do for others and quite a different thing to choose to lovingly serve. People like to be around others who are happy to serve. It is nice to have a person happily take care of your needs. I know. I have a Mommy.
“Jesus made it his practice to seek out hurting, broken, cast-off, disregarded nobodies and make them feel like somebodies. Jesus let them know He accepted them even if He did not approve of their behavior.” That is the beautiful thing too…when someone feels loved by us, and accepted by us, they will be WAAAYYY more likely to change bad behaviors that they know are offensive to us. They will choose to change…not out of force or coercion or manipulation or fear…but out of respect and mutual care and love!
People go where they feel accepted. If our children and their friends and our husbands and wifes and family members and coworkers and church family don’t feel accepted by us, where are they going to go to get that acceptance. If my child walked into my kitchen and I said, “what do you want?” Instead of “Hey, baby! What’s up?” Where would my child go…where would my child turn? I have some ideas and they are not pretty. I don’t want to turn people that I love away. I want people to walk into my presence and feel so wanted and loved that they keep walking right into my embrace. I want people to feel an embrace from me whether they are in my arms or whether they are on the phone or whether they are in another town, or away at camp or spending the night out…or EVEN if they find themselves somewhere with people they didn’t really mean to be. I hope I never get a phone call from my child saying that they are at a drunken, wild party and need a ride, or that they are in trouble in some way because of bad choices. But if a call like that ever must be made, I want to be the one who gets it, because I want for my children and everyone else who knows me to trust that NO MATTER WHAT I will accept them. I may not be happy with the choices made in the first place…but I will be thankful for the choices made to extricate themselves from a bad situation. That takes guts.
I have often said about little children and preschoolers it is AMAZING to me how much they can do…what they are capable of, when someone believes in them. Without a doubt, little children (because they don’t know any better!!! and do not have our fears and hang-ups about failing!!!) will never disappoint. Without exception, they will rise to the occasion and then usually exceed expectation even when expectations seem ridiculously high. That, I believe, is what everyone longs for…to have someone who loves them and believes in them and ACCEPTS them no matter what… to EXPECT for them to be ridiculously wonderful. If a person has that type of support, then a transformation will likely take place. The person who has not thought of himself as special or good or exceptional will begin to see himself through our eyes. I’m not talking about heaping a bunch of BS and false flattery which could be spotted a mile a way. I am talking about taking the time to notice… comment on… appreciate the good…the great…! It will not create an arrogant monster…we will be a mirror for the beautiful person with unlimited potential and possibilities that God created that person to be.
Isn’t that what we should be, really? A mirror for others to see the reflection of God? Yes, people should see God living in us…but EVEN BETTER, through our words and encouragement and Belief and Love and ACCEPTANCE they will begin to see God in themselves. To FEEL God in themselves. To KNOW God. To know that they were made in God’s image, with a mind a soul and a body that is a temple! There is nothing more beautiful or miraculous in all of the world.
“Jesus greeted and treated people with an ‘outstretched hand and open arms.’ He welcomed, received, and accepted them. He gave them access to Himself. He invited them into companionship…Acceptance is a welcome reception for broken people to come, and an opportunity to be changed…Jesus’ acceptance of sinners was without superiority, judgementalism or condemnation. It was extended freely and undeservedly. It was powerful because it called the recipients to a changed life. And it still does…Once we have experienced this astounding acceptance from God, we’re enabled and obligated to pass it on to others. Since we, as broken sinners, have been invited and welcomed into the arms of our heavenly Father, we can invite and welcome others.”
It can start with the next time your child enters into the kitchen…or asks you to sit down for a snuggle. It could be anyone at any time that wants or needs a minute of your day to be seen or heard… or saved.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30. My prayer is that I will be a hand to hold, a lap to rest on, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, a heart to sympathize and empathize, a smile, a snuggle, a waffle…anything. Lord, let me be present and concerned and connected.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen.” ~Reinhold Niebuhr