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Monday, August 26, 2013

Dwelling or Indwelt?

Two things identified in scripture really have more to do with the recipient than the giver - love and forgiveness.  You might even add a third - grace. These three things are actually given away - they require a giver and a receiver.  For anything given to have value, the receiver must view it in the light it is given.  For example, you may give me a few pennies.  Now, to me, pennies may not seem like a big deal, but if they were your last few pennies in this world, the significance of the gift is much different, isn't it?  From the vantage of the one giving them, they were giving their all.  From the vantage of the one receiving them, until they recognize the value from the giver's perspective they really don't value the gift as much as they should.

Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.  (Matthew 7:1-5 MSG)

Most people fail to recognize just how much they "create" the environment they are in - the environment they create is not always the result of another's actions, not the events of the day.  I think we believe love will change another person.  Sometimes it does, but what we can control is the environment, not the other person.  Truth be told, we find a whole lot of limitations in our ability to love another, don't we?  If only they did this or that.  If only the circumstances had been different.  If only we'd had a little time to prepare.  Life is a series of "if only" type thinking for many of us.  The problem with living in the "if only" is we get into the belief our environment is created by something or someone else, not us!  Truth be understood, we bring love into any environment we are in - we cannot wait for another to change the environment, we need to begin changing it with the love we give away.

It is so easy to put another down because of where they are at any particular moment in their lives.  They don't live up to our expectations, so we put them down.  They don't fulfill their own hopes, so we put the down.  They have some misguided beliefs, so we put them down.  Guess what?  As long as we "reserve" love for the times when someone actually lives up to our expectations, we will have very little love in our lives.  As long as we hold back on grace, another's beliefs may never grow and change.  As long as we limit the relationship because there is no forgiveness for past failures, we limit their ability to see the love of Christ modeled.

We all have different experiences - no matter how much alike we are.  Even identical twins experience life somewhat differently.  They may share the same DNA, but their emotions and spirit develop uniquely, if even only with subtle differences.  It is because we have had these different experiences that we often "clash" at times.  Our perspective is different, so trying to always see through the eyes of another is difficult.  One thing is for certain - we can live a long time and learn a lot of stuff, but we are never through learning. We need each other because we learn "through" the eyes of others.  If you haven't really stopped to consider this, then I challenge you to do so today. You don't develop understanding and wisdom in a box - it is because you can begin to see life through the experiences and learning of another.

When I have a big problem to solve at work, I like to form groups with a whole lot of "subject-matter-experts", not just one.  One "expert" still sees life from their vantage point - although their "point" may be well-developed, to only see the issue through their eyes is also limiting the creation of an environment where we actually can solve the problem of the "whole".  I think this is why God establishes us in families, work groups, close friendships, and even church families.  We learn to process stuff together - love being shared, grace being extended, forgiveness given away even when it is not sought. The 13th chapter of Corinthians ends with three thoughts:  Faith, Hope, and Love. Faith is future - something we just don't see, but we know is there.  Hope is the planning which helps to motivate us to take the steps toward what faith cannot see.  Love is what gives us the ability to stick with it and move beyond each and every hurdle which stands in our way.

Getting back to the point of our "environment", it is important to remember how much we contribute to it.  Our love is displayed in our attitude.  Our willingness to look beyond a fault is displayed in our extension of grace.  Our tie to the past is broken by the extension of forgiveness.  WE create the environment we live in by the choices we make.  Yep, circumstances come at us fast and furious, but it is what we choose to do with and in them which determines the environment in which we will "dwell".  We can choose to "dwell upon" those things, or we can we can choose to be "indwelt" by the grace, love, and forgiveness of God, allowing it to change the place where we "dwell".  Just sayin!