7.20.2013

We need to be fully engaged.

Do you ever feel like you judge people too quickly?  Or without enough information to fully support your opinion?  I do not mean in a sinful, judgmental way, but a judgment based on facts ... what you saw and heard with your own eyes and ears?  It may be good, bad, or indifferent, but you took the information presented and ran with it.  Seems logical, right?  No assumptions were made. Speculation was not involved.  Just facts.  But still something inside of you thought, "Hmm. I wonder ...."

This used to happen to me all the time.  Especially as a teenage girl and a young adult.  I would assume that whatever people told me, or how they acted in front of me, was who they were.  Why would I question what they were showing me?  Why would they lie or pretend to be something they're not?  That made no sense to me.  Because of my naivete, I was fooled and hurt many times, and even worse ... I dismissed certain people because I thought I had them 'all figured out.' What arrogance!  Now, there are some who wear their emotions and heart on their sleeve - not a lot of investigation needs to be done to discover the truth of who they are.  It is right there for all the world to see.  But for most?  Well, most of us wear a mask to cover up the parts that we do not want others to see.  Some wear simple, thin masks that can be easily removed, while others wear masks of such thickness that they appear to be permanently glued to their faces.  Either way - we have to learn to drop the mask ... when it is safe and when we can trust the person who will be looking right at us ... but we have to be willing to remove it - and - we have to be willing to help others remove theirs.

Vulnerability.
Transparency.

These are very scary words for most people.  Even believers.  We are more concerned about what others think of us than what the Lord is thinking of us.  We exhaust ourselves trying to cover up our weaknesses, hide our sin, divert attention away from us, and keep up the appearance of godliness, when we should be keeping our eyes locked on the face of the Father, following wherever He leads us, and letting Him peel away our pride layer by layer so we might be used for His purposes rather than worrying about our own agenda.

A few weeks ago I was standing in a large crowd of people.  I knew all of them at different levels, some intimately and some just by name.  As I stood there watching my children and not really thinking about anything, I was drawn into a conversation between two women that blew me away. One woman I know very well because we have a long history together.  The other woman, who was sharing personal details about her life, is one I do not know personally, but have 'pieced together' through my own observations from a distance.  I was impressed with her willingness to be so open with a virtual stranger, and appreciated that she trusted me to listen.  But what kept running through my mind was, "Oh my word!  How in the WORLD did I not know all of this?"  And I started replaying the things I had seen and heard myself to see if it all added up.

Almost two decades ago I read a book that challenged me with the thought:  Seek to Understand. Is someone screaming at you?  Irritable?  Rude?  Being passive aggressive for no reason?  If so, look for the WHY.  Do not take it at face value.  Maybe she just had a huge fight with her husband.  Maybe her daughter is sick.  Maybe he just found out he is losing his job.  In other words, "Do not take everything personally!  Everything is not about YOU!"  It was one of the best lessons I ever learned as an adult, and as a woman.  Just because I am the one standing there at the time does not mean it is about me.  Look PAST what you see and seek to understand the bigger picture.  And if necessary - ASK!

The reason I was blown away by the conversation between the two women was this:  Though my observations were accurate, and the judgments I made were true, I did not know the back story.  I did not know they WHY.  It did not change anything, but it explained everything.

In one of my favorite movies, North & South, there is a great line about this very thing.  A brother and sister are talking about someone the sister knows very well and whom the brother has never met.  
Frederick:   What a scowl that man has…….  A very disagreeable fellow, I’m sure.
Margaret:   [looking sorrowful]  As with most men, something has happened to make him scowl, Fred.  Don’t judge him harshly.

Our actions, behaviors, words, and attitudes are our responsibility.  We will give an account for all of them.  And sadly, we often expose an ugly side of ourselves to the world when we are hurt or angry.  Others expose their anger, frustration, impatience and sin as well.  And though it is easy to write them off, judge harshly, or even judge fairly - there is always a reason.  Sin is never justified.  But sometimes we need to obey Scripture when it calls us to "overlook an offense" knowing that the person was not malicious ... they were not trying to hurt us ... they were not purposeful in their pain.  They are fighting their own flesh, working through their own hurts, and battling their own demons.

The funny thing is - it is in those hard moments that our masks fall off, exposing everything we are, because we cannot wrestle and hold onto them at the same time.  Our desperate need to look good and godly and put-together is lost in our selfishness and sin.  And then as soon as we glimpse the mask lying in the dust, we scramble to get it, brush it off, and thrown it back on so we can hide once again.  But it is too late.

So the question is - Why don't we take the mask off when we have full control?  When we are walking in the Spirit, reading the Word, worshiping with other believers, and seeking the Lord's face.  That is the time to reveal our hearts to another.  That is the time to say, "This is me!  I love the Lord, I want to know Him more, but I still love my flesh and I still have to fight hard in some areas to win.  I am going to expose my weaknesses, by choice, because God commands us to confess our sins to one another so we can find healing."  Is it still a little scary?  Yes.  Is it vulnerable?  You bet!  But it is RIGHT.

It is absolutely impossible to know everything about everyone.  Even your spouse or your best friend.  But guess what?  The Lord knows every single part of us - even the deep, secret places we are afraid to bring to the light.  He knows!  And He loves us anyway.

The Lord challenged me with something that day.  Because He knows the details of each person He created, He is able, and willing, to show me what I need to see in them.  He is able to make me alert and aware ... to see past the superficial hello and smile we so readily offer ... to hear the quiet cry behind the "I'm good" so I can probe deeper and find out the condition of the beating heart inside.  He has that power!  He longs for us to fulfill the "one anothers" of Scripture.  He wants us to encourage and correct, comfort and urge one another in Christ.  And the best part is - all we have to do is ASK!  

We do not need to know everything about everyone.  But in those few moments when they are sharing with us, willing to talk, and slowly trying to drop the mask - we need to be fully engaged.  Listening.  Looking.  Hearing.  Praying.  How is her heart?  What are her struggles?  What is she holding back that needs to be released?  

"Show me, Lord!  Let me be Your hands and feet to this person right now - for such a time as this - so I do not miss an opportunity to obey You - or serve her.  You know every detail, I know nothing.  Open my eyes to see what You see, and use me to show her that taking off her mask does not have to be scary - it can be freeing!  Make me aware of those around me, Lord.  I know I cannot be everyone's best friend, but I always want to be available for a Divine Appointment.  You have shown me time and again how a simple question can open up the floodgates of a person's heart.  Make me bolder!  Make me aware of who needs the question ... who needs my time ... who needs my attention.  I share my own personal trials and temptations so that others might be encouraged to do the same - but it did not start that way!  You know how shy and fearful and insecure I was, Lord.  It is YOU who has changed me from the inside out, and I am forever grateful.  It is hard to expose our inner darkness ... we fear the thoughts of men more than we fear what You think ... so we stay snug and cozy behind our masks, disobedient to what You have called us to do.  Confess our sins, encourage, rebuke, build up, comfort, pray for, submit to, be kind, and care for one another.  These are YOUR commands, Lord.  And they serve such a good purpose ... if only we will carry them out.
Make me a woman who continually goes fishing in the hearts of those around me - those close to me - and those I hardly know.  We ALL need to be pushed forward at times ... and though it is uncomfortable in the moment, we are always thankful when we look back and see the work of Your hands in our lives.
THANK YOU for being a God who sees and knows and WANTS every part of us.  No one else ever will.  But You, Lord, You will never forsake us."

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