Saturday, November 30, 2013

The things we hear

How has the past startled you? Have you looked at photos and wondered who you were? Heard a story from a different point of view that changed how you look at things?

I'm 18 years old. I've just spent three hours listening to someone I consider a friend. And Nora has told me how awful my family is: too snobby, too smart, too willful, we think we're too good for others, and our worst crime of all? We're willing to think and do things other families don't try. She says she likes the safety of limits, and she hates that we don't recognize those constraints or stay within them.

I tell Nora she's probably misunderstood us, wave goodbye, and go inside the house. Of course, I write it all down so I can think about it.

Nearly 40 years later, I find that journal entry. (Be careful what you tell a writer.) It's several pages long because the conversation went into great detail about our family's inadequacies. I winced - and shrugged - when I wrote it. And I winced - and shrugged - again when I read it yesterday. It made me sad in some parts and made me laugh aloud in others. The things our family loves - learning, tackling new things, and finding creative solutions - were the very things she resented and disliked in us.

People rarely say what they think to our faces, so then and now I pondered Nora's frank appraisal. I summed up the conversation as "pure poison without a point." But I internalized the fears I heard, Nora's worries of not being enough, of not trusting, and of wishing she was someone else.

I pulled back from her, of course. But I also saw others differently. Nora had named those in our circle in years of interactions that I didn't remember. I'd hurt them and they'd talked behind my back.

Who's talking about you behind your back? Does it influence your behavior? Do you care? There's often a grain of truth in we overhear about ourselves, no matter how strangely the "facts" are presented.

An interesting observation
Nora had a chip on her shoulder and deep insecurities. If others had confronted me, would I have been more serious about my surroundings and been kinder and more careful in my friendships? Probably. That might have meant being less open. Taking fewer risks in exploring what was possible. Not going as many places with as many people. I doubt that was possible, judging from who we all were back then.

As I read the rest of the diary, my shortcomings and imperfections are obvious. Compared to most of my peers, I was a wild-thinking teenager. Modern parents might put me on ADD meds. On the plus side, I was endlessly curious. I easily acquired languages and information. I didn't mind swimming a long way or jumping off cliffs into unknown waters (literally and figuratively. Remember Harrison Lake, you guys?) I might scream while my heart pounded in fear, but I'd try anything once if it wasn't immoral or illegal. I never intended harm even when I felt the least patient with others. (Going to college probably saved my mind.)

Do pacesetters and visionaries take this to heart?
I'm wondering about how we'd redo our lives. Are there things you would change? Do you have regrets about things you've done (or not done?)

Living in the past doesn't serve us. I long ago forgave Nora her attack. I hope she found security and recognizes her value as a person - just as she is, beyond comparison to others. We are who we are. If God is pleased with how he made us, shouldn't we be happy with ourselves?

In heading toward a new culture, reading my diary is helpful. We don't know the signals for caution or avoiding faux pas in Indonesia. We can only trust God, do our best, and ask friends to let us know when we miss the mark or overstep the boundaries.

"Lord have mercy," she says sincerely, shaking her head and closing the journal.

Read more:
*Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:1, 26 ESV

*Put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your record? Psalm 56:8

*Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Luke 6:21 ESV 

*But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness. 2 Peter 3:10-11 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Heavenly Creator, many lives are filled with grief and sadness. Through your generous grace and lifting spirit, help dry the tears of those who weep and bring comfort and laughter to those who despair. Amen.

CS Lewis in Mere ChristianityAnd now we begin to see what it is that the New Testament is always talking about. It talks about Christians ‘being born again’; it talks about them ‘putting on Christ’; about Christ ‘being formed in us’; about our coming to ‘have the mind of Christ’.

Put right out of your head the idea that these are only fancy ways of saying that Christians are to read what Christ said and try to carry it out—as a man may read what Plato or Marx said and try to carry it out. They mean something much more than that. They mean that a real Person, Christ, here and now, in that very room where you are saying your prayers, is doing things to you. It is not a question of a good man who died two thousand years ago. It is a living Man, still as much a man as you, and still as much God as He was when He created the world, really coming and interfering with your very self; killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has. At first, only for moments. Then for longer periods. Finally, if all goes well, turning you permanently into a different sort of thing; into a new little Christ, a being which, in its own small way, has the same kind of life as God; which shares in His power, joy, knowledge and eternity.

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