Encouragement

An Audience of One

Sara and I saw a movie recently about two national figures who had acted honorably even though most people didn’t think so. They were the victims of false assumptions and accusations by people who didn’t know what was true or didn’t care. Instead of being celebrated as the heroes they were, they were vilified by the media and others. Neither had the platform to clear up the misconceptions.

At the end of the movie they are sitting together on a plane and one turns to the other and said that he didn’t do what others thought he had done. The other looked into his eyes and said, “I know.  But the only thing that matters is that you know.”

It is so easy to take our identity from what others think of us, and what may be said about us in social media. As one who has had a lot of negative things said about him  based on assumptions and sometimes outright lies, I was touched by this movie. My heart was warmed as I was reminded that what others think doesn’t matter. We are not who people think we are and it only matters what we know to be true.

But I would add something greater still. Not only do we know, but God knows as well and doesn’t that make an even bigger difference? Of all the ugly things said and written about me the ones that hurt the most are the lies told by those I thought were close friends—people I have loved and served at personal cost. Nothing amazes me more than that another human being would chose a lie over a friendship, but it happens. Even there, when someone lies and others around them don’t know the truth, it is more than enough that God knows.

Perhaps nothing is a better indication of what I’m living for. If I’m frustrated by the lies and misunderstandings of others, then I’m probably staking my identity on what others think of me. Instead of being real, I will try to provide an image that wins their approval. But when I’m living to God and not the notoriety of the crowd or the accolades of media, then it matters not at all that others misunderstand or don’t even know. Knowing that he knows is all that matters. When I’ve done what he has asked then I can be at peace even in the misplaced judgments of others.

And, that is an awesome freedom, one of those I appreciate most from this part in the journey. I couldn’t do most of what I do in the world today if I were more afraid of how I might look than what is real and honest. I wasn’t always that way but knowing his love his increasingly becomes the only opinion I value. Live to an audience of One and the distortions of this age will not trouble you because at the end of it all, only what’s true will matter.

 

The Best Kind of Joy

There is no such thing as the right place, the right job, the right calling or ministry. I can be happy or unhappy in all situations. I am sure of it, because I have been. I have felt distraught and joyful in situations of abundance as well as poverty, in situations of popularity and anonymity, in situations of success and failure. The difference was never based on the situation itself, but always on my state of mind and heart. When I knew I was walking with God, I always felt happy and at peace. When I was entangled in my own complaints and emotional needs, I always felt restless and divided.

Henri J. M. Nouwen in Seeking Peace

I really appreciate this quote from Henri Nouwen. Our culture seduces us to an unending and unfulfillable quest to make every circumstance just the way we want it, and to great frustration when we cannot do it. Life is unpredictable and circumstances can bring incredible challenges out of no where and then we feel so unloved by God. You will never get your circumstances exactly how you want them, but you can set your eyes on him no matter what you’re going through. Most of my infected with laughter moments have come in the midst of great challenge or risk. 

Being at rest in God’s love and in our place on the journey has nothing to do with our circumstances, only our engagement with him. Don’t seek the outcome you desire, but God’s unfolding grace regardless of circumstance and you won’t be disappointed.  

Into Ever Wider Spaces

Religious obligation makes our world narrower.  The harder we work to keep God on our side, the more demanding and judmental we become of others. We resent those who seem to have more fun that we do and judge those who don’t work as hard as we do.  It makes us angry, bitter, and frustrated with ourselves and others.  Freedom in Christ, however, makes our world more expansive, alive, and filled withi joy.

I’ve never ead Eberhard Arnold, but I’ve seen a lot of quotes from him lately that really resonate with me.  This one does.  Unfortunately I don’t know what the antecedent is to his conclusion.  I have no idea what he would say about Jesus that makes our live broader, boundless, and more abundant.  But every conclusion he makes below I see in the lives of those who are learning to live as God’s beloved children in the earth. Knowing God as a gracious Father and sharing that graciousness with others, not only transforms us into his image, but leaves us more full of joy and graciousness to others at the same time. This is a process, undoubtedly and takes some time, but this describes so well the people I know in the world who are learning to live in the reality of Father’s affection:

Our life will become not narrower, but broader; not more limited, but more boundless; not more regulated, but more abundant; not more pedantic, but more bounteous; not more sober, but more enthusiastic; not more faint-hearted, but more daring; not more empty and human, but more filled by God; not sadder, but happier; not more incapable, but more creative. All this is Jesus and his spirit of freedom and peace. He is coming to us. Let us go into his future radiant with joy!

— Eberhard Arnold in A Joyful Pilgrimage

I love this journey and how it shapes our lives to express more of his reality to people around us when we’re not even trying.