Tag Archives: Insight

When “Love” is Hard

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight….
Philippians 1:9 (NIV)

Along my journey I have managed individuals who were in the wrong position. They weren’t suited for the tasks they were given, they didn’t enjoy the work, and the fruit of their labor was often rotten.  The fact that we had good person in a bad position was obvious to me as a front-line manager. I have two very vivid memories in which I argued with my boss that an individual needed to be terminated. This was not so much to alleviate the problems felt inside the system (though it would certainly do that) but because the individual needed to be freed to find something for which he or she was better suited. In both cases I was told that the best thing to do was to “show grace and love” by continuing to work with the individual, keep encouraging the individual, to keep overlooking their failures, and to perpetually give them another chance. In neither instance did the this course of “grace and love” succeed.

Love is a simple word, and very often love is a simple concept: a random act of kindness, going out of your way to assist a person in need, an encouraging word, or a thoughtful gift.

As I read the opening chapter of Paul’s letter to the followers of Jesus in the town of Philippi, I was struck that he prayed, not just that the Philippian believers’ love would abound, but that that it would abound in knowledge and depth of insight.

I have found along my life journey that love is often not such a simple concept. In fact, sometimes love is hard:

  • Coming clean, owning my own shit, and getting help.
  • Forgiving, knowing you’ll never forget the injury and/or the perpetrator will never admit, own, or repent of what he or she did.
  • Refusing to rescue a child; Allowing him or her fail as you watch and pray.
  • Choosing to make a child responsible for earning his or her way rather than freely providing all things.
  • Severing relationship with a crazy-maker.
  • Walking away from a toxic relationship.
  • Telling an addict, “No.”
  • Terminating an employee who isn’t a good fit for the job.

Just as Paul wrote that Satan masquerades as an angel of light, I’ve learned that sometimes what looks like love on the surface of a situation is actually not love at all. Quite the opposite. Often, the loving act is misunderstood in the moment. It requires knowledge to realize that it’s actually the best thing for the other. The truly loving act can initially illicit anger, bitterness, and lashing out. Depth of insight is required to see how things will play out in the long run.

This morning I’m thinking about the two individuals I referenced at the beginning of this post. I’ve learned that they moved on, found a better vocational fit, and appear to be successful in their chosen fields. I’m happy for them. They taught me an invaluable lesson. Showing “grace and love” sometimes means making the difficult, uncomfortable, even unpopular decision with the knowledge and insight that it’s actually the most loving thing to do.

 

Good Doctor Luke

Mattias Stom's depiction of Mark (distracted and looking at us - he probably already finished his 16 chapter cliff notes version on Jesus' life) and Luke (still hard at work with his research).
Mattihas Stom’s depiction of Mark (distracted and looking at us – he probably already finished his 16 chapter cliff notes version on Jesus’ life) and Luke (still hard at work with his research).

With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus….
Luke 1:3 (NIV)

This morning I was up early and spent some time hyperlinking all of the chapters of 1 Chronicles, which we just finished yesterday, into the Chapter-a-Day Index. As I was doing this mundane task I began to think about all of these posts I’ve written day-by-day for over eight years. My brain, still fogged by sleep, had a silly thought: “If I was running for President [talk about a nightmare for all of us], and both the press and public started pouring over my blog to find out more about me, what would they conclude about me based on what I’ve written?”

I then opened to the Luke’s biography of Jesus to start on this morning’s chapter and read Luke’s introduction to Theophilus, the person to whom Luke addressed his account of Jesus’ life. Having just been thinking about what your writing reveals about the person, I realized how much Dr. Luke [traditional holds that he was a physician] revealed about himself in his introduction.

  • He is methodical, making sure that his “orderly” account was properly introduced. There’s a formality to Luke’s style and structure.
  • He notes that his account is the result of “careful investigation,” and I could imagine the brain of a scientist at work.
  • He had researched everything “from the beginning.” The good doctor was thorough as well as methodical.

As I’ve poured over the “big four” biographies of Jesus countless times, I’ve come to appreciate particular things that are unique to each. The thing that I quickly observed in reading Dr. Luke’s investigative report, and which I have come to greatly appreciate over the years, is that it contains small details and entire episodes in the story of the life of Jesus that aren’t found in the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and John. A physician diagnosing the events he’d witnessed, you can feel Luke’s brain systematically questioning, researching, cataloging, and filing all of the facts so as to lay them out to Theophilus in the most clear and logical manner. These details and episodes provide incredible color and context to the story.

This morning, I am thankful for context and color. I’m thankful for diverse peoples and personalities whom God created to bring that color and context to both His-story and to each of our own stories. I’m thankful for Dr. Luke, whose physician’s brain does not work like mine (I think I’m more like John), and his meticulous investigation which I have enjoyed and from which I have greatly benefitted.

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 2

English: map of Treasure Island, from the firs...
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Search for them as you would for silver;
      seek them like hidden treasures. Proverbs 2:4 (NLT)

It is just after the New Year as I write this. The television news programs are running their annual stories about getting organized and setting goals. The commercials are all about weight loss. The newspapers (those that are left) are running articles once again about setting resolutions and how to keep them.

What are you going to do this year?
What positive changes are you going to make?
How are you going to achieve your goals?

I’ve never been big on new year’s resolutions, but as I read the chapter today I’m reminded that even God’s Message calls us to make choices, to look to the horizon and set the way-point of where we’re headed, and to determine what we will seek after. Jesus told us that whatever we seek after we will find.

So what am I seeking after? What is it I’m driving towards? Proverbs urges me this morning to seek after wisdom, insight, and understanding as if it was buried treasure. Is that what I’ve been searching out? Does that describe my heart’s desire?

Today is a good day to do a little soul searching. This is a good time to adjust the GPS and recalibrate my position. Set the waypoint for wisdom. Chart a course for understanding. Search for insight on the horizon. Hoist the sails.

We’re going on a treasure hunt.

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 33

“This is God’s Message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as God: ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.'” Jeremiah 33:2-3 (MSG)

There comes a point in adolescence when my kids didn’t want my advice. I had plenty of things to say, and I think my experience and insight could have saved them some heartache or helped them succeed at this or that. But, I also know that unasked for parental advice is like an ever dripping faucet. Not only does it drive the hearer crazy, but any benefit goes straight down the drain. Besides, my daughters are quite capable, and I knew that they would do well.

So, I often kept my mouth shut. I tried to be strategic and discerning with when I chose to interject fatherly wisdom. Perhaps I gave too little, or maybe I still gave more than they wanted. You’d have to ask the girls. That’s the thing about parenting; There’s no instruction manual and you’re never going to get it perfect – never.

As they got older and on their own, the advice drought gave way to a gentle sprinkle, then to a steady rain with the occasional flash flood of questions for the ol’ man. I am sought after once more, which is a very cool and satisfying thing.

We often forget that God is not just God, He is our Father. And, unlike our flawed earthly examples, He is the perfect parent. He is not going to offer advice unasked for. He does not run off to a far country looking for the prodigal son to give him a nugget or two of fatherly advice. He watches over. He waits. He patiently stands by waiting for the phone to ring. Because when we call out to Him, He has marvelous things to tell us about things we could never have figured out on our own.