Tag Archives: Relational

Stuck in a Moment

Stuck in a Moment (CaD Gen 33) Wayfarer

But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.
Genesis 33:4 (NIV)

Many years ago I found myself back in the stomping grounds of my youth. It was late at night and I ran into an old friend. I approached to say hello and discovered he had a drink or two too many. I was shocked to find that I was greeted with anger that felt like it was seething to the point of rage. He looked like he was ready to punch me, and the air was filled with violent tension. I quickly backed away and left.

I never forgot that moment.

Ten or so years later I ran into my friend again. Needless to say, my apprehension was high when I saw him. All I could think about was the tension from ten years before. I played it cool and chose not to initiate conversation. Imagine my surprise when my friend walked up to me with a smile, greeted me warmly with a big hug, and initiated a friendly catch-up conversation. It was as if the episode a decade before had ever happened.

That moment came to mind this morning as I read today’s chapter and the reunion between twin brothers, Jacob and Esau. In this case, it had been 20 years since Jacob fled into exile to escape his brother’s rage. The last thing Jacob remembered was the aftermath of stealing Esau’s blessing and birthright. Esau was spewing anger and vengeance. In yesterday’s chapter, Jacob hears that Esau is on his way with 400 men, and he is clearly anticipating Esau to greet him with the same anger and vengeance he remembered from their last meeting. He carefully devises a plan in anticipation of a violent outcome.

Imagine Jacob’s shock when Esau runs ahead of his 400 men to embrace him, kiss him, and weep at their reunion.

Along my life journey, one of the things I’ve learned about myself is that I have a very active mind, imagination, and inner world. It comes with being an Enneagram Type Four. This is a good thing in all sorts of creative ways. I discovered it to be quite helpful as an actor, allowing me to easily suspend disbelief and live fully in the world of a play behind the fourth wall. At the same time, my active mind can also become a hindrance.

They say, “Time heals all wounds.” Sometimes it’s true, but not if my brain replays that uncomfortable, tense moment with my friend over, and over, and over again. And, I did just that. I couldn’t let it go. It was like relational PTSD. All I had to do was think about it and I was right back in that moment, feeling all of the shock, apprehension, and fear all over again. It makes it hard for me to let things go. Sometimes, I’m unable to emotionally or relationally move forward from a moment. As U2 sings it:

And you are such a fool
To worry like you do
I know it’s tough
And you can never get enough
Of what you don’t really need now
My, oh my
You’ve got to get yourself together
You’ve got stuck in a moment
And you can’t get out of it

In the quiet this morning, I wondered if Jacob was wired the same way. Paul summed up his letter to Jesus’ followers in Philippi by telling them:

whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I’ve discovered that doing this often requires me to find the “stop” button in my brain from continuing to repeat whatever mental playlist I have on a continuous loop. I have to force myself to consciously choose a different playlist that fits Paul’s description.

I’ve found that the path of spiritual growth requires me to recognize unhealthy and unproductive ways within myself, and find the self-discipline to address them. In some cases, this is easy. In other cases, it’s an entire spiritual journey all its own.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Refreshing

I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also.
1 Corinthians 16:17-18a (NIV)

Wendy and I just arrived safely home from a short week at the lake. This past weekend was what has become an annual rite of early summer for us, as we spent the weekend with our friends at the lake. The agenda is very loose, but no matter the activities the entire time is woven with great food, great drink, and great conversation. I will admit that my body arrived home a tad sore and short on sleep, but my spirit was completely refreshed.

In this morning’s chapter, Paul makes the final remarks of his letter to the followers of Jesus in the city of Corinth. Three men from the Corinthian believers had traveled to meet Paul, presumably to hand him the letter to which he references and is responding in this response. Paul remarks that his spirit was “refreshed” by their visit and letter. This is a common word that Paul liked to use. He used it again in his subsequent letter to the Corinthian believers. He also used it as he corresponded with believers in Rome, in a letter to his protege Timothy and in a letter to Philemon.

We all need times of being refreshed. Our life journeys are filled with stretches that deplete us in multiple ways. Life is often a slog. We tap into spiritual, emotional, and relational reserves in order to press on with each daily trek. Over time, it’s easy for our tanks to run empty. We need to be refreshed.

I also find it interesting this morning that each time Paul references being “refreshed” it is always in reference to a relationship. It’s another person or persons who have refreshed him. I am reminded of the word picture Jesus gave his followers when He washed their feet. Their bodies were clean, Jesus reminded them, but their feet get dirty from walking in the world each day. They needed Jesus to wash their feet, but He knew that He was soon going to physically leave this world. Jesus knew that His followers would need to wash each other’s feet after His ascension. We need the refreshment of having another human being who listens to us, laughs with us, loves on us, and lightens our emotional load for a few days. We need others to fill our spiritual, emotional, and relational tanks for the next stretch of the journey.

This morning I am thankful for a host of good friends with whom Wendy and I share life’s journey. I’m thankful for friends who refresh us and fill our tanks. I hope to refresh others as well as I have been refreshed.

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Breaking the Cycles

Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord would be moved to pity by their groaning because of those who persecuted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they would relapse and behave worse than their ancestors, following other gods, worshiping them and bowing down to them. They would not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.
Judges 2:18-19 (NRSV)

Everything is connected and each thing affects every other thing around them. Every one is connected and each person affects every other person around them. That’s the general idea behind Systems theory. Things happen systemically.

There is, perhaps, no other section of God’s Message that reveals how systemically God’s creation is than the book of Judges. On a macro level, Judges is about patterns of social behavior. These generational patterns are systemic over centuries and in today’s chapter, the scribe of Judges reveals the pattern before getting into the details of the history:

  1. Joshua, the leader, passes away.
  2. The people abandon God and worship idols.
  3. God gives them over to their ways, they are defeated by enemies and enslaved.
  4. The people repent and cry to God for deliverance.
  5. God raises up a leader (e.g. Judge) to deliver them.
  6. The delivered people follow God.
  7. The leader passes away.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Along life’s journey I’ve found that what we see on a macro level in the book of Judges is found in countless ways on a micro level in our lives. We follow patterns of behavior without recognizing it. It’s systemic:

  • A person in my life does/says (A) which…
  • Triggers reaction (B) in me which…
  • Leads me to do/say (C) which…
  • Elicits response (D) from the other person which…
  • Lead the person to do/say (A) again…

“‘Round and around she goes, where she stops nobody knows.”

Today I’m thinking about patterns of behavior, patterns of thought, and patterns in relationships. Jesus made a habit of calling people out of their destructive spiritual patterns of behavior to walk in new spiritual directions. There are some things that can only be broken and transformed by a work of God’s supernatural grace.

Many people have a big conversion experience in which God calls them to leave their hopeless, destructive systemic cycles toward new Life giving behaviors. I’ve come to understand that this is only the first of many conversion experiences that happen along life’s journey. Time and time again God calls us to break systemic and destructive patterns of thought and behavior to follow His prescription for peace, joy, and love.

Where is God calling me to break the destructive cycles I’m in?

Proper Position

Proper Position

So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (NIV)

No one will accuse me of being a fitness geek. Nevertheless, I have picked up a thing or two along the way. When it comes to strength training, I have never forgotten the principle that position and form is critical to getting the maximum benefit from each exercise. If your body is not positioned correctly and you don’t move with proper form you will not only minimize the outcome of your effort but you could even end up injuring yourself.

This morning as I read the encouragement to “stand firm” and “hold fast” I thought about position. If I don’t put myself in a position emotionally and spiritually to stand firm then I can’t expect the maximum benefit as I weather life’s storms. Taking care of myself physically, staying connected spiritually and relationally, maintaining a conversation with God, and investing time and energy in quiet are all components of putting myself in the proper spiritual position to stand firm. It is the spiritual equivalent of standing with feet shoulder-width apart, knees bent, back straight.

Today, I’m putting myself in the proper position to stand firm.

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Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 8

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So why does this people go backward,
   and just keep on going—backward!
They stubbornly hold on to their illusions,
   refuse to change direction. Jeremiah 8:5 (MSG)

It takes little or no courage to continue living in the same unhealthy patterns. We perpetuate cycles and systems that drain life from our souls because it’s what we know and there is fear doing anything different. The unknown terrifies us more than the muck in which we find ourselves wading each day.

Yet if it is Life we wish to experience in abundant and increasing measure, than a change of direction is required. Illusions to which we have firmly grasped must be released, old patterns of thought and behavior must be left behind, and new relational systems must be established.

When we walk with Jesus, old things must surely pass away. New things must surely come.

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