The Image Reflected

Sometimes we forget to be nice to one another. Sometimes we fight, sometimes we snip at one another, sometimes we use biting sarcasm that’s not really sarcasm, making jokes that aren’t really jokes. Sometimes we don’t like one another even if we are both Christians and are supposed to play nice. Sometimes we villanize people, look down at them, get annoyed and harsh and hurtful.

But we’re not supposed to. We’re Christians, right? Then why is there that person who absolutely bugs you, is always complaining, is always a downer, is always negative, is always endlessly and annoyingly cheerful, is always too smart, too kind, too good-looking, too put together, not put together enough, always serving, never serving, always spiritual, never spiritual? Doesn’t it feel virtuous, though, when we sigh, and pray for them, and take the higher road?

But is it the higher road? Why is there virtue in ‘putting up’ with someone? It seems that we get this idea in our heads that there is virtue in martyrdom where relationships are concerned. But…wait for it…I don’t think the answer is in speaking our mind, in blasting other people, in “taking them aside in love” in a way that in no way resembles love and spiritualizing our attack on them because it’s for their own good or the “good of the Body”.

I have, at times, been resigned to my feel-good martyrdom that makes me feel like I’m being holy and Christlike and bearing with others and their wrongs. What I failed to realize is you know, people are going to bug me sometimes. They are going to disappoint me, they are going to do things I disagree with, do thing over and over again that I think they shouldn’t, they are going to do the opposite thing to what I think they should do. And you know what? I don’t always have to be alright with that. But, I do have to treat them like they are made in the image of God.

Being made in the image of God is universal. We are all made to reflect things about God that are good and wonderful, and special. Human beings are created to be relational, to think, to feel, to be creative, to be stewards. So many things. I am proud to be made in the image of God but sometimes, if I’m honest, I don’t choose to see that in other people. Why? Because if I do I’m called by God to treat them in a certain way that maybe I don’t feel like doing. Maybe I would rather make fun of them a little, oh, in a good-natured way of course. Maybe I would rather talk behind their back and point out their insecurities. Maybe I would rather “call a spade a spade”. Maybe I would rather see the person as a thing rather than a glorious being made in the image of God. Because when I see someone as a thing or an entity rather than reflecting the image of God I don’t have to behave in a way that reflects God. I don’t have to treat them kindly, to see their good instead of their annoyances, to see that they have so much to offer. In short, if I do as Christ requires and look at people who are created to reflect the image of God, I cannot treat them like they are anything less. No matter who they are, no matter what I think of them, no matter what my own insecurities that are brought to light by the interactions I have with them, I need to see them through the lens of God’s image.

 

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Tough Compassion

I have trouble with the TV show “Hoarders”. I have no ethical trouble with it, in fact, it’s a longstanding joke between my husband and I that it’s part of “Stress Night Mondays”. He and I watch “Canada’s Worst Driver” and Hoarders and at least one point during the evening I jibe him a little bit by saying that we need to discuss his hoarding problem. It’s all fun and games but I have to admit that there is something that is very stressful for me about “Hoarders”.

There is a failing I have that I’ve been aware of for some time now. Over all, I think I’m a pretty determined person. Excusing a couple of examples, I’m not a person who will stay in a situation that is unhealthy. Ever since High School I’ve noticed that if I’m being treated poorly or unfairly I tend to speak out or remove myself from the situation. This is an attribute of mine and I’ve tried to develop it in a balanced and healthy way. I don’t ¬†want to quit something too soon just because it’s unpleasant or stay in a situation that is detremental to my mental or spiritual health because of guilt. This is where my failing rears it’s ugly head.

When I watch the show “Hoarders” there is this deep, dark tiny (or not so tiny) part of myself that thinks… “just don’t hoard. Just stop. If I were one of their family members I would just step in and start throwing stuff out for the good of everyone.” I don’t have difficulty extracating myself from a situation that is unhealthy. Other people do. It is difficult for me to understand a person who is making decisions that are destructive to themselves. I want them just to choose not to. Just don’t do it. Just stop.

This is an example in my life and I think that we all have these sorts of examples in all our lives when the sins and struggles of others are foreign to us. We see the way out and can’t understand why they can’t or won’t change. I think it all comes down to seeing clearly. We can see clearly from the outside but sometimes another person is so locked in their struggle, so exhausted from the fight that they can only see 1 foot ahead where we can see a mile. This is especially difficult when it is someone you care deeply for, a friend, family member, child. When you see them slowly being destroyed by their actions when all you want them to do is just decide to stop.

There are so many responses to this that spring to mind. Matthew 7:4-5 about taking the plank out of your own eye before pointing out the sliver in another’s eye. Numerous verses about compassion. My head and heart war with these ideas. I know that as a follower of Christ it is good and right and obedient for me to show compassion for others. Christ has shown amazing compassion for me and I should do likewise. It is hard, though, when you don’t understand why the person won’t do what seems blindingly necessary to change. I try to look inside myself and see my sin, but often I don’t see it as destructive as other people’s sin. This is where my theology, my ideas about God and me fall short. I do hear that sin is sin and all displeases God but are my petty little sins as destructive as a person who is destroying their body?

Yes. As much as this at times wrankles in my soul, I have to admit that no matter what my arguments and views on degrees of sin, all sin is damaging. Sin keeps us from being what God intended. Sin erodes, undermines, suffocates, wounds. Little sins are like a thousand tiny papercuts. Not as violent as a knife cut, but damaging.

Seeing another person with compassion, seeing them through Christ’s eyes means seeing myself through Christ’s eyes. He views me with the same compassion as he views them. He sees my sin and it grieves him as does theirs. He loves them as he loves me, he longs for health and healing for them and me equally. My struggles are not their struggles. Their pains are not my pains, but they are Christ’s pain. He bleeds for them as he bleeds for me. When I look at that person, hurt and angry that they won’t just change, Christ looks at them with love and aches for them. He seeks their wholeness, their joy, for them to see fullness. He seeks these for me as well.

I do get angry and frustrated with people sometimes. I want desperately for them to change, I feel like throwing up my hands and just walking away. They are not me. I don’t struggle with what they struggle. My struggles are different and I can lose sight of them in the face of more evident struggles. Their struggles can become all consuming for me, filling my head and directing my emotions. Sometimes we can wish so hard we almost ache inside. It’s hard to let go and let be when the answer to their problems seems so obvious. But we have to realize that though we may be hurt and hurting through this process, though we may be ready to abandon them, we cannot discount this God who has a vice grip on them. God loves and relentlessly pursues the lost and hurting. That means them, that means me. He is with me in my hurt and his Spirit is working in ways I can’t see.

So, I ask myself, why do I let this bother me so much? Why don’t I just make choices that mean I don’t hurt as badly, I’m not so angry, why don’t I just stop? I don’t know. I don’t know what to do when I’m consumed by hurt and anger at another person’s actions. I don’t know what to do when they really bug me, when I wish with all my heart they were different, when I long for them to be better, to be free. All I can do is realize that they are in God’s hands and not just mine. God sees a larger and broader and wider path than the narrow one I see. He loves them more than I ever could. He wants more for them than I could ever dream. So, right now I try to focus on that. I try to love them and show patience and compassion the way I would want it given to me. I still hurt and ache at times but I’m trying to learn to let go and realize that prayer is not only pro-active, it is therapeutic for me. I can say all my frustrations, hopes, desires, dreams to God and tell him what I wish for this person and pray for the hurt they cause. I don’t have a hard and fast cure for what ails them and what ails me. I wish I did. But I do try and transform my mind to look upon them with compassion and pray to see with clear eyes the person that God hopes for them. Ultimately I realize that in lessons for another God usually has something for me to learn as well and many times that is trust, wait, love, listen, walk humbly, and seek God because my peace is dependant on him and not any one else.