Monday, January 14, 2013

The Challenge, Day 8: Genesis 19-21; Psalm 7; Matthew 7

That log in my eye; the splinter in yours...
After over two decades of life in parish ministry, and nearly 18 as one "ordered" in ministry, I approach this line from Jesus' sermon on the mount as one would approach a field that has a BIG sign in front of it: MINES AHEAD! DANGER! BEWARE!....and yet, there is this clear path that leads RIGHT INTO THE CENTER OF THE FIELD...and unfortunately, that is the way we are supposed to go in order to get to our destination. All of us really can see the splinters in other's eyes. It is a life skill, not a positive one, but a thing we do well. But what we seem to be less able to do is recognize that skill really is accomplished while we gaze past the logs in our own ocular orifices. It is a judgement (often critical) of another but we assuage our consciences and define it as help.

Thing is, that commandment comes right after Jesus tells us to suspend judgment, for the portion we dole out is the portion we will receive. How many times have we seen behaviors or actions in others (and perhaps subscribed motives to same) that we decry while studiously avoiding any self-analysis? It is a truth, and we have to learn it over and over, that those things that trigger our judgment in people are most often reflections of our own shadow attributes. In other words, the bad behaviors we accuse others of are our own, as well. It really would be best for us to focus on altering our choices, actions and reactions before we rail against other's choices.

Sadly, we don't make that good choice. And like an itch that we scratch interminably because the itch feels "good" and we want to avoid the pain that will come when we stop. We will worry over that trait in others for ages. That drama feeds our darkest impulses, in the same way that riding a roller coaster causes adrenalin surges. Pointing out other's splinters gives us a similar high.

A colleague I consulted with years ago pointed to the sort of triangulation in the cartoon above as being centered in "drama," and lacking in creating a triangle of relationship that is more durable and life-giving. Drama triangles are founded in creating surges of energy, generating "buzz and pop" similar to turning up your stereo to "11" while a hard rock tune is up on the queue. The way Jesus offers resolution to that dilemma is to offer two things: a call to self-awareness and a commitment to be like a fruit tree that bears its appropriate fruit for harvest. "Be the fig." "Be the pear." Thorn trees can't bear figs. They just can' turn from being someone who has thorns to being the type of tree that bears good fruit.

As well, Jesus hits on the idea that our lives (emotional, spiritual, physical) are JUST like houses that are built on foundations...some firm and some less so. A life built on the bedrock of faith, self-awareness and rampant, scandalous forgiveness (of others, and of self) is like a house whose foundation is as well-founded on the granite of the real world. Our task? Be the kind of people God would ask of us. And keep a weather eye for those beams that for some reason keep winding up in our eyes.

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