I’ve not heard of parents having to train children to be disobedient or selfish or prideful. There are no courses in school on how to cheat, or steal or lie or side-step guilt by blaming someone else. Nobody gives instruction on how to exclude others from the clique. Yet on any school playground it is not surprising to see in-groups and out-groups, nerds and jocks, city kids and rural kids, the beautiful and the not-so, bullies and shy kids. Especially in lower grades, it is not uncommon to see a student in tears after having been told to get lost, or that they look funny, sound funny, wear funny clothes, are too fat, too skinny, wear glasses, and on and on. Name-calling is forbidden in a vast majority of families, yet, away from watchful eyes, a rogue side can emerge, searching out a way of ‘winning,’ of getting over, of just taking what is wanted. The social aspect of our nature, albeit messed up, wants to belong, to have friends, to have community. We do set out to establish rich, strong, relational ties, but are often painfully inept, egotistically short-sighted, oblivious to our own shortcomings. Somewhere in the midst of all our interpersonal misadventures, we skid, into ‘brick walls,’ known as the six big emotions: sadness, fear, anger, disgust, despair, and shame. And this appears to be the way of things, the way life is for all of us, the inevitable cost of growing up. But how did this all get so wonky? How did we get so far off the rails? Why does life’s learning curve seem so diabolically circuitous, so akin to solving simultaneous quadratic equations? If this were a scene from a movie, there would be cacophonous, top-of-register violins screeching in terror, with the lead actor looking frantically in every direction for a way out (and to think, nowadays for ‘fun,’ people like to go to Escape Rooms where the challenge is to find a hidden exit from a dark, foreboding space. For the record, this is not my idea of a good time. But I digress.)
Let’s segue to the solution: his name is Jesus. He spent three years exemplifying the perfect human life, the ideal lifestyle. He taught everyone how to do Kingdom life as he did it. He told super relatable stories to make his instruction crystal clear. Jesus offered himself, 24-7, to a ragtag bunch of guys so that they would see, firsthand, how amazing he was at handling sadness, anger, fear disgust, despair and yes, even shame! (did these ‘lessons’ that were more caught than taught serve to anchor their faith later on when faced with hardships?) The God-signature over all Jesus’ communications, all his interactions, all his friendships, was a mesmerizing, otherworldly, kind of love, this Hesed, this Agape, this Kingdom sole-focus. Jesus talked, repeatedly, about the primary importance, indeed urgency, of knowing his love, of loving themselves, of loving each other, of loving their enemies. And he bequeathed them his love, his peace, his joy, his Spirit, his promises, to that end. Well, that’s the pudding. Here’s the proof: “Now, if anyone is enfolded into Christ, he has become an entirely new person. All that is related to the old order has vanished. Behold, everything is fresh and new.” 2 Cor. 5:17, TPT. We’re praying to ‘proclaim Christ in all we do and say’. I think if, together, we make it our life’s theme, our mantra, to talk/live/choose, love, we’ll hear echoes of, ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’ That sound resonates with me! PD
ps Research indicates, on average, it takes 66 days to form a new habit.
Today is day 266.
Sixty-six days from now is November 28, the First Sunday of Advent.