"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
June 15, 2016
Recently I saw a picture on Facebook that had gone viral last year. It was of a group of students setting in chairs to the side of Rembrandt's painting "The Night Watch" in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The entire group of students were all looking at their smartphones, instead of looking at the painting. It quickly went viral and elicited comments such as, "A perfect metaphor for our age"; "The end of civilization"; and "A sad picture of our society".
The truth is, the Rijksmuseum has an app that contains guided tours and further information about the works on display. As part of their visit to the museum, the students, who minutes earlier had admired the art and listened attentively to explanations by expert guides, had been instructed to complete an assignment by their school teachers, using the museum's excellent smartphone app.
The man who reposted the picture with the explanation of what was really happening in the picture posted these words, "The tragic thing is -- the truth -- will never go viral. So, I wonder, what is more likely to bring about the death of civilization, children using smartphones to learn about art -- or the willful ignorance of adults who are too quick to make assumptions?"
How quick we are to jump to conclusions and make assumptions! I daresay that most of us do this most every day. We see and/or hear a news blurb and immediately believe it, regardless of not knowing any details about the situation. Lives and reputations have been destroyed due to the media airing stories that later is found to not be true, or perhaps was a set-up. But rarely will the media go back and retract stories or statements that were made; and even if they did, many would either not pay attention or believe it. I've often heard people make this statement: "I know that the news isn't trustworthy and that what's being reported often isn't true." Yet those same people will later repeat stories that they've heard on the news as being truth.
For whatever reason, people tend to believe the worst and will gravitate towards the negative. Gossip is rarely about the good in someone. We will repeat something we've heard (or overheard), or will talk about something we think we've seen, not waiting to find out the true story. Rumors get started, then grow; and it results in people being hurt or their reputation being tarnished.
It's easy for us to speak critically regarding a situation; but is really difficult for us to go back and retract what we've told others or posted on social media, should we later find out that what we originally believed or imagined was false. We don't like admitting that we were wrong and made a mistake; so often try to justify why we came to the conclusion that we did.
We can get into a whole lot of trouble when we make assumptions! It can cause us to speak out against someone when they don't deserve it; it can cause us to react negatively and result in someone being hurt; and it can make us feel really stupid should we find out that what we'd believed was not true.
There may be times when friends or family behave in a way that makes us think that they don't care or are ignoring us or doesn't want to talk to us. We get our feelings hurt, then respond out of those feelings. "I wonder what their problem is?" "Fine! If they want to be that way, then let them!" "I don't need them, if they're going to act like that!" The truth is, we are making assumptions and then are getting upset over what we are guessing at. They may have no idea that we are upset or that they've hurt our feelings. Perhaps they are dealing with personal issues of their own, or have been exceptionally busy, or aren't feeling well, are stressed about a situation in their life, etc. It may have absolutely nothing to do with us, and they have no idea that we're upset.
I read a statement that said, "Before we know it, even without proof, what we assume becomes our truth. Our misguided feelings lead to misguided thoughts, which cause misguided responses." That is so true!
Proverbs 18:2 says, "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion."
None of us want to be thought of as being foolish, but too often will express our opinion (thinking that's our right) without truly understanding what's going on or what has been said or done... or what we think we see. We speak without really listening or thinking about our response.
The ironic thing about the example that I gave at the beginning of this newsletter is that a response on that particular picture and article was someone leaving a sad emoticon. The person who had posted this questioned why they had done so, and commented along the lines that that person hadn't taken the time to read the article before responding (shame on them!), but had only looked at the picture. Like many others in the past year, they saw a picture and made a judgement, without finding out what those students were actually doing.
Even when truth is revealed, people see or hear what they want. Instead of looking for or thinking the best, or taking time to find out the truth, they choose to imagine the worst.
We can let those same attitudes carry over to our spiritual life. How we respond in the natural is often how we respond to the spiritual. If we tend to jump to conclusions and make assumptions without really listening and learning the truth in the natural, then we will tend to do the same spiritually. If we only hear what we want to hear, or have the tendency to only hear partially what someone is saying and grab onto that without listening to the whole of what they have to say, then we will do that when listening to God.
If we want to build a strong relationship with God and really hear what He wants to speak to our hearts, then we have to learn how to build strong relationships with people. There are so many parallels between the spiritual and natural life we live. We can't completely separate our flesh from our soul and spirit. They all have to work together as one. We can't expect to have a strong, healthy soul and spirit if we allow our flesh to rule our thoughts and decisions and emotions. We can't have a strong, healthy relationships with God if we don't have strong, healthy relationships with others. We can't close our minds and ears and hearts to others, and expect them to be completely open to God. We can't have the tendency to jump to conclusions and make assumptions in the natural, without doing so in the spiritual, also.
We may do this by assuming that God isn't going to answer our prayer; or assuming that He speaks to others more than He does us; or assuming that He cares for someone else more than us, because they seem to receive bigger and better blessings than we do. We pray and nothing seemingly happens, so we jump to the conclusion that God "needs" our help, so we try and figure out what we need to do to take care of things.
What would happen if we waited and learned the truth or sought to find out what really happened or is going on, before making an assumption? What would happen if we took the time to really listen and pay attention when someone is trying to tell us something, without thinking up our response? What if we just kept quiet when we see or hear something that we don't like (example is the picture of those kids on their phones in front of a masterpiece), before jumping to conclusions? What if we kept our mouth closed when we hear a rumor or gossip about someone, without repeating it?
I believe that not only would it strengthen our relationship with others, but would strengthen our relationship with God. I believe that we would be overall happier, more content, and have more peace. If we want to truly be like Jesus, then we have to conduct ourselves in a manner that is like Him in the natural, as well as the spiritual.
I'm sure everyone has heard the classic example of a glass filled part-way with water, to see if someone will describe it as half-full or half-empty. But at 45 years old, if I come across a glass like that, I usually wonder, "Was that my glass? I had a glass around here... I don't remember getting water, but I think I had a lot of ice..." I have had someone show me a glass half-filled with water, and asked me about it. I answered, without realizing what they were getting at, "It's not mine; I don't know whose it is." If I get a chance to think about it, I'd usually answer, "It's completely full. Around half with water; the rest with air." I am a pessimist, but not a co-operative one.
Loretta showed me the same picture she described. My first thought was they had all taken pictures, and were comparing them, and sending them to others who couldn't be with them. Several of the teens were looking at each-others' phones, so it seemed like a reasonable guess.
And now that digital cameras are so cheap, and free to use again and again, they really have changed how society handles pictures. We no longer have to pay for film, then pay to have it developed, and wait days to get them back to see if they were any good. I use a camera to take pictures of name-plates, stickers with part numbers, and wiring on parts of a panel I can't get my head around to see. So, that also made my guess a natural one.
I don't like expecting the worst in people. I never have. That doesn't make me an optimist; I still expect things to go badly; just not because of people. I really do think most people are basically nice. They won't do anything to hurt someone on purpose, and might even do something to help, as long as it doesn't take too much effort. Most people will hold a door open for others, as long as they don't have to stand around waiting on them. If they don't hold the door, I usually assume they didn't see the other person.
A little exercise I used to experiment with: whenever I see someone doing something that might look hateful or mean, I would try to guess at why. After all, almost no one chooses to do something simply to be evil. They may be trying to share their pain. Maybe they didn't realize what they were doing. Maybe they were acting out of some rage. Only they and God know for sure why. But trying to guess can make it easier to tolerate. It may be too much to ask, to show compassion or love for them. But tolerance is a good step.
Make-Ahead Muffin Melts
12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup (real) mayonnaise
12 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
6 whole English muffins, split
Peel and chop the boiled eggs. Combine all ingredients, except the muffins; fold together gently. Cover and store in refrigerator overnight, if making the next morning; or you can bake immediately.
Place the halved English muffins on a baking sheet. Spoon egg mixture generously on top of each muffin, covering each top. Broil for 3-5 minutes or until hot and bubbly. (Don't set them too close to the heating element.) Serve immediately.
Last week I was babysitting my nephew's two kids, Abigail and Owen. Owen will be 4 next month, and has started having a vivid imagination. He asked if I wanted to go into his room to see his goddaughter, Ellie. He pointed down beside the toy box where a pile of stuffed animals were lying and said, "There she is." One by one I picked up the animals asking, "Is this Ellie?" "No!" I would ask, "Where is she?" He would point down beside the toy box and said, "She's right there!" So I kept up trying to figure out which animal he considered as his goddaughter. I finally saw a little plastic worm and asked if that was Ellie. "No! That's a worm!!" Duh!! After several minutes, I had exhausted all possibilities so finally asked, "Is Ellie make-believe?" "Yes!" I had to pretend to pick her up and hold her; then he told me that he thought she would want to lay down over on a blanket that was in the floor. When I walked back into the living room, my sister, who had heard the entire conversation, was laughing. Come to find out, she had gone through that whole scenario with Owen earlier that day. My sister had thought that Ellie was his stuffed elephant, but found out that wasn't so. Owen's daddy had gone through the same thing prior to this. Ah, the fun of playing make-believe!!
"Before reacting to a frustrating situation, I try to remember:
my everyday reactions testify to the kind of relationship I have with Jesus
and the kind of effect He has on my heart." - Lysa TerKeurst
We love you!
Loretta & Jon