As I listened to Pastor Ted’s sermon on Sunday, I recalled a quote from a man named Brennan Manning. He says, “In every interaction you either give life, or take it there is no neutral exchange.” I think back to my time spent teaching Confirmation students the fifth commandment- Thou shall not murder. Seems easy enough, don’t kill anyone and you’re good to go. At least there’s one commandment we’ve got in the bag, but Luther explains that it includes doing anything to harm your neighbor--and not just physically. It also includes failing to do things that would help and serve your neighbor. Now the commandment becomes much harder to follow. Pastor Ted uses the idea of a cup water to represent anything we do that offers hospitality or life to someone else. At first glance, I’m assuming most of us want to be life givers, not life takers. We want the wake we leave behind us, as Pastor Ted shared in his sermon, to be a positive one, not one that capsizes other vessels. I think there are very few people that would confidentially proclaim that they hope their interactions with other people suck the life out of them. If you are that person, then this article isn’t for you. Everyone else, keep on reading. As I think about what keeps me from being the person I want to be in this department, there are a couple things that come to mind.
Lack of self-awareness: There are things that each of us do that are not life giving; that leave a bad wake. The problem is we’re usually better at seeing and pointing out the things OTHERS do that are draining people. Confession is where we take an honest inventory of our hearts, and lives. The key word here is HONEST. We are great at lying to ourselves, and because of that, we each have blind spots. There are things about ourselves that we fail to recognize as issues, and that’s where other people come in. I recently was listening to an audio book where the author made this suggestion. Go to a couple people you trust and ask them these two questions: What do I do that draws you toward me? What do I do that pushes you away? Now, the criteria for who you ask these questions to are- someone you trust, and someone who will tell you the truth. If you pick someone who will tell you the truth, but who you don’t trust you’re not going to listen to them, and if you pick someone you trust but who is too afraid to be honest with you, well then this whole exercise will be pointless. Sometimes we must reckon with the fact that the version of us we see isn’t the same one that others are experiencing.
Who or what am I worshipping: There’s a reason God talks about only worshipping him all throughout scripture, because it’s important, and because he knows we’re going to have a hard time doing it. If we want to be one of those people who offer “cups of water” that bring life to those we meet, then it all starts with who or what has taken up residence on the throne of our hearts. This is time for some honest reflection again, and scripture is an amazing mirror to reveal what’s really going on inside us. God’s word reveals the truth or what we love, and a lot of times it’s ourselves, not Him. When I have a lack of compassion, when my patience for others runs low, when I’m in a hoarding mentality, my heart is being run by self-interest, not by Jesus.
Still not sure what keeps your personally from showing more love to others? Then ask yourself this- What are the things I do that I try to justify, make excuses for, minimize, or blame others for? The answer to these things will tell you a lot. For myself I make excuses for my bad moods, and rude tone. “I’m tired, I’m just done today.” I blame others for my lack of patience, self-control, and my temper. “If they would just stop (fill in the blank), then I wouldn’t have flipped out.” I minimize the effect of the things I say. “I was just kidding, or they need to not be so sensitive.” I justify my lack of love or warmth. “Well if they hadn’t been rude to me first, or they should have know that choice was going to turn out poorly. It’s their own fault they’re in this situation.” “They deserve the treatment they got.” “I don’t have time to deal with this issue or this person, or this person that I see as an issue.” I’ve made this list before, so this is revisiting the same issues that have dogged me my whole life. These are the mindsets that keep me from loving others, from offering them that “cold cup of water” that Pastor Ted talked about. Until I’m able to admit these things, I’m stuck. I’m trying to follow Christ, but at the same time I’m busy building walls and barricades between myself and humanity. It’s really hard to give someone a drink when you’ve built a brick wall between yourself and them. As I think about being able to receive others, and in turn receive Jesus, I think the first thing I have to do is to start letting Christ disassemble what I’ve built.
Christ has been busy taking down my walls of pride, arrogance, and self-reliance, so that I can actually be someone who gives life to others instead of taking it. There are days, though, where I go right back to building what he’s been trying to take apart. There are also days where watching Jesus take down these walls has been painful, and honestly just down right frustrating.
“Can I just keep that one brick?” I ask him.
“Do you want to learn to love, and serve, and be more like me?” He asks.
“Yes,” I say.
“Then no, you can’t,” he replies.
Jesus keeps welcoming us in and working on us, so that we can continue to learn how to welcome and serve all the different people who cross our paths. He’s welcomed us as His little ones, so that we can learn how to welcome others. He gave us His life, now we can give others life too.
- What interactions this week took life out of you? Why do you think that is?
- What interactions or experiences gave you life? Why do you think that is?
- What are some obstacles in your heart that keep you from showing hospitality to those you meet?
- Make a list of people that could use some refreshing this week, and then ask God to show you some ways that you could help be a part of that.