Day 11

18 All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.  2 Corinthians 5:18-19, CEB

 

I think my husband would say that there are occasions when I can be overly…dramatic.  Maybe he would say that sometimes I am too codependent.  Here are two possible ways he might process my propensity to worse-case-scenario-plan, a trait I realize I possess and practice way too often for my own good.

 

Option 1:  Pete thinks:  Teresa is obsessing over this storm coming in, worrying about Michael’s living situation and dramatically suggesting he is going to freeze to death.  Why does she get so upset over things that won’t happen?  I need to point out that book on codependency on the nightstand and suggest she read that tonight as a reminder of her issues.

 

Option 2:  Pete thinks:  Teresa is really upset about this cold front and the fact that Michael doesn’t have a well-heated house.  I bet if I listen to her process her thougths and feelings, she will know that I care about her and she will feel supported in her motherly concerns.  I will step up and do this, because I love my wife.  I have learned that when my wife feels supported, she moves away from her stress responses and takes a more thoughtful approach to whatever issue concerns her.

 

Option 1 is judgy and potentially shaming. It is controlling.  His thoughts are meritorious, in that there is truth to the potential danger here of me going all codependent with Michael.  But it isn’t inspired thinking.

 

Option 2 is a reflection of a man who has studied his wife and knows her well.  He is not only aware of my potential to “go codependent”, but notice his compassion.  He understands WHY I might be tempted to obsess and worry and plan for the worst.  Pete also has experience, he’s learned how he can be helpful.  Option 2 is inspired and works like a charm to calm my fears and reset my codependency tendencies back to a more manageable level.

 

Option 2 is reflective of not holding people’s sins against them.  It is inspired.

 

Can you think of a way to live inspired today in a relationship?


Day 10

18 All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.  2 Corinthians 5:18-19, CEB

 

Scott and I are at the final stages of writing a book on forgiveness. For a year or so prior to putting pen to paper, we sought out stories from our family and friends about their experience with forgiveness.  It was easy to do, since all of us have experience with this particular subject.

 

I was amazed at the reasons families fall apart.  I wondered what we could do differently to change this dynamic of petty differences leading to family feuds.

 

I’m wondering if these verses hold the key to unlocking a different way to live.  Look at that little phrase that describes God’s perspective on his relationship with us -“by not counting people’s sins against them”.

 

If I could give married couple’s one piece of advice, this might just be it – do not count your spouse’s sins against them.  This of course does NOT mean you ignore problems.  Heck no – you address them, but the ins and outs and what-have-yous of HOW you deal with issues that inevitably arise is HUGE.

 

Tomorrow, I will offer a practical example to illustrate this point.  But for today, do you think that you are doing a decent job of not counting other people’s sins against them?

 


Day 9

18 All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.  2 Corinthians 5:18-19, CEB

 

We tend to give up on each other, don’t we?  I was having a conversation with a friend recently where we were both lamenting relationships that we have where we can’t truly be honest with the other person.  “They won’t be able to hear what I have to say,” we said.  It’s useless.  What’s the point?  Voicing our concerns will only cause more conflict.  

 

So often when we talk about hope, we’re talking about something we wish God would do in our lives.  But, I wonder, shouldn’t we also strive to practice hope with and for each other?  When did I become so cynical as to completely give up on my “neighbor”?  And to what end?  Isn’t my refusal to have a difficult conversation (regardless of the outcome) at the very least a sign of hopelessness and, possibly even worse, a contributor to an ever-increasing inability to have hope?  Every time I refuse a difficult conversation because of its apparent “futility” I’m throwing gasoline on a fire of hopelessness.  

 

Man.  Time for a gut check.    

 

The discipline is to keep doing the things we need to do regardless of outcomes.  If we have a certain principle or belief that aligns with what we consider “true” then we practice that principle without regard for the outcome…right?  That’s the discipline.  The discipline.  The discipline.  It’s a discipline because it’s not easy (clearly, as I’ve just admitted my own inability to follow through on this).  It requires patience, practice, and humility to stick to one’s principles in the face of almost certain rejection.  And yet, our ministry is one of reconciliation.  Or, perhaps in cases like these, attempted reconciliation.  
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be hopeless.


Day 8

18 All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.  2 Corinthians 5:18-19, CEB

 

God doesn’t hold our sins against us….because he doesn’t want to.  It’s really that simple.  I know, a fair number of people might get upset at that suggestion, but here’s what we know:  God sent his son to save his creation as an act of love and a desire to be reconciled.  Therefore, sin is an issue, but sin did not make humanity undesirable (meaning: sin didn’t ultimately push God away).  He wanted to be reconciled, so he found a way to deal with sin.  Had he wanted to distance himself, he could have, he had that opportunity.  But that’s not what God wanted.  He wanted reconciliation, not punishment.

 

That’s our example for what it means to be truly human.  Giving up petty jealousies and competitions while keeping our eyes on a larger picture:  reconciliation.  Reconciliation is the bringing together of things that have been separated.  It is God’s goal that his creation not be at odds, not in competition, not separated.  But together.  

 

We see a model for this kind of life in the 12 steps, which force us to take responsibility for our actions and encourage us to offer recompense for harm done with the hope of reconciliation.  Now, we know how complicated this is as we cannot control how other people respond to us.  We cannot force reconciliation, but we can do our part.  (I know, I know, there are people it’s not safe to reconcile with and times where it’s inappropriate to try and so on and so forth.  We’re talking in generalities here, so please be gracious with my ramblings.)

 

So often faith communities fail to stress the importance of reconciliation in our interpersonal lives.  That’s such a stark contrast to the recovery lifestyle where reconciliation is a centerpiece.  Let’s not forget, the above verses remind us that reconciliation truly is the heart of faith.  

 

Think about it like this, if we put reconciliation as our number one priority in life (when it’s safe to do so, of course) wouldn’t that probably be enough for our lives to be considered “faithful”?  

 

When was the last time you made an amends?
Is it time to do so once more?


Day 7

18 All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.  2 Corinthians 5:18-19, CEB

 

Yesterday Scott said that we do not need to compete in relationships.  I wonder if many of us realize that we actually are competing with others when we behave in  controlling ways.  Here are a couple of examples of how we compete:

 

Option 1:  A husband forgets to drop his wife’s clothes off at the dry cleaners as promised.  Realizing this when he finds them sitting in the passenger seat as he slides in the car after a very long day at work, he thinks to himself:  “Oh boy, she’s going to be mad.  I’ve got a lot on my plate; she doesn’t understand.  She’s so rigid and demanding.”

 

Option 2:  A husband forgets to drop his wife’s clothes off at the dry cleaners like option 1.  But from a noncompetitive, non-codependent framework, he says to himself:  “Oh Jeez, I said I’d drop her clothes off at the laundry since she’s home sick, and I didn’t.  I totally forgot.  I need to apologize and figure out how I can make this right.  I want her to be able to trust me to do what i say.  Maybe I need to use that app I use to keep me on track at work for my tasks at home too.”

 

See the difference?  In option 1, this spouse is more worried about defending himself than he is staying aware of his own core values.  He wants to be the kind of man who helps out his wife.  These are his values, and option 2 expresses that position.

 

Someone no doubt will send me an email and tell me why his wife’s behavior makes it impossible for him to choose option 2.  But I would suggest that in every relationship, someone has to go first when reflecting God in the conversation.  And my experience has taught me that when a husband (or a wife) regularly chooses option 2, it is very likely that their spouse will follow suit in future interactions.  
What practical ways can you lead with a spirit of reconciliation today?


Day 6

18 All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.  2 Corinthians 5:18-19, CEB

Over the past few days we’ve been talking about this question:  Is proper belief more important than faithful living?

 

We’re all adults here, right?  More or less.  We know that this is a trick question.  We know that beliefs matter and we know that faithful living matters.  In general, one is never more important than the other, though individual circumstances may dictate we prioritize one of over the other for a brief period of time.  We live faithfully as best we can and that leads to certain beliefs.  We learn as best we can and that leads to certain patterns of faithful living.  It’s all jumbled together.  

 

So why do we insist on separating the two?  Why do we abandon our faithful practices in order to fight about beliefs?  Why do we slander those who care about beliefs while saying, “…all that matters is how I live?”

 

We are so prone to competition.  I haven’t learned too many things in life, but here’s one thing I have learned:  we need not compete.  Especially when it comes to faith.  We need not compete.  If one of us has learned some good “believing”, then let them teach and let us listen.  If one of us has learned some life skills that support faithful ways of living and/or our recovery practices, then let them teach and let us listen.  
We have to work together.  It’s too hard to sit there and bicker about who is right and who is wrong and, in the process, drag each other down.  Let each of us share the wisdom we have so that we all may benefit from each other’s trials.  


Day 5

18 All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.  2 Corinthians 5:18-19, CEB

 

I think this discussion on belief versus behaving is super important.  Scott has given us a couple of examples of how this might play out in religious and recovery communities.  I’m struck by the applicability in families.  

 

Recently my dad and I were discussing politics.  If you know me, you are aware that I do NOT discuss politics with others.  In past conversations, I would just clam up and refuse to engage, he would heat up and escalate his certainty.  He wants to guide me and help me, his daughter, by sharing his wisdom.

 

I hadn’t thought about this see saw experience from his perspective until recently.  I hadn’t considered that my clam-like behavior, odd for my normally expressive personality, might confuse him.  

 

Trusted with a message of reconciliation, it had bothered me that my dad and I did this dance around certain topics like politics.  I felt like I wasn’t being honest; I certainly wasn’t transparent.  What daughter doesn’t long to be known by her daddy?  This felt icky, and not in keeping with my inspired way of seeing.

 

In this last conversation, I danced to a different tune.  Instead of ducking and weaving, I asked him questions about his own perspective.  I took a stance of curiosity.  I learned a lot.  And he ended up asking me some questions that I actually felt comfortable answering.  It was less about the politics and more about how we both personally viewed our world.  

 

Too often we limit our options.  I don’t know why.  Maybe we don’t know any better.  Perhaps we’re stubbornly resistant to embracing an inspired way of seeing that asks us to BEHAVE differently because of what we BELIEVE.  
For today, I’d ask you to consider moving to a position of curiosity, and shift a bit away from a spirit of conflict or competition.  I’ve learned that there is always something different I can do in every relationship to live more inspired.


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