After reading a few of my blog posts, you might fall under the impression that I just love controversy and look for it at every turn. What would it be like to meet me in real life? Would I constantly be badgering you to change your mind about birth control, modesty, headcovering, etc.? Would I be so irritating you might be tempted to flee for your life? Here’s a look at the real me, and what I’ve learned about how to get along with people . . . without bashing them over the head with the Bible.
To start out with, I’m very friendly. I like to smile and laugh and give people compliments. I avoid offending them whenever possible (though I might do so unintentionally — oops). The most odious thing in the world to me is to be at odds with other people: I’m a get-alonger. Yup, that’s me — I’m a nicey. But I’m no go-along-wither, as much as I want to be, sometimes. The desire to not waste anything is too great.
I assume you know what I’m talking about: that urgency which compels us to search out the truth before it’s too late; that healthy fear of wasting our lives in listless ignorance. We’ve only got who knows how little time left, and it would be such a pity to not use it in living for something that matters. So, as nice as I am, I am also a person of strong convictions — and those convictions are woven tightly into who I am. As you get to know me, you will see this to be true. My hope is for those beliefs to overflow naturally and gently into everyday conversation, and not be something obnoxious and harsh.
Usually, I am very good at that and am pretty non-intrusive and non-abrasive because I don’t like conflict. But there have been a few instances when I’ve felt it necessary to “just come out and say it,” because it involved someone I cared about. It didn’t always turned out well . . . either because I didn’t say it in the *right* way, or because the other person responded poorly. I’m learning how to do better. However (and this might surprise some people) I have held myself back many times, out of respect for them, and out of a desire to not get into an argument. For the most part, I save my confrontations for those matters I consider especially urgent.
Thankfully, in the blogging world I am free to say whatever I want without fear of getting into an argument. It really is ideal for discussing heavy topics. If someone doesn’t want to discuss a certain issue, they simply don’t comment. If they comment but don’t like what I replied, they simply don’t respond. Nobody has to like any of my posts; and really, nobody has to read any of them if they don’t want to. I get to write what I want, and they get to either engage me or ignore me. It’s a win-win. That’s not to say that I don’t try to be courteous, because I do. I try to treat people the way I want to be treated.
And whether in blogging or in person, I’ve learned that instead of being a detour and a distraction to spiritual growth, those controversial issues have helped me learn some key lessons as a Christian. You know, I’ve heard it said that birth control, modesty, and headcovering are non-essential, divisive topics that sidetrack us from the real important thing: loving God and loving others. It is true that they are not essential to salvation. And they can be divisive. Even Jesus said that He came not to bring peace, but the sword (Matthew 10:34); some topics cause conflict because they bring into the light our selfish motives and fleshly nature — ugly stuff like that, but stuff that needs to be dealt with nevertheless. But here’s the thing: instead of sidetracking me from what’s most important, I feel that my convictions on such topics — and having to learn how to interact with others when it relates to those topics — have helped me grow in my love for God and for others, as surprising as that may seem.
How has it helped me grow?
♥ I’ve developed a greater love and respect for God’s Word. I don’t use it flippantly to support my preconceived notions; I take it literally, at face value. If God’s Word says to do it, I try my best to make it happen, after seeking to understand the issue from the perspective of His Word as well as I can. And I encourage others to do the same.
♥ My faith has grown. Obedience can be accompanied by many challenges, but it also comes with a reward: as I’ve seen God working in our lives as a result of our obedience, my faith has been strengthened. I’ve also learned to trust God for the details instead of needing to have everything figured out before making the plunge. And you know what? Having faith, and growing in faith, is one of the fundamental elements of the Christian life! Giving God control of my womb, for example, has developed my faith; I have been stretched and tested in the areas of trusting God for my health, our finances, managing our growing family, etc. How can anyone say that that’s not important? Is that a side issue, or is it actually central to what it really means to be a Christian — having faith? Sure, faith is something that can be developed in any area of life — but is it ever a good thing to avoid having faith in any area? Why leave anything out — why not have faith in God for conception as well as in all other areas? It is my hope that the story of God’s work in our lives will be an inspiration to others. I want to challenge them through our example and through our words to trust in God, too.
♥ I’ve learned how to persevere. Who ever said it was easy to obey God? It’s not. It’s rewarding, yes; but it’s not easy, not like drifting along on a fluffy cloud. No kid wants to scrape his knees when he’s learning to ride a bike, but if he’s going to learn how, he needs to accept that pain is part of the process. And he needs to get up and keep on trying, because eventually, it will happen. I’ve had to learn to keep my eyes on the goal and not allow myself to get discouraged by everything around me. I’ve also had to learn to keep going to God and His Word for strength and support.
♥ I’ve learned to be patient with others. This is a quality not easily obtained, except through constant repetition and aggravation. As in, the more that people irritate me, the more I’ve had to grow in order to deal with them. And, I’m sure it’s been true for them, too (am I irritating to them?). Patience is only learned through experience. In addition, God has taught me to let people grow at their own pace. It isn’t something that can be forced; it can be encouraged, but not forced.
♥ I’ve learned that listening is important. If someone wants to understand my viewpoint, it really is necessary for them to listen to me first before telling me I’m crazy. Since I appreciate it when people to listen to me, I should give them that same honor by listening to them.
♥ I’ve learned that showing respect is a way of loving people. Nobody likes to be treated like an idiot. Nobody likes to be looked down upon or condescended to; we all appreciate it when other people make the effort to treat us kindly even if they don’t agree with us. I’ve learned how important it is to treat others the way I want to be treated.
♥ I’ve learned to pray for difficult situations instead of getting frustrated. We all know that we should pray. It’s easy enough to know it with our heads, but harder to remember to do when we’re swirling in the middle of a difficulty. Just like Peter walking on the sea with Jesus, we can’t look down and start to doubt; we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and hold tight to His hand.
To put it into a nutshell, I’ve learned how to keep close to God, and I’ve learned how to deal with people (wait — have I “learned” or am I still “learning”?). If I wasn’t so “radical,” it would be a lot easier, maybe; but being the way that I am, it has been more of a challenge and has forced me to deal with some things head on that I would normally have tried to avoid.
Despite those issues, or rather, because of them, God has caused my faith to grow, and He has taught me some important lessons on dealing with others, on how to share my beliefs with them and challenge them to take a deeper look at theirs, but without harassing them and making them want to run away from me.
So, what are some lessons you have learned about sharing your opinions with others in a kind and respectful way?
Are there any tips you could give us?
What has been the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn? The most rewarding?
What sort of things should we avoid, and what sort of things should we try to do instead?
I can’t wait to hear your answers!