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Thursday, March 10, 2016

You Don't Know Me

So, I saved this material, because I had planned to blog this story while I was actually at the happiest place on Earth.  As it turned out, I didn't blog at all, while I was there, which is completely outside of my normal life patterns, but whatever.  I am referring to it as a four day sabbatical...

I love to travel.  When I use the word, "travel," I'm talking about the continental United States, because I don't have a passport... yet.  Someday I am going to expand my love of travel to encompass the world.  For years, our family joked about my love language being vacations.  Then we stopped joking, because we realized it wasn't funny.  It was true.  Want to show me that you love me?  Take me on a vacation.  Or... you know... even send me on a vacation.  Either way will do.

I am mostly not a sit at the beach and sip lemonade kind of vacationer, although I did spend a day at the ocean, alone, last fall, and this helped me to appreciate people who vacation like that a little bit more.  Minus the part when I was sitting on a rock formation as the tide came in... which resulted in me no longer sitting on the rock formation...  I would do this again.  Generally speaking, though, I like my trips to be action packed.  This lends itself well to three different types of planning.  I love vacations that land us in a city that we don't know well and allow us to explore museums, zoos, sports stadiums, restaurants, historical sites, and amusement parks.  To date, my favorite vacation like this was St. Louis in 2010.  I also love road trips.  They are fantastic whether planned or spontaneous.  Road trips allow you to cover a ton of ground, seeing and learning new things.  I even made a person on a road trip, once, so that was a huge added bonus.  And then, or course, there's Disney.  I like to binge vacation at Disney.  Actually, I would like to live at Disney... in my flip flops... covered in glitter... at the Kingdom... or Epcot, because at least I can pretend I have a passport when I'm there...

That's sort of a long intro to make it clear that vacationing is a big deal to me, and I have my favorite places, but I'm pretty diverse.  I will probably never say no to vacationing... anywhere...

The other day, I was talking about Disney.  Of course, I was having a great time doing the kinds of things that most people don't do... answering questions... giving tips... sharing trivia... taking over the vacation planning of other families...  People were chatting and laughing and then a woman got all up in my face and explained to me that her children chose to go to the ocean, even when Disney was an option.  This is, of course, completely acceptable (the going to the ocean, not the getting in my face).  Remember, I like to vacation everywhere.  However, the way she snapped at me... without allowing me to speak... led me to believe that she thought her family was somehow better than mine for consistently having a holier vacation preference.  Really, I had no idea!

Some of you may recall that I have a moderate fear of water, because I can't swim.  This fear is not so pervasive that it inhibits me from choosing the ocean... or a waterpark... or accommodations with a hot tub... but it is real.  When I vacation with my family, near water, I spend the vast majority of the minutes we are there counting heads and locating lifeguard stands.  As this stranger continued to forcefully "suggest" that we expand our horizons and visit a place where you can walk for miles out into the ocean with your kids; I was starting to feel a little bit sick.  Miles into the ocean?  Um... what about when the tide comes in?  See: that rock I was sitting on just disappeared...

Eventually she left.  It occurred to me that I had gone silent, because even in my horror over these moments during which I was berated for my lousy vacationing (and parenting) choices, it didn't really seem like one of those battles worth fighting.  I mean, she can't make me walk out into the middle of the ocean with my five children who also range from non-swimmer to maybe I could dog paddle long enough to save myself in a kiddie pool...  I had to take a few minutes to gather my thoughts.  I considered the fact that she doesn't know me.  Then I went on with my day.

But I kept thinking...

This must be what it's like when, as Christians, we get up in the faces of people we don't know and demean their regular rhythms of life, because we think what we have is better.  They are blindsided!  May I reiterate that I had no idea that Disney World was an evil childhood vacation choice?

I think it is extremely important for us to take a step back to consider into whose lives we have the right to speak truth.  I'm just going to admit, right now, that sometimes I mess this up.  There have been times when I have thought that someone was inviting me into his or her life as a credible voice to encourage discipleship, when that actually was not the case.  With that in mind, I don't expect us to be perfect.  But I think there are some reasonable guidelines we might follow. 

For example...  It is almost always inadvisable to forcefully explain to a complete stranger why you are right and they are wrong.  I feel as if this should be fairly obvious, but apparently it is not.  There are things that are more subtle, too, though.  Perhaps the principle that guides me, most, is that we should be listening.  I have found that the vast majority of people who want my advice or opinion will ask for it. 

Sometimes this happens in the form of a blunt question.  "L, can you tell me what you think about how my neighbor's second cousin is treating his goldfish?"  "L, just hypothetically speaking, what would you do if your teenager came home with a tattoo?"  "L, how do we get free dining at Disney?"  "L, why do you think it's OK to interpret Paul's words about women being silent in the church as, 'women don't have to be silent in the church'?"  These are easy.

Sometimes, though, we have to read between the lines a little bit, and we are the ones who have to do the asking of ourselves.  "Self, did this person really give you permission to speak into her life?"  "Self, if you say that, is it going to create more peace or more division?"  "Self, if you offer that opinion, right now, will you have another opportunity, or will these words sever relationship?"  "Self, is it urgent?  Is it necessary?  Does it matter?  Is he listening?"

It's true that there are some things about which we should never be quiet, but I would be willing to bet there are fewer things that fall into this category than we might think.  I would love to hear from you.  Are there deal breakers that make it appropriate to confront others, regardless of the relationship you have with them?  When is conflict OK?  What are the essentials?


1 comment:

  1. Opinions to strangers who haven't asked ... share carefully! I'll happily give out a compliment to someone trying on new clothes (you look good in blue, that jacket is cute on you, etc).

    To those I know: share carefully. Compliments - always, opinions - if asked.

    There are special cases, though ... when those placed in leadership of the church are sinning, we, as the body, should humbly, with a broken heart, confront the person or report to the church leadership ... not with an attitude of, "aha! Caught you!" But with a heart of love, concern for the person involved, and for the church that they help lead.