Sunday, November 27, 2011

#2 My Friendship Is not Merit-Based

This is the second on my list of "Ten Things to Remember" in times of personal distress. By the way, the book I read had a list of "hooks" to memorize as an aid to memorizing other things. The first item on the list was the alarm clock (an old-fashioned type with one button on top and perhaps set for one o'clock) that wakes us up first thing in the morning. I don't need that aid to remember God's love for me as the top item on my list. It's simply a given.

The second item is the pants with their two legs that we put on when we get up. I do use this one, moving from the pants to a teen book series called The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants about four friends and one pair of pants.

And now on with the commentary.

You probably don't want me for a best friend. I am an introvert, which in this case means I enjoy my own company. I shop alone, go places alone, love to stay home alone. I once had a friend who called me to chat when she got a minute to herself. Really? You are home alone and you pick up the telephone just to chat? I was amazed at the idea. The friendship I offer is more of an out-of-sight-out-of-mind sort of thing.

When someone knocks me down, it's tempting to withhold even my weak version of friendship from them. However, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I need to remember his observation in Matthew 5 that anyone can love those who love them back. It's loving those who despise us that is the challenge and brings the greatest reward.

What this means is that I try to offer a friendly smile, pleasant conversation, and genuine goodwill to anyone and everyone whether or not they deserve it. The creepy passive-aggressive library patron. The social butterfly who has plenty of friends and doesn't even notice me. The sour-faced clerk at the store. The rambunctious child. The guy who left his wife, my friend, for a bottle-blond bimbo. The blond bimbo. (And, yes, I'll learn her name and quit calling her names in my head.) And, sigh ... the person who owes me an apology. After all, it's not as though my friendship is such a precious commodity that I have to reserve it for those who have earned it. Nor will withholding it from those who don't deserve it make the world a better place. Although it seems obvious that the way to correct people who are in the wrong is to turn a cold shoulder their way, I don't actually see that approach to be very effective. People seem far more responsive to those who like them. And so I attempt to nurture grace in my living and keep reminding myself that my friendship is a gift, not something to be earned.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thing to Remember #1 -- God Loves Me

I promised to flesh out my Ten Things to Remember list. Thing #1 seems as good a place to start as any.

1. God loves me.

This is first on the list not because it is the most helpful but because I'm sure it ought to be most helpful. After all, the love of God toward someone like me is downright astounding.

In reality, in times of distress I tend to pass right over this item and move on to something more uplifting. There are a few reasons for this:

a. Of course God loves me. God loves all seven billion inhabitants of this earth, including the person or persons responsible for my distress. It's hard to feel special when you're simply one beloved child among seven billion, especially when it's so obvious that at least a few of my fellow inhabitants of earth have some major character flaws that make loving them quite difficult.

b. The Bible may tell me God loves me, but when there are louder voices -- both inside and outside my head -- suggesting I am despicable, it's difficult to put much conviction behind any self-talk about God's love for me.

c. At least as many times as I have heard about God's love for me, I have also heard about God's wrath toward the disobedient and unfaithful. It's hard to associate unfailing love toward all with a God who will commit most of the population (the "unsaved") to eternal torment in hell.

When I was a child, I was convinced that God wouldn't love me if there were a choice, but it would look rather odd to have John 3:16 read, "For God so loved the world (except one particularly unattractive little girl named Marsha) that he gave ..." I was pretty sure God had no love for me as an individual but simply didn't find me worthy to single out as an exception. I have since learned to accept God's love for me as an individual but not enough for my assurance to stand up well against the blows of people who obviously don't see anything lovable about me. No, this thing to remember alone is not going to be able to pull me up out of the doldrums. It will take more.

Still, it's a good place to start on my road back to emotional equilibrium when the storms of life knock me down. It reminds me that I have been convinced in the past that I am not despicable in the eyes of God and I might want to think twice before accepting such an assessment now without question.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ten Things to Remember

Several years ago I read an old book from the library about remembering names and faces. I was hoping for help with my face recognition problem, but got instead mostly a system for remembering lists of items. I had fun memorizing a few lists and then mostly forgot it. Except for one list I developed at the time. I call it simply "Ten Things to Remember". In this post, I will share the list. In the near future on this blog I hope to do some commentary on the "ten things", some of which may be incomprehensible in this version.

Here they are:
1. God loves me.

2. My friendship is not merit-based.

3. I'm not out of resources yet.

4. Broken bread, poured-out wine.

5. Humiliation has yet to prove fatal.

6. Someday I will dance.

7. Life is reflective; choose your source.

8. What goes around comes around.

9. The words are not the message.

10. Suffering produces character.

I wish I could remember to "count to ten" in every tense situation and review this list while doing so. I don't always remember, but it's a blessing when I do. Some lines more than others, depending on the situation.

So there's the list. Follow the links where available for commentary.