January 22, 2009

Stay in the Boat, Jackson.

I'm the firstborn, so rules and being right come naturally. Add to that my amazing brain power, and it's a wonder that I haven't taken over the world already. As I have become (ahem) wiser, however, I have decided that being right is not so important--is not the main goal of life. I recognize (often much too late) that I have made some terrible mistakes; I know that I am capable of doing so again. But these do not signify the end of the world to me.

I am blessed to be part of a family, a great circle of friends around the world, and a church community. What these have in common is relationship, if we are willing. And relationship provides the means for someone, the "other," whomever that may be, to help me see the plank in my eye--and faster than I might by myself, even if I were willing to look for it. Relationship relieves the pressure to be right all the time. We don't have to figure everything out by ourselves; I don't have to make myself perfect. That won't happen "until we see him face to face" anyway.

Spiritual maturity isn't about being right more often. Relationship isn't happy-happy all the time. And we don't even get to choose the family relationships we are born into--neither our immediate family members nor Adam, for that matter. When I enter into relationship--serious, covenant-type relationship--I "sign up for" heartache, disappointment, and as much nonsense as God knows I can bear. And I know that I will be the source of these, as well.

So, I can be very tolerant of others' mistakes, others' ignorance, others' faults, unhappy though I may be. And I can hope and expect that others in community will extend the same grace to me. I can endure a lot of arguing about where the boat should be going. There is a fundamental requirement, however, in relationship. Not "rightness," and not that everyone agrees with me, even when I'm right. What is required is that we stay in the family, in the circle, in the community.

That we stay in the boat.

Staying provides the opportunity to work out the process. To sharpen the dull iron. To take as long as it has to take. Staying means that we are "there" together, wherever that is. Recall Ruth's willingness to make Naomi's country, people, and even God her own. If we leave, how can we hear reason from those who love us? Who can speak sense into our nonsense? Who will help us? Who will slap us when we need it? Whom is God more likely to speak through than those whom we already know and who know us better than anyone else does? Those whom we have already committed ourselves to.

We don't have to be right, or smart, or lovely, or strong. But we have to stay in the boat.

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