After a month and a half, we finally have our Sierra Vista house ready to go onto the market. This house was my home for 4 ½ years. As I walked through the house last week, it struck me that this is no longer my home. It has reverted to being just a house.
What brought on this change? The biggest factor is that my wife was not there. She was at our new home in Sahuarita. We also no longer have any of our possessions in Sierra Vista except for my 1968 Mustang (we are working on the details to get it moved). The possessions that mean the most to me, and help to make a house into my home, are the ones that connect me with memories of people that I love.
My conclusion in life is that God has blessed us by not putting us into our world alone (I think that Adam would agree!); that the other people in our lives are a gift from God, and help to give our lives meaning. This blessing is intensified by the rich and beautiful diversity that God has created within humanity. If we accept my conclusion, I wonder why we under-appreciate this gift so often?
In particular, I’m struggling with why people complain about each other so much. I’m now in a position where I get to hear some of these complaints, mostly about the pastors serving in our churches. These are women and men who have dedicated their lives to serving God. They have risked stepping into leadership, and come under a lot of scrutiny. This scrutiny happens on a daily basis. Since we are all imperfect, if we go looking for weaknesses, we will find them. Some of the complaints that come to me seem to be valid, while others strike me as being ridiculous.
It is not wrong for us to question leaders. I think that it is a good practice. There are definitely times when a change in leadership is needed. Far more often, though, what is needed is a deeper understanding of one another, and a willingness to offer each other grace.
Depending on the complaint, my most common response is: “Have you talked to the pastor about this concern”? Most of the time the answer is no. I encourage them to take this step. If this step fails, then I ask if they have taken their concern to their Staff Parish Relations Committee. The answer is usually no. I then suggest that they do so. My hope is always that we can find a way a to get past complaining and to find resolutions to the issues.
Most of us have times in our lives when we find ourselves in leadership positions. Perhaps one of the best approaches is to ask ourselves what we hope to receive from others when we are in these leadership positions, especially if we find ourselves stressed or overwhelmed. When we come up with a clear and honest answer, maybe what we desire to receive is what we should offer to those who we have concerns about. Part of what I desire to receive is kindness and love. That, then, is what I need to offer to others. Is it possible to confront other people that we disagree with in a way that is both kind and loving?
My concerns actually go way beyond our churches to all of our society. I’m finding that many people, including Christians that I know, are becoming very comfortable publicly criticizing others—including the top leaders in our nation—in the ugliest of ways. I’m finishing this article on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. How do we think Dr. King would have responded to this approach? We can take this question even farther. How do we think that Jesus is responding?
Other people have come before us, and more will follow us, but we are the ones who are in the world now. Each of us shares in the responsibility for what is going to happen next in our society and world. We get to decide if we are going to help build people up, or tear them down. Tearing down hasn’t seemed to be very effective. Maybe this is a good time for each of us to focus on building others up in love and kindness. Together let’s help each other to be better than we are alone.
Your brother on the journey, Mark