Category Archives: life lessons

Gullible Grace.

gullible

adjective trustinginnocentnaiveunsuspectinggreensimplesillyfoolishunsophisticatedcredulousborn yesterdaywet behind the ears (informal), easily taken in, unsceptical, as green as grass I’m so gullible I believed him.
antonyms: worldlysophisticatedsuspiciouscynicaluntrusting
Another one of my ‘dictionary’ entries, I suppose.
So last week a friend/coworker/supervisor (we have a complicated relationship) told me that when she first met me, not only did she think that I was homeschooled, and had lived a very sheltered childhood, but she told me that she “couldn’t believe that someone as gullible as [me] has survived for so long.”
We’re relatively good friends, we spend lots of time together at work, and have gone out for dinner a number of times, and in general, I feel like she’s someone I can trust.  I know she cares about me (she’s not one to either be emotional or even talk about emotions, but she has told me that she does care), and I know she didn’t intend to hurt me.  She’s very intelligent, logical, sarcastic, cynical, and quite frankly, judgmental, and so I never take her jabs to heart.
This time, however,I can’t seem to shake off her words.  She said that people must take advantage of me all the time, because I believe the good in people and am too trusting.
For one, I haven’t been taken advantage of in a major way (to my knowledge), and I tend not to surround myself with disingenuous people in the first place.  In addition, I’m a product of the public school system, but I will admit to having lived a suburban childhood and college experience. After I graduated, I lived in a neighborhood in the city of Chicago that had blue police cameras (indicating high crime), was in the process of being gentrified, but for the most part was full of families (and a couple gangs).
For some reason though, her words have made me take a closer look at myself.  Is there a Biblical basis for my trusting outlook on life and others?  Or am I being naive and my worldview needs to shift?  Who does God call us to be?  What should our interactions with others look like?
I am optimistic, generally joyful, and I will give people the benefit of the doubt, unless they have given me reason not to.  I also realize that people act certain ways oftentimes as a product of what they’ve experienced in their lives, though I wholeheartedly believe that God can and does take the worst experiences and turn that pain into deep loving compassion in many people. We often don’t know the struggles that people have experienced or are currently experiencing, so how can we judge?
On the flip side of things, it is true that we are all sinful people.  No one is righteous, no not even one.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3).  We all have within us the capacity for evil, since they day that we were born.  Not just the capacity, or the ability to do evil–but even so far as the propensity for evil.  We are naturally inclined to walk in ways that go against what our Creator desires for us.
How many times have we done something that we knew was wrong, or unkind, but we willingly did it anyway?  Paul puts it best–“I don’t understand what I do.  What I want to do, I cannot do, and I hate what I do.”   We know that murder, lying, cheating, lust, all carries penalties.  We have seen the scars that selfishness has left upon the earth as we’ve pillaged and plundered resources and force children to mine minerals and ores for little to no pay.  We have seen marriages end because of lust and lack of self control.  We have seen friendships end over lies.  And we have seen and known the tears and heartache that come from having someone we care about ripped out of our embrace too soon.  Whole industries are made profitable upon the backs of others, whether they are children, men, or women because of the selfishness of consumers.
Does this mean that we should consider all people to be completely base and corrupt?  Does this mean that we should seek to protect our own selves by expecting the worst in others?
Does this mean that we only let people into our hearts in so far as they deserve?
Perhaps, to some.  There is certainly wisdom in guarding your heart, as Proverbs says that the wellspring of life flows from it.  And in truth, there are a lot of people who will take advantage of your kindness or your trusting nature.
When I was younger, I attended a church in Chicago’s Chinatown.  On Sundays, Chinatown was full of people who would come and catch a glimpse of Chinese culture.  In addition, there were a lot of people who lived on the streets, and often asked for money.  Our church has a policy of not giving money out, but instead offering a meal and if there’s time, company.  One Sunday, one of my friends brought a man into one of the restaurants and told him he could have whatever he wanted to eat.  He ordered the most expensive dish on the menu, but unfortunately, my friend couldn’t stay to talk.  She rushed off to Sunday School, and left the man waiting there for his takeout.  As soon as my friend had left, the man asked to cancel the order and take the money instead.  Another person at our church watched the exchange, and told us later what had transpired.
A small thing, but the principle is the same.  People will take what they want from you, especially if you seem like an easy target.
But we are called to Love.  It’s the second greatest commandment, behind loving the Lord.  To love one another as Jesus has loved us, and by this all people will know that we are His.
To be willing to lay down your life for your friends.
I could be wrong, but I can’t think of an instance where we are told to withhold anything from others.  If anything, he tells us to spend ourselves on behalf of the poor, to give the cloak off our backs, to turn the other cheek, to open our homes to strangers because in doing so we may be entertaining angels, and yes, ultimately, to be willing to give our lives for others. In addition, when Jesus was sending out disciples, he told them not to bring anything but to rely on people for their needs, building relationships with people in the town, and shaking off the dust when they were rejected.
God as our example won us over not with guilt, laws, and by withholding blessings from us.  He won us over with love and kindness.  It’s his kindness that leads us to repentance, and the law is there to show us how far we have fallen and how we are not capable of living a wholly God pleasing life.  And He gave us the law not to lord it over us and tell us that there is no hope for us, instead he showed us our need and then provided the way to love, to relationship with him at his expense.  He is the one who spent himself on behalf of others.  He is the one that gave his cloak to be cast for lots, his flesh, his blood, his life for us.  If he is the example, we can hold nothing back.
Loving kindness.  Loving generously.  And not expect people to be perfect–but quite the opposite. Know that we are all fallen people, and that should in turn drive us to compassion, and not towards self-protection.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” C.S. Lewis
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Esther 3: Who am I when everyone’s looking?

I’m currently reading through Esther (and by currently I mean as of this week), and today I read Esther chapter 3.

So to give you some backstory, basically King Xerxes of Persia held a big banquet for all his nobles and other VIPs, and he wanted to flaunt his beautiful wife, Queen Vashti, before them.  Queen Vashti, for reasons unknown, refuses (though let’s be honest,  if I found out I was being called out to strut my stuff just to be ogled at by men I probably wouldn’t like it either).

The King is so outraged by this that he speaks to some of his trusted nobles, who advise him to put her in her place.  “You can’t have a disobedient wife!” they tell him.  “Think about how all the other wives of Persia will react when they find out that Vashti refused you!  They’ll all think that they can refuse their husbands’ wishes!  ‘There will be no end of disrespect and discord’ (v18)!  You need to get rid of her to teach them all a lesson.”

And because his advisors were sooo wise, that’s exactly what he did.  He deposed Vashti and banished her from his sight, and started the hunt for a new wife.  All the prettiest virgins were chose for the palace, and they were primped and primed for an entire year before the king would even see them. After a year, he met with one virgin each day, until he met Esther.

Esther was beautiful, and she won the favor of everyone she met, including Xerxes.  She was a Jew, who had lost both her parents, and so she was raised by her cousin  Mordecai. Needless to say, she was chosen as the new queen.

Now that you’re up to speed, four years later, Xerxes decreed that everyone was supposed to bow down to this guy Haman.  But Mordecai, being faithful to God, refused to bow down.  Not just once, twice, or three times, no.  Even when the authorities came to question him, he stood his ground and remained standing for his God.  Seriously so admirable.

And I wondered…do I have the kind of faith that will stand up for what I believe, even when everyone is bowing down?  Would I refuse to bend to pressure even in the face of public accusation and even the law? Or even just in the small things…when everyone is smack talking, or skipping out on church and getting those lovely hours of extra sleep, or talking about getting sh*tfaced, or making sexual jokes and making parties to read sex advice columns aloud, will I be the one to be okay with being different, or even absent?  Who am I when everyone’s looking?  Where am I when everyone’s looking?

It’s easy to talk poorly about advisors, or professors, or even other students.  Now that the shininess of grad school and the wide eyed views of Hawaii have lost a touch of their glamour (just a tad), we’re settling in to that second year.  When the nitty gritty starts to come out, and the sandpaper scratches can leave scars. It’s one thing to join in, it’s another to just stand there and listen, and it’s another to be the voice of change and grace in those situations.  I wish I could say I’ve done the latter.

Not to mention the Cosmo parties.  Yes, you read that right, the Cosmo parties.  I’ve never read the magazines, but one of my friends here who actually was going to church with me last year has a joke subscription.  So one night, our friends all got together for a night of Mexican fiesta feasting and a shared male voices only Cosmo reading.  I had no idea it was such a racy explicit magazine, giving you second by second tips on how to, shall we say, perform and please.  I decided not to go when it came to the August and September issues, but it was weird missing out on two of the few hangouts we’ve had in a while.  And I didn’t even tell her the real reason that I decided not to go, that I felt uncomfortable talking so openly and not just that, but promoting this lifestyle that I just don’t agree with.  I had a friend in town for the August issue, and the September issue I told her I just wasn’t coming.

It’s weird feeling peer pressure and being so old.  I’d never felt it in high school, or even in college.  I thought I’d grown out of this sort of thing by now, being 25 practically 26, but I guess not.  So I have to decide–am I going to bow down and worship worldly things, or am I going to stand my ground when everyone’s looking?

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