Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Wrong Side of the Bed

You'll have to bear with me. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed again this morning. Literally. Over the weekend, my wife had an idea. Since her back was hurting first thing every morning, she figured that maybe it would help if she slept on the other side of the bed. Eventually I figured out that not only did this mean that I had to switch sides with her, but we also had to move the stacks of books on each nightstand to the other side. The alarm clock (which I have to use far too often) made the trek with me to my side. However to get out of our little bedroom, I now have to walk carefully past her cedar chest and the stacks of items on top. Then I must negotiate the corner where the stuff which doesn't fit in her closet keeps sliding farther and farther into the walkway. Then I can step lightly past her dresser and into the hall. Last week my biggest worry was walking the three steps to the door while still half-asleep. This week I have an obstacle course of my wife's things set up to test my early morning physical dexterity.

Besides that, everything is just a bit out of whack. A quick glance at the clock in the middle of the night takes a minute until I figure out where the clock went. And if I want to cuddle with my wife, I have to make sure I turn the right way or else risk a nasty carpet burn on my face! I guess it's really not that big of a deal in the big picture, but the little things are different. What I naturally expect is not necessarily reality.

I've been reading a book called, First Impressions: Creating Wow Experiences in Your Church, in which the author, Mark L. Waltz, suggests looking at your church facilities through the eyes of a visitor. I've gone through this exercise before. I've taken our church board through our basement, brainstorming ways to improve the surroundings. We came up with some good ideas just by understanding that visitors would really notice the cracks and cobwebs that we always overlooked. Getting a different perspective really opens your eyes to see things in a new light.

I'm a big fan of using many different Bible translations. Sure I know that there are some downright deceptive versions floating around or being promoted by specific cults, but there are so many translations and paraphrases which are useful in giving a fresh spin on a familiar passage. Each time I pick up the NASB or ESV or even the Living Bible, it's like hearing the words with a different accent. Reading something like the Message will cause me to notice details which I had carelessly bypassed previously. Then I can pick up some of the other versions and put everything into a proper, fuller perspective.

We each have a mental filter which processes all the information shoved into the brain. There are preconceived notions which get in the way of us seeing things the way they really are. I've known older folks who grew up in the midst of segregation who could never move past the prejudiced brainwashing they received at an early age. I've talked with a grown man who never knew their father because he believed raising children to be "women's work" and remained aloof. True to form, he had little to do with his children as they grew up.

I've talked with plenty of people who see the church through a filter of preconceived notions. Some see a reminder of superficial smiles hiding treacherous hearts when they drive past a sanctuary. Others are reminded of a childhood of being dragged to stale services where strict rules were enforced. Still more write off Christians as gullible rubes who are taken in by charismatic leaders and peer pressure. How foolish it is to let mental filters and ingrained agendas distort reality!

But I cannot simply cast stones at those outside of the church. Too often those of us in the church view others in the same close-minded way. We see a poor family and reach out to help, but we rarely see them as equals -- as potential members at our church. "Maybe someone else's church, but not mine!"

We may talk to someone who claims to be an atheist or an agnostic, and immediately the anger and resentment rise to the surface. The person is written off as forever lost (or unelect, for you die-hard Calvinists) and we either go into battle mode or we stomp off declaring our frustration with such idiocy. But too often we don't see the reality of a person with real questions or real concerns about Christianity or religion in general. The guy going into the bar? Just another drunk. Not worth my time. The lady in the overly revealing dress? Just some promiscuous woman. No one to lose sleep over. They've made their own beds. They've refused Christ. Let God distribute the punishment.

However, one of the things we are to do as Christians is to look at this world through Jesus' eyes. What would Jesus' perspective be on those people you've long since forgotten?

When Jesus was asked about His choice of dining companions by the religious bigshots of His time, He reminded them that it's the sick who need a doctor. Certainly the Pharisees shouldn't complain that He was bringing "religion" to those sick folk who were living without it, right? Then again...

The self-righteous had long since given up on that loser heading into the bar and the lady in the skimpy outfit. They saw those people as lost causes. But Jesus had a different perspective. He simply saw them as lost. People who needed what He had to give. People He loved.

Too many times I don't see people to love. My preconceived notion tells me they're not worth my time. The filter in my mind says to forget about them. But I'm not seeing reality -- I'm seeing my own distorted perspective. I'm awakening in the middle of the night and looking to my right to find the clock. But I'm on the wrong side of the bed.

"Lord, help me to see the people I see this week the way You see them."

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