When I saw this photo and the heartfelt words beneath it, I had to share it. It blessed me in so many ways and not just because my daughter is in it! However, her words are my hope for all of us who serve together and for every person regardless of our many differences, skill sets, backgrounds, degrees, titles, giftings and personalities. We should be celebrated and celebrate one another. People in your life should be your greatest cheerleaders no matter if you scored the touchdown or sat the bench. You still practiced, tried, showed up and put on the uniform to be a part of something. I love this line in a song saying, “I’m the greatest fan of your life.” I’ve used that quite often because it’s true. What an honor it is to be on the sidelines while someone else gets the win, an answered prayer, a good report, an unexpected blessing or a divine miracle! How can we not cheer or celebrate? It doesn’t need to be a spectacular event. Someone deserves to be appreciated just for being a good worker, a good listener or a good friend. All too often, we celebrate achievements rather than people. You don’t need to win a Nobel Prize to be great. We need to applaud the effort more and not just the outcome.
When I think celebration I think party but I also know with every party there’s always a party pooper! There’s always someone to rain on your parade or to yell boo when everybody else screams YAY!
It’s a sad fact of life, but there will always be a Lucy to your Charlie Brown! That’s why Linus needed his security blanket and so do we!
People can be mean, careless, and self-absorbed. There’s so much SELF that there is no room for anyone else to squeeze in. So now what?
A wise friend taught me a way to deal with people who can be difficult. These are normally those people we have personal contact with frequently: family, friends, bosses, co-workers, (you can finish the list!). However, instead of seeing them as difficult, try reframing your thoughts by saying they’re simply different. I’m not being preachy. I’m being transparent since I’ve had to do this myself! Several times, by the way!
Reframing is a way to transfer our feelings by seeing things and people through a different lens; a different perspective. It reminds me of times when I’m cleaning and wear my glasses (also known as frames) and see things I didn’t before! Even though this is not good at first, it may lead me to the root of the problem. For example, after bathing a dog, my glasses help me see all the dog hair that was clogging the drain! Yikes!
Water is a life source and a clog can stop that! If Jesus is our fountain of living water, then are we dehydrated, thirsty or crawling through the dessert? Take a look and you’ll discover the problem ... it could be too much you or too much me and Jesus can’t squeeze in the pipe! It then begs the question, what or who is clogging our life source?
First and foremost, we are to love God and to “pick up our cross” and die daily. That doesn’t sell real well these days, but self needs to be seen as an enemy that can dry up our fountain more than anything else. Serving self is an idol if it takes God’s place. Truth is truth and it’s not meant to be fun, but like your vegetables, it is good for you and will help you grow!
Next, there’s no doubt about it but we are to love unconditionally and seek to know people after the spirit and not the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:16). The flesh is often a cloak to cover the vulnerable part that we wish to hide. Whenever a person allows that vulnerable part to be revealed, it’s always met with compassion and mercy. The hard part comes by first being honest and looking at our true selves and not the one we show to everyone else. God knows the real you, faults, flaws, and fallacies and yet, He loves you and me anyway! He still looks upon us as His beloved even when we’ve been our worst selves. In light of this then, what are we afraid of? Or is it who are we afraid of?
The love of God can give us a telescopic view deep within the heart of a person where there are wounds, insecurities, and lifelong scars. When that is what we see, we begin to understand their behavior and in so doing, we can respond in a godly manner. Our heart moves toward that person with no fear because perfect love casts that out! The natural response to fear is to stay away and avoid said person we’ve labeled as TROUBLE! But God’s love in us has a supernatural response and we can reframe our thoughts and change the label! Even those cases when there’s that one person who gets under your skin; you know the one that makes you want to throw your laptop across the table, or send an anonymous caustic email to, or like me when I wanted to slit someone’s tires because I was so mad! (Sad but true!)
There’s a way to see that person as lovable even when that seems like an impossibility.
I will give you a personal example. There was a man that worked at the ministry several years ago. Now, I make a distinction between those who work a job and those that serve the Lord and His vision. I pray that our staff will all serve together, in one accord, giving our best to the God who gave His best. That is His standard and it’s my desire that it will be mine. However, we still have people who are miserable because they “go to work.” On the other hand, we have those who are content because they are humbly using their gift to minister in whatever capacity God graces them in. A servant isn’t a lowly title but is one of great honor since our Savior left Heaven to become the servant of man. My “servanthood soapbox” will be for another time! But I like what my nephew told me recently, “Up is down in the kingdom.” That is certainly echoed in Matthew (the name of my aforementioned nephew coincidentally) chapter 23:11-15 from the Message Bible, “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply BE YOURSELF, your life will count for plenty.” (Emphasis added.)
I can speak from experience, because I ask God to humble me by helping me to decrease so that He may increase. The more you work at humbling yourself, the more you desire to serve and then the best of you - your true self - is like the cream that rises to the top! Why? Because the servant-heart of Jesus is in you, and wants to go to work where you’re content to simply be yourself. You will see that your life will count for plenty because you’re investing that “plenty” into others! It’s why I say, “YOU’RE AT YOUR BEST WHEN YOU’RE SERVING!”
It is another way to reframe the drudgery of working in exchange for the glorious perspective of serving with the gifts God gave to us! A talent is just a talent. A talent becomes a GIFT when it is GIVEN to bless the lives of others!
Back to my story! I’m being painfully honest here so don’t judge me!
Several years ago, I did not like this man on staff even when I tried to find any redeeming qualities. Key discovery - I was trying instead of praying. I looked at his faults and complained of how he treated people disrespectfully, was pious, power-hungry, unkind, uncaring, and spoke against leadership as a sower of discord (I guess I was perfect enough to do so!). I would admit that he was very intelligent which was essential to be good in his line of work.
On a side note:
Sometimes, when we put up with the bad to get the good, that gets us trouble! As Pastor says, “What you compromise to keep, you will lose.” That loss, by the way, is not always obvious either. We lose our integrity piece by piece and our overall character suffers.
Anyway, I would nag my husband asking why he kept him, why he put up with him and his reply was, “I see something you don’t.” He was giving him a chance because the SOMETHING that he saw was in a SOMEONE.
It pains me to say he was right! I was looking no further than surface behavior. I didn’t pray ABOUT or FOR this man. I’m forever grateful to him now because he taught me a lifelong lesson. This man had offended me and others and so I chose to frame the matter in the flesh where I was hurt. Poor me! I was so busy looking at HIS flesh, I never looked IN my heart (and it wasn’t pretty!). Had I taken time to do so, I would’ve changed for the better ... sooner than later.
One day, he and I had a conversation that led to his childhood, and I gained insight into the pain of his past … my heart began to soften.
Lesson one: Hurt people hurt people. Whatever has gained first place in us is what we share. If we are filled with love, we share love. If we are filled with anger, we share anger and all that tags along with it!
Lesson two came when I saw this man, who seemed so mighty, become so meek. In an instant, the cloak he had worn was no longer visible as he began sobbing. Pastor went to him and he fell into his arms completely unaware of who saw him. He finally was unable to fix a situation even with all of that talent at his disposal.
We have all been in the place called “beyond our control!” Our facade won’t help us then; our talent, our title, our education or past success won’t either! We may have nothing to rely on but we are never left with NO ONE! The valley will always lead you to an utter dependence on God and God alone. When the mask is off, then he has something to work with because he gets the real you and me. Our lies turn into our honesty. It’s not pleasant to see our flaws and shortcomings, but this is a way to reframe it - we won’t be like that forever if we decide to let God have His way. I’ve done things my way and have let Him do them His way. I emphatically conclude that His way is always best! Wow! Go figure!
When someone sits on top and tumbles down to the valley a lot can change. In this story, all that this man cared about was the harsh reality that he was hurting and needed someone ... he needed love. He had no choice in his desperation than to reach out and find someone who represented God’s 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. It happens to include “it never takes into account a suffered wrong.” Pastor could’ve said, “Wait a minute, don’t come to me now after you’ve disrespected me among a host of other offenses!” Love really is blind! Even the Bible puts on blinders by stating, “Above all love each other deeply, because LOVE covers a multitude of sins.” (1Peter 4:8 NLT, emphasis added.)
I will never forget that day because it changed me. I saw someone hurting instead of something he’d done to hurt me. I saw him through the eyes of love that compelled mercy and compassion to flow. I saw a man by the spirit and not the flesh any longer. Love conquered and I had to forgive ... and forget! His vulnerability was showing – not the facade he’d crafted to hide behind. I learned to seek to understand people and pray to know them after the spirit where love dwells.
If we abide in love, there’s no room for anything else. I’m on that quest! I don’t want to “react.” I want to “act” in whatever way fits the moment or situation as the Holy Spirit leads and NOT my attitude. Ouch! Often, that means silence. Ouch again! Other times it may take me going to a person who I have an issue with ... but only as Scripture teaches! We don’t get to go to five or six other people and gossip first or get behind our keyboards on social media and imply our feelings in a passive aggressive way! Ouch, ouch and ouch! I’ve been found out ... guilty as charged! I did say that I’m on that quest but I haven’t arrived just yet!
None of us are perfect, but love is! If love can be the first responder to our injury, then healing mercies begin our transfusion! That photo I’ve included will be one we can all have regardless of co-servant, family, friends, or spouse. We can serve together with love and understanding.
I threw my old photo of that man away and got a new one. That’s the one that God’s love reframed! My memory of him is the day I saw him simply as himself and I not only loved him, but I liked him too! I became a fan because I have one - God is the greatest fan of my life and your greatest fan too!