Taking Responsibility

I_Didnt_Do_It_The_Bart_Simpson_Story1There are many phrases that seem difficult to roll off of our tongues, some more so than others.  One of those phrases which seems to be building up steam in its ever-increasing difficulty is, “I was wrong.”

Who likes making mistakes?  I don’t.  When I make mistakes, I can easily take it and internalize it, blaming myself and mentally flagellating myself.  When we make mistakes, it’s hard to own them.  We quickly want to shift the blame onto someone else.  We don’t want to lose face because we’re afraid that someone might begin to question our worth and value or even who we are as a person.

Mistakes are part of life, though.  I don’t say that in a defeatist kind of way but in a realistic, “It happens” kind of way.  Think back to when you were a child and you began to do things for the first time.  Did you always get it right the first time around?  Did you make the transition from tricycle to bicycle with training wheels to bicycle without training wheels in one fell swoop, seamlessly, without hesitation?  If you did, you’re probably an exceptional individual.

Mistakes are what make us stronger, smarter, and wiser.  Hopefully, when we don’t get something right, we can go back and tweak the process to have a better and different outcome the next time around.  Hopefully, we’ve got enough humility to acknowledge that we were wrong and we made a mistake.

I wonder how many relationships go south because of this one thing.  I wonder how many marriages fail because spouses are unable to own the responsibility for breakdowns that occur.  I wonder how many people lose their jobs because, somehow, the pecking order of responsibility led to them and no one above them was willing to acknowledge their own mistakes and responsibility.  I wonder how many kids find themselves with severely diminished and tainted relationships with their parents because those parents were unwilling to own up to their own mistakes.

It’s hard to own up to mistakes, but as I’ve grown as a person, as a pastor, as a husband, as a father, and as a child of God, I’ve seen the value in it.  When we find ourselves in positions of leadership, owning that responsibility becomes a model for those around us, if we fail to model it well, we shouldn’t be surprised when that model becomes a reality for all who are watching.  If we do model it well, we will hopefully see the fruit of that humility translate to a culture shift.

Not too long ago, I sat down and had a conversation with someone who expressed some hurts that they felt I had caused.  It was a humbling time for me.  My prayer leading up to the meeting was that God hold my tongue.  In the words of James 1:19-20, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”  Slow to speak and become angry, quick to listen?  That’s pretty difficult, yet that was my prayer.

God honored the time and I was able to listen and speak very infrequently.  I learned a lot during that meeting, not the least of which is that people are people and when you cut them, intentionally or unintentionally, they bleed.  Owning up to your mistakes, though, goes a long way.  1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  When we genuinely love others and are willing to show them and also acknowledge our responsibility in hurts, God can help healing take place.

This is still a learning process for me.  I don’t get it right all the time.  It’s still hard to acknowledge responsibility, to own up to my mistakes and be humble, but I’m learning a little more every day.

3 Sides to the Story

prejudiceSolomon was the wisest man that ever lived, but that certainly doesn’t mean that he was perfect.  He embraced the way of the culture around him and married many wives.  The Lord gave him incredible wisdom and he was known far and wide for that wisdom.  The Lord allowed him, rather than his father David, to build the temple of God.

Even with all of his wisdom, Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:18, “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”  It seems that the more he knew and understood, the more wisdom and knowledge that he gained, the more grief he added to his life.  I wonder how true that is for us.  There is a simplicity to having little information.

Remember what it was like when you were a child.  You didn’t have a lot of understanding and knowledge about the world, and yet, life seemed so free and wonderful.  Worries were less.  Days, especially summer days, seemed eternal with laughter, fun, and activities.  But once we began to learn and understand the world, we began to get a glimpse at what was really happening around us.  The old adage that ignorance is bliss seems to ring true.

In the wake of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin verdict, less information seems like we might be blissfully ignorant.  But the fact of the matter is that we can’t ignore certain facts.  We can’t ignore the fact that the victim was a young African American teenager.  We can’t ignore the fact that prejudice has been deep-seated in our country that, despite legislation and prohibition, still continues to rear its ugly head.

The problem is, we have a tendency to believe the first thing we see, hear, or read rather than taking the time to investigate.  We have to understand that there is more than one side to every story and if we want to exercise wisdom, we need to seek out truth in being informed about every side.  In volatile situations, we tend towards our own preconceived notions rather than seeking out the truth.  When we seek out the truth, it can often lead to disappointment for us, especially when we have cemented ourselves in our own preferences.

I am a middle-aged white male who has known privilege for most of my life.  When the windows of my world began to broaden and my own ignorance was exposed, I was shocked to see that things were much different than I expected.  My parents raised me and my brother not to distinguish between colors and ethnicities.  They lived out Christ’s love to every race in a very personal way and I am grateful for that.  I have not known prejudice to the extent that many in this country have known it.  For that, I am grateful.

But just because I have not experienced it does not mean that I am ignorant of it or that I lack sensitivity towards those who experience it.  Many of those who I know that have experienced racism are incredibly bright and intelligent people.  When they have experienced prejudice, it has had nothing to do with their intellect and has everything to do with the color of their skin.  That saddens me.

But it also saddens me that every time a crime is committed that involves someone of a different ethnicity, the stereotypes come flying out, regardless of whether they are real or not.  Some might say that they are real as long as people experience prejudice and racism within this country.  Some may say that its real because the facts speak to that racism and prejudice.  At what point does it not become an issue and who makes that decision?

I am saddened that a young African American man lost his life.  I am saddened that the answers that have come forth in the case don’t seem to significantly clarify the reality of the case.  I am saddened that there is a man who, even before his trial began, was deemed “guilty” in a country where we claim to believe in innocence until proven guilty.  I am saddened that this case has further divided a country that so desperately needs to learn to coexist and cooperate with one another.

What saddens me more than this is that there are some people in this country who turn an ignorant and blind eye towards prejudice and racism claiming that it does not exist.  Regardless of where a person falls in their opinion about this case, the greater issue is that we need to work towards breaking down the racial barriers that continue to divide us.

We have tried for more than half a century through legislation and other means to break down these barriers, but legislation only goes so far in our relationships.  Relational restoration and reconciliation is the only long-lasting method by which we can begin to heal the hurts and terrors of the past.  This only happens when we come together.  I am doing my part in the relationships that I have to break down these barriers, but I know that I can do more.

Wherever you are today in your opinion, take time to think about the other side, regardless of whether or not you agree.  In looking at things from a different perspective, you just might learn something, and in learning something, you might find that you gain wisdom and knowledge and at the same time, you experience a little grief in the discovery that things are not as you always thought they were.


50In the past few months, I’ve transitioned to this new blog.  It’s kind of funny that I had just celebrated my 200th post on my old blog back in March and here I am today, celebrating my 50th post on the new blog.  I guess I’ve been busy.  It took me 4 years to get to 200 posts on the old blog and just a little over 2 months to get to 50 posts here.

I am constantly humbled to think that God can use me and the words that he’s given to me.  The first time that my wife suggested I start a blog, I kind of laughed.  What did I know?  Did anyone really care about what I thought?  Did I have enough to say?  Was there any amount of wisdom swirling around in my head?

Turns out, there are some people who are encouraged and inspired by some of what I write.  For that, I am grateful.  Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to check in here and read a little bit about what God is doing and has done in my life.

I am but one person, but I know a lot of other people.  I have never been satisfied to simply be without having some kind of an impact.  Part of my frustration with my previous profession was the fact that I just didn’t feel like I was making a difference.  While there are still days that I wonder whether or not I am making a difference, what I do now as a pastor just feels more fulfilling to me.

Every day is an adventure and I am glad to share it with whoever decides to peak in on my life through this blog.  I hope that I can continue to be a light in the midst of darkness.  I hope that people will see that God takes broken vessels and makes something beautiful out of them.  I hope that in the midst of the storms of life, people will realize that they are not alone, that there are others who have been there, and that we have a God who, through Jesus Christ, has experienced the hardships and difficulties that we face every day.

Thanks for reading.  May God continue to bless you richly.

The Brilliant Things They Told Me

respect-your-parents-proverbs-wisdom-luke-reynoldsI’m not exactly sure when the transition happens, if it happens the same time for everyone, or if it even happens for everyone, but at some point in my life, I experienced that moment where my parents went from being complete idiots who had no concern for my well-being to incredibly brilliant individuals with lots of love in their hearts and wisdom in their heads.  Well, it’s probably a big overstatement to actually think that I ever thought my parents were complete idiots, we just never had that contentious of a relationship.

I feel pretty blessed that I began to learn this lesson early on, maybe earlier than some people.  I also feel blessed that my parents really were wise and loving, something that not everyone is able to say.  I was blessed to have had a close relationship with my parents in their last years on earth.  I didn’t know that they were their last years, but I am glad that I did things the way that I did.

It’s always much easier for me to take things from people who don’t come across as if they’re really full of wisdom.  My mom was one of those.  She never went beyond a high school education, although she wanted to.  She never worked in corporate America.  She simply assisted elementary school teachers as their aide for 25 years, and through her experience there as well as her own life experience, she gained a wealth of knowledge and wisdom.

She was primarily a good listener, which is important in my book.  If you think you’ve got anything worthwhile to say to people, you better be a good listener.  Not too many people will give you a second listen or give you the time of day if you come across as a used car salesman.  That’s a very important lesson that I learned from my mom.  And my dad always used to tell me that advice that isn’t asked for is advice that is ill-received.  Those words so penetrated my brain that I adopted the practice of asking people before telling them what I thought, especially if it’s a potentially divisive or contentious issue.

Over the few years before my mom died, it was her and my wife that I would constantly go to for the wisdom that I was looking for.  My wife, as different as she is from my mother, has many qualities that I rejoice she shared with my mother.  It still goes back to that most attractive quality: the ability to listen.

My dad had some tendencies to share opinions and wisdom without prompting, but I attest that to the fact that he was a man and sometimes that gene seems to fall short in the male brain.  But he was always willing to offer what he could and was probably way more helpful than he ever gave himself credit for.  He certainly doled out his fair share of wisdom to me.

All of these things come to the forefront of my mind as I raise my own children.  I hope and pray that one day, my children might be saying the same things about me that I am saying about my parents.  I hope they don’t feel like I offer them advice that makes them resent me.  I hope that one day, after those difficult years of me knowing nothing at all, that a light might go on in my children’s brains and they might think I know a little more than they think I know.

One day, I will make the same transition with my children that I made with my own parents, the transition from parent to friend.  Maybe that day I will be wise in their eyes.  There’s no use in worrying about it now though.  For now, I’ve just got to figure out how to get through today without losing my mind.  ‘Cause that’s just the stage of life we’re in right now.