rules.

i can’t remember why – i think i had probably had some disagreement with our GM at work about something (this happens a lot, we disagree a lot, we fight a lot, and she’s one of my best friends) and i, when i’m opinionated about something (at least related to work) seem to have trouble compromising and giving up my opinion – i have five words hand-written on the back of a Chase receipt and pinned to my prayer board:

 

STOP TRYING TO BE RIGHT.

it occurred to me one day that the cause of some of my greatest anxieties is the need to be right, correct.

it’s also occurred to me that we regularly pick on the Pharisees in the Bible for being too detail-oriented, for focusing on the wrong things, and not seeing the forest for the trees. when we’re not careful (and in my opinion, when we’re not humble) we laugh at them or berate them for thinking the things they do, wondering how they could possibly pick up on the things they do when right in front of them is Jesus, the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. how are they still concerned about when you can eat or what you can eat or how much you can do on the Sabbath or what you can do on the Sabbath?

but i realize i think like a Pharisee a lot of the time. not in the same way, maybe – i’m not necessarily focused on details of the law (Lord knows how much trouble i’d be in if i did, as in i regularly break it) but i do get to thinking about the “Christian” way of going about things: how Christians manage their finances, how Christians go about dating, how Christians handle friendships and families, how Christians deal with political issues, how Christians deal with social issues, how Christians deal with work, how Christians deal with pleasure/leisure/community, etc.

in other words, in my own mind, Christianity becomes a lifestyle or a schema or more of an opinion system than a belief system. instead of letting (the) love (of God) take root in people’s hearts (or my own) and seeing how it plays out, it becomes easy for me to make my own prognosis based on how i think that should look.

so my own response to things becomes something i try to control or fit into a box of expectations. i try to create blanket rules about how things should happen. i extend neither myself nor anyone else much grace when those “rules” are broken.

and (for lack of a better segue) those rules make for a pretty miserable way of living. they distract me, honestly. having those kinds of rules are, in my experience, exactly the type of things that keep me from having communion with God, from reading and gleaning from the Word, and from enjoying healthy, free relationships. they take my eye off the ball. they make me approach the Bible looking for a right answer instead of a revelation. they make me approach God looking for justification, not joy.

they make me think that Galatians 5:6 isn’t true – that there’s more that matters than faith expressing itself through love.

but that’s all that matters – that’s what the actual word of God says matters.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your mind, soul, and strength. He never said we have to love Him perfectly, just as much as we can.

Actually, Galatians 5:1-6 lays out the relevant parts of Christianity: freedom and love. Jesus set us free so we can be free, not so that we can become enslaved to another form of thinking (though Romans would say something about being a slave to righteousness) and it says that the only thing that counts is faith working through love.

maybe being right isn’t as important as being free, as being loved, and as loving other people.

traffic.

thoughtlife has been something i’ve become really concerned with lately – (see last post) – and it is all the more important to be vigilant, i believe, due to the fickle nature of the mind.

in myers-briggs terms, i’m an ENFJ. i’ve always fought the diagnosis of being an “F,” but it’s true – i largely make decisions or behave based on my emotions, even though i usually know better. now, that’s not exactly a bad thing – it kinda gets a bad rap – but it does require vigilance when the bad news comes in.

story time.

my extroversion predisposes me to wanting to spend time with other people. and, the fact that what i was missing for two years (before this one) was good, solid, positive community makes me even more predisposed to spend time with the friends i’ve made in the last five months. simply put, i feel great when i’m around them, i feel encouraged and built up and my soul feels full, even if i had a frustrating day or if tomorrow’s going to be a long one – having good friends around helps me focus on what’s happening right now and enjoy being alive right now.

last night over dinner, a group of my friends began to solidify plans that had, until then, been ideas – a trip to a football match, a day spent at an amusement park, and other fun happenings – and every date that was thrown out was a date i knew i’d be unable to attend. this has been happening lately, and has happened for a few years in having a job that requires weekends: your friends who have set schedules are able to make plans you’re not able to join up with. it happens.

well, instead of letting the reality of missing the fun stuff bounce off, i soaked it up. for the first time in a while, i embraced the FOMO (how the kids say fear of missing out) and let it affect me. i sank. i didn’t talk, and internalized the feeling. here’s what i hate about fear – you try to cope with it in some way, whether that’s a behaviour or a thought. for example, when i’m watching a scary movie and get nervous, i cuss. i don’t think anything of it (it doesn’t break my rule of intentional cussing) – just something i do to help me deal with an awkward situation.

well, in this case, i tried to remedy fear (or sadness, or whatever you want to call it) with bitterness. i started – in my mind – blaming work. started cursing it a little bit for taking up my weekends. then i tried self-depreciation and self-pity, such as saying, “i NEVER get to do anything fun and i’m always missing the good stuff” (the psychological mechanism, of course, being the normalization of missing out on good things and failing to obtain/take opportunities.)

this morning, i did with this petulance the only thing i’ve learned actually works: i took to my journal and a little bit of prayer to figure out what to do with it from there.

i started with this premise: if i am missing out on good opportunities, it must be because there is another thing i am doing, not by choice or by merit. that is, i’m not missing because i wasn’t invited (which would fuel self-pity) or because i don’t want to go (which would fuel hermitism, and is incongruent with extroversion.) it must be because there’s something else i’m doing. so, what is it?

in some cases, it’s work. and that can’t be helped, but it shouldn’t be lamented. the opportunity to work is a blessing, and my job isn’t harsh or overbearing, so it is not worthy of lament.

in other cases (such as this one) it’s a different opportunity – i’m missing the soccer game because i’ll be down in Haiti helping put on a graduation ceremony and partying with/celebrating the graduates and their families who’ve done and sacrificed so much to take up the opportunity to get an education. to lament this would be to lament not seeing Yellowstone National Park because i’m in the Grand Canyon (to you traveling types, i’m not confident in the integrity of that analogy, but please grant me grace.)

on that note, i was forced to remind myself of the other opportunities i’m able to take in the radius of the next/last few weeks, such as:

-Haiti (already mentioned)

-spending part of the day at the Arboretum with a dear friend

-managing the indoor soccer team

-exploring new food/coffee places with a friend tomorrow

-getting to take a few weeks off of work

-with that, having more time to read and write, activities i’ve lost in the last month or two

-spending time with my new buddy Don, who swears i look like Justin Timberlake and has been a good pal to me so far

 

the other day in conversation, without thinking too much of it, i referred to my thoughts as “traffic.” in the aftermath of that, i’ve been thinking about how good of an analogy that actually is (and that’s not meant as a pat on my own back) – if your mind is a highway, your thoughts are the cars going down it. you can control how fast or how slow they’re going and you can control how they drive. if you have aggressive thoughts and fearful thoughts, well – these are the types of drivers that don’t get along too well. the fearful ones drive too slow and the aggressive ones drive too fast and they’re honking at each other and because they have such conflicting goals, they’re more apt to create an accident.

but a peaceful driver, a joyful driver, a patient driver, a safe driver – they’re gonna get where they’re going and get there on time and enjoy the drive along the way, probably with some Taylor Swift blaring and the windows down. and they’re gonna love every second of it.