Hard to live with

My youngest child is like so many others in that he speaks, unfiltered, whatever is on his mind. “Why do you have to be so hard to live with?!” he cried after I issued his punishment for the crime of disobedience. What he did wasn’t terrible – he simply chose not to listen to me until he was ready – and his punishment wasn’t earth-shattering, either. (Although, to a 6-year-old boy, losing a few hours of Wii is close to earth-shattering.) The point of my response wasn’t the level of severity of his bad behavior and the point of his response wasn’t the severity of the assigned punishment. It was the principle of the thing – on both counts. I insist on respectful obedience from my children and he persists in trying to do things his own way and in his own time, regardless of what I say. So, who’s harder to live with? I dealt with it by laughing. You know, that “Silly boy, it isn’t ME who is being difficult, but your own choices that are creating difficulty for you” laugh; the “You’re the one being stubborn, not me” laugh.

This may be easier to resolve in parent-child relationships since there is a power differential. But what about stalemates like this in adult relationships? Are there times when we are less-than-gracious when we should offer someone the opportunity to express their individuality? Well, of course.

I am not a big fan of campaign season in the political realm. I dislike the negative ads and the boasting ads equally. If there was a party called Humble Integrity, I’d probably join that one. As it stands, there isn’t one remotely close to that. [Ok, I came up with the cool acronym: Humble Integrity Party = HIP!] As a HIP candidate, I would do all my campaigning via Facebook, Twitter, and blogging. Oh wait – maybe that is how I would do it as a member of the DLCP (Don’t Like Crowds Party). . . Let’s face it. I’d never be a suitable candidate for political office.

Not too many of us risk having our lives dissected, chewed up, and spit out in the national forum. Our family has a way, though, of exposing to us the things we either deny or would otherwise like to keep under wraps about ourselves. Marriage is the great revealer of life areas in need of personal growth. Our level of stubbornness is revealed in how we respond to the knowledge that we need to grow enough in an area to demonstrate grace. If we can humbly apologize and seek to let go of our personal agenda (which is often linked to nothing vital), then we become much more pleasant to be around. If we disregard the revelation and dig in our heels to ensure no one “runs over us”, then we might be setting ourselves up for a lot of head-butting.

So, with that in mind, and to avoid running the risk of being known as a head-butt-er (or any variation of such), let us be mindful of the grace that is ours through Jesus. I would rather be known as someone who is hard to live without than hard to live with.

Sweet Communion

Nature walks always take my mind away from the insanity of life’s daily grind. I welcome the distraction and the retreat! Hiking is probably my favorite, although I rarely (read: “never”) go hiking alone. I am able, however, to take a stroll around a local lake or in a wooded park fairly routinely for some time to myself. As a documented introvert, I enjoy a very lively “inner life” with all sorts of ideas and creations dancing inside my head. But during these walks, the mental move away from the busy-ness of the world is not a move into my head. It is a real sense of connection with God and a time to listen and to pour out my heart to him.

I feel certain that all of my recent decisions and major upsets were reconciled on walks. (Those that were not most assuredly should have been.) I can tell when a walk is going to become more than just a way to burn some stress or calories. If there is some soul-cleansing to be done, I am always first overwhelmed by an awareness of beauty and a strong sense of gratitude. It doesn’t take much of anything to trigger it. It could be a particularly comforting breeze, an unusually shaped tree trunk or branch, a singing bird, or a colorful and random mushroom. Then comes the awareness that God is there – an overwhelming sense that he has not only been there, but that he IS there . . . and that we should talk. I usually try to listen first, because that is pretty much all you can do when you sense God.

It’s tricky, of course, to discern what God is speaking from what you might manufacture in your own thoughts and desires, projecting those things on him. There aren’t “12 steps” to figuring that out, but it develops over time and with lots of practice. Plus, I don’t think every quiet time with God has to produce something instructional or life-changing for us. We can’t manufacture the time, place, or setting for God to speak. Sometimes, we need to just be content with an intimate, quiet walk together. Everything we could ever need, after all, is in his presence.

Is there a special place where you sense God most? Would you be willing to share your story as a comment to this post? Speaking for myself and probably many others, I would love to hear all about it!