Friday, March 5, 2010

It's All in the Timing

Yesterday I attempted to take a picture of an item in a glass display case. I realized fairly quickly that it was hopeless. The case is in the corner of a big room with windows all around, and all I could see was the reflections of the light coming through the windows on the glass of the display case. I've decided to come back after dark to see if I have better luck. With no light coming through the windows and more lights coming from ceiling light fixtures overhead, perhaps the glare might not be so bad. I don't know yet how it will turn out, but the timing could make a great deal of difference.

I've noticed that timing can make a huge difference in my life. My alma mater was the first college to send me mail after I took the PSAT. What if they had sent their letter later? Would I have given it as much weight if it hadn't been the first one to arrive? I met my husband when I was a freshman in college and he was dating a friend of mine. After they broke up a year later, I toyed with the idea of pursuing him but ultimately decided against it because it just didn't feel right at the time. We didn't start dating until a year later, and by then we were such good friends that our relationship bloomed quickly and we were engaged five months later. What would have happened if I had tried to date him sooner? Would things have worked out? What if we weren't ready and the relationship didn't last? Would we ever have gotten back together? I don't know. But as it was, the timing seemed pretty perfect.

The problem with timing as that while I know it's important, I don't always have the right information to try to control it. I can guess that there will be less glare on a display case at night, that I should wait to bring up a complicated conversation until after my husband's had his dinner, and that it won't do me any good to call someone when I know that person is at work and can't answer the phone. But sometimes I don't have all of that information to make a decision about timing. I'm not always privy to the schedules, feelings, or even the physical factors involved in the situations of my life. How do I know when to act when I don't have information about the proper timing?

I've come up with a two part answer to this question: trust God and pay attention. God is the one being in this universe with perfect timing because He is the only one who can see and understand all the factors that go into each situation. Sometimes God will help me out with the timing either by guiding events Himself or by giving me a nudge so that I make the right choices at the right time. Like always, however, I have to pay attention to God in order to benefit from the help He's giving me. If I'm tuned out, then I'll miss the Spirit's cues and the timing will come out all wrong. I need to try to be as perceptive as possible so that I can pick up as much information as I can both from God and from the people and situations around me. I've figured out that having a serious conversation with my husband right before dinner is a bad idea because I've paid attention to what happens when I do. The timing of our relationship was completely different. I decided not to date him earlier in our friendship because it didn't feel right, and it's a good thing I paid attention to that feeling in my gut, because it could very well have been a tip from God.

No matter how hard I try and no matter how much I pay attention, I'm still going to mess up the timing sometimes. That's why trusting God means more than simply counting on Him to help me figure it out. Trusting also means that I depend on Him to work things out when I make a huge mess and to be there to help me even if the timing goes horribly wrong. Even if I act at entirely the wrong time, God will salvage the mess and make things turn out the way they should in the end. God's been correcting our mistakes for all of history, and He's very good at it. I just need to do my best and count on God for the rest. He's ultimately the one in charge of the timing, anyway.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I remember being taught as a child that "honesty is the best policy." Lies are the work of the Devil, but the truth shall set us free. That's all well and good, but I sometimes struggle with how far to take honesty. Is it OK to tell a "white lie"? Is it ever appropriate to conceal or avoid the truth? What if my honesty would only hurt someone?

I am learning that the proper handling of honesty often depends on the type of truth in question. Not all truths are created equal. First and foremost there is God's Truth—the truth about His goodness and His love for us, and the truth about Jesus and his redemptive grace. That Truth is paramount, and it will come out and be declared before the world no matter who tries to conceal it. Other truths are far less important. When I convey an honest opinion, I am telling the truth, but my truth isn't nearly so powerful or absolute as God's truth.

Paul encouraged the Ephesians to embrace truth and to speak honestly to each other as a way to build each other up and shield each other from the unwholesome lies of a fallen world. "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Ephesians 4:14–15, 25, 29) Paul's advice is to use honesty to do God's work. Truth should build others up, not tear them down.

Sometimes the truth isn't nice. Before we share criticism in the name of honesty, however, we need to consider how we intend to use that truth. Is our purpose simply to clear our own consciences by divulging all of our thoughts, both helpful and unhelpful? Is the point to make someone else feel ashamed for perceived shortcomings? Do we want to feel better about ourselves in comparison while calling our "honest" opinions subjective? Or do we actually want to build someone up with honest, loving, constructive criticism? If we can see that someone is on a dangerous path, it's worth being honest if we think the truth could help them turn to a healthier way. Being honest about personal opinions and slighting judgments with no thought of love or encouragement isn't nearly as helpful.

So really, honesty is the best policy, if by honesty I mean speaking the Truth in love in order to build others up. That's the best and truest kind of honesty, and I don't think the other kinds are really worth that much from a Christian standpoint. You could be just as well off not knowing the truth about what year it was when your outfit was last considered fashionable, but it's always worth it to share the truth about God's love and His expectations of His faithful servants.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Life's a Dance

I discovered ballroom and swing dancing in college. I still remember the first waltz I danced that really felt comfortable. I stopped focusing on what my feet were doing, and all of a sudden I was flying across the room. Everything was a breathless, beautiful blur. It was as though a door had opened somewhere inside me and my joyful soul had soared through it and up to the stars. I have had many other dances since that made me feel that way. When I'm able to move beyond the technicalities of the dance, I get the chance to feel something that transcends physical movement and to connect with my partner in a fun (and sometimes even intense) way.

When it comes to social dancing, having a great dance isn't necessarily about knowing the right steps. The beauty of social dance is that it isn't a choreographed performance—it's a conversation between two dance partners. The steps are the vocabulary, yes, but what's really going on is the give and take between two connected bodies. The lead (traditionally the man) initiates a movement, and the follow (traditionally the woman) responds. In order for me to have a really special dance, I need to have a good connection to the lead. We need to have a good frame so I can feel his movements, he needs to give me clear cues through his body language, and I need to trust him implicitly and be willing to follow wherever he takes us, even if I don't know the precise steps to the moves he's leading. I have to stop looking at my feet and instead follow the movement of my partner's body. If he's a good lead, he will be able to move me from my center and my feet will intuitively keep up. When a dance really clicks, I don't have to think about what I'm doing. Sure, I might stumble a time or two, but I will dance on.

Sometimes my life feels like a dance. God is my invisible partner, spinning and twirling me through all the pleasures and challenges of my life. When my connection to God is good, He can move me effortlessly through any obstacle and I dance right on through, often unaware of the subtle hand that guides me. When my dance frame collapses, I start to miss steps and sometimes the dance briefly falls apart. God is a patient dance partner, however, and He inevitably helps me get back into step. As long as I trust God, it doesn't matter if I miss a step or two because He'll still keep me going in the right direction. It's kind of a relief, really, knowing that I'm not solely responsible for making it a good dance. I don't have to learn a bunch of fancy footwork and be some kind of overachiever to have a meaningful experience. All I have to do is be myself and focus on being a responsive partner, and God will give me the dance of a lifetime.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The New Dawn

We all  have bad days. Sometimes when everything has gone wrong, we feel lucky just to make it to the end of the day. We're ready for the day to be over so that we can start fresh tomorrow with new hopes for better things. Occasionally, we even have bad weeks (or even bad months or years). During those trying times, we look for ways to free ourselves from the problems that tie us down so that we can start fresh. We have sayings to encourage ourselves like, "Tomorrow is another day," or "The night is always darkest just before the dawn." We visualize the new day coming to bring us renewed hope.

The prophet Jeremiah was in the midst of a dark and difficult season in his life when he wrote the book of Lamentations. Things were not going at all well for him personally or for his society in general. In the midst of his woe, Jeremiah wrote, "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:21–23) In the midst of his suffering, Jeremiah was looking for the new dawn because he trusted in God's mercy. He knew that God makes everything new, so it was only a matter time before he would be given a fresh start. God could free Jeremiah and all the people from the sins and suffering that oppressed them.

God's mercies are new every morning. That means that when I go to sleep feeling sad, angry, frustrated, or exhausted, I have a chance to be restored so that I can greet the new day full of hope, joy, and positive energy. The sun comes up every morning to remind us that God is constantly reviving our tired spirits and sending down blessings to help us persevere. No matter how bad things get for us, we can look for the new dawn and know that someday God will give us the chance to start anew.

Sometimes going to sleep and waking up the next day doesn't really make a discernible difference in the state of my life. Problems that existed when I went to sleep haven't necessarily evaporated overnight. Yet, the perception of the new day can make all the difference in the way I handle challenges. Last night I was weary and worn down, feeling unable to do anything about my problems. This morning, however, I feel fresh and energized and ready to make a dent in the pile of work ahead of me. The new dawn has given me a chance to pick up where I left off but with a renewed sense of hope and purpose. Yesterday I had a bad time and my problems wore me down, but today is a new day. Those problems may still be here, but I might come out on top today. God has given me another chance to get things done, and that's a wonderful thing.

Monday, March 1, 2010


I am writing this having just returned home from meeting an old friend for some drinks. This friend and I have been going through a bit of a rough patch lately. We haven't seen each other very much and our communication has been rather awkward. I was starting to wonder if our relationship was circling the drain. The whole situation was difficult and frustrating for me and I sometimes felt that the friendship might be over. But I decided it wasn't fair to cut and run without trying to talk things out first, so I called and asked this friend out for drinks. And now, a few hours later, the dynamic of our relationship is quite different.

Hope changes everything. I took what little hope I had left for our friendship into the conversation and laid it out on the table. We realized that we do have a special relationship, and even though things have been pretty dry recently, we have reason to hope that our friendship can and will blossom again. When each of us expressed our hope for our friendship, that hope turned into commitment and dedication. We have a future together now because our hope convinces us to believe that future is possible. Even though things have gotten messy, there's no reason why we can't move forward and be good friends again.

Moments like this remind me of why God's plan to redeem humankind isn't so crazy after all. If two friends can sit down together and decide that there's hope for reconciliation, suddenly there's a whole world of possibility before them that can blossom into a happy and fruitful future. Now imagine what can happen if one of those friends is God. As long as I maintain a single spark of hope for my relationship with God, there is no limit to the future of that relationship. God can do all things, and all He needs is my hope to serve as a conduit for His boundless love. God is right to hope for reconciliation with us, because He knows He has the power to make it possible. All we have to do is trust in God's love, and He'll take care of the rest.

As my friend and I talked tonight, I finally remembered why we love each other. Our renewed commitment to that love makes our relationship strong again, even in the midst of the hardships we've been through lately. We both have hope now that we can have a stronger relationship and be blessings in each other's lives. The beauty of our hope is that it will make the things we hope for possible. We have a future as friends because we dare to believe in it and we strive to reach for it. Love is the most powerful force in the world, so it's worth investing hope in.
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