Over coffee this morning, we were discussing recent conversations with loved ones about how to interact with our culture. Early on in our relationship, we naturally gravitated towards view life in an an upside down matter. There is so much that is natural in the way in which the world does things, that just seems to go against how we want to live our lives.
The world is highly competitive…
The world is highly greedy…
The world is highly materialistic…
The world is highly unapologetic…
This list could go on and on…
and the reality is… interacting with people and situations that come on strong with a worldly position is straight up exhausting. Each of us have to deal with our own brokenness on a daily basis as it is… when you add to it the necessity to help loved ones not respond to the world by the worlds standards, a great deal of energy is exhausted… but for the long view of the matter, one must keep the faith and the hope that the future can and will be better than today. We were recently married, and kept the ceremony details off the grid. Originally, we were looking at a date in September for several reasons.
First, the idea of a fall wedding was captivating… and second, it was going to allow the kids what we felt would be ample time to adjust to the idea of a blended family. For the most part, almost immediately after letting the kids know that there would be an 8 to 9 months wait produced a blank look in their eyes that read, ‘that is a really long time.’ And third, certain antagonists in our life had already begun a conditioning process of mocking the whole idea in the minds and hearts of the kiddos.
Gleaning from the experience that we saw the children endure after our engagement, and after consideration of pros and cons, one of which being that the beginning of a school year was not the best time for a major transition of home life, and to save the kids from the emotional and mental games that they would be subjected to as the September date drew near, we began looking for closer dates. Coordinating the schedules of 9 people in one home over summer vacation proved daunting. Several dates on the calendar were chosen, and one by one they were whittled down due to conflicting schedules. We finally realized that if we waited for everyone’s schedule to be perfect, it would never happen.
So, we picked a date that we had made arrangements to have all the kids, a pastor, parents (one set through Skype), and couple witnesses present for our simple ceremony.
The day after the ceremony, one person who was clearly not happy with the marriage saw the ring, and said something to the effect of, ‘well, I guess congratulations are in order.’ I simply nodded and replied with, ‘mmhmm.’ In the back of my mind, I had the Scripture of Jesus saying, ‘Let your yes be yes, and your no be no… anything else is from the devil.’ I thought… if you are happy for us, just say it… if you are not happy for us… just say it… But don’t choose the passive aggressive position of the devil and sarcasm.
Over the past year, we have witnessed the old ‘wolf in sheeps clothing’ over and over again, as we have dealt with the full spectrum between the ‘well intentioned’ and the ‘perpetual victims’ of this life do everything within their power to see to it that we pay for our sins. Often times, we’ve considered that if 1000 actions were taken by us in one day… and only one of them fell short of the perfect mark, then that one mistake would be drawn out… magnified… and placed on the straw man that is being constructed for scrutiny.
It’s amazing to me that as we continue to build a quiet life in our little corner of the world, that so much energy is placed by others on our backs as the scapegoats for all of the sins that they choose not to accept as their own. We have had to learn to intentionally respond to the attacks, whether it appears as ‘righteous’ bullying on Facebook, secrets, conditioning of loved ones, being labeled as monsters to young children or the justice system, or… etc…
There are three ways in which we have grown to deal with the narcissistic ‘victims’ in our life. I wish that we could say that we have executed this Upside Down Kingdom response to antagonists perfectly… but we haven’t… I’d like to say that we have remained humble, and desire to live the Jesus way more fully every day. We are both fairly passive people… well conditioned by our former lives to do whatever it took to simply ‘keep the peace.’ We know well what it means to choose ‘flight’ when conflict arises. To simply submit, withdrawal, and surrender in the hopes that everything will just blow over and the waters of tension will settle down again to a quiet place. It’s safe to say that this is the natural response for us, and it could be argued that this part of us is simply just ‘who we are.’ But that is not good enough for a relationship to work, and is probably the biggest sin we have committed in past relationships. It didn’t do anyone any favors for us simply to withdrawal. This is something that we work on continually.
However… every so often… we were able to identify well with the ‘fight’ in us. Now, because the passive ‘flight’ instinct was so natural, the ‘fight’ would come out either in excess, or in perceived excess when experienced by someone who was just used to us bowing down and falling back into line. It’s when misunderstanding and tension would meet its highest point… and the tension of a simple resolution of conflict would be passed by the wayside because we were just operating in extremes. Revenge, revolt, aggression, and retaliation are sins we are not proud of at all… but at the time, it was all we knew… and in many ways… all that we received. Not something we are proud of… but it is our piece of the dissolution of previous relationships that we need to own… and we do.
This acknowledgement of our own sins here has been the starting point of our salvation as we move forward in life.
So… what does the third choice between ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ look like as we build our own life together, and continue to deal with the anger/hurt of others from our past? I always tell my children to look for the ‘third way’ in any situation that they face, but especially when they are faced with conflict. One phrase that is spoken regularly in our home now is that there is always… ‘a third way.’ You just need to pause enough in the heat of a moment to find it. Well… how does one do this in a practical way? Truth is… our eyes must always be gazing to and for the third way…
- Our intention cannot be to necessarily win at any cost, but rather to seize the moral initiative.
- Our intention cannot be to hit first and strike hard, but rather to find a creative alternative to violence.
- Our intention cannot be to meet force with ridicule of the other person, but rather to find the humor in the situation.
- Our intention cannot be to perpetuate the cycle of humiliation, but rather to restore dignity to all of the individuals involved.
- Our intention cannot be to submit or accept the inferior position, regardless of the sin committed, but rather to seek a middle ground of understanding.
- Our intention cannot be to trust the power of ‘man’, but rather to be willing to expose the injustice of a broken system.
- Our intention cannot be to stand idle while others take control of the narrative, but rather to take control of the power dynamic.
- Our intention cannot be to magnify the other persons sins for the whole world to see, but rather to shame the oppressor into a position where they can repent of their own sins.
- Our intention cannot be to continue to fall back into a place of weakness and silence, but rather to stand our grown and allow our voice to be heard.
- Our intention cannot always be to show all of our cards all of the time, but rather to make the oppressive powers make decisions for which they are not prepared.
- Our intention cannot be to see ourselves as silent victims in the ‘game, but rather to recognized that we have a God given power as His child.
- Our intention cannot be to fight fire with fire, but rather be willing to suffer rather than retaliate.
- Our intention cannot be to allow the oppressor to continue to build their strawman of us us, but rather to force them to see us in a new light.
- Our intention cannot be to allow the oppressor to say how and where the battle will be fought, but rather to create arenas where a show of force is ineffective.
- Our intention cannot be to blindly acknowledge the positional authority of people in power as true, but rather to be willing to bring to light the fact that moral authority is the desire of our hearts for the long run.
- Our intention cannot be to live the the rules and orders of the past, but rather to acknowledge with word and deed that they have no power here and be gone.
These intentions will undoubtedly make your oppressors upset… and that is why it is important to mention the most important ingredient of living this upside down, third way, Kingdom Life of Jesus… it is love.
If you cannot live out these intentions with love in your heart, then the truth of the matter is that you will run the risk of becoming the monster you are trying to destroy, as you take your fight to it. And that my friend… is exactly what the world is bringing to you.
You are worthy of dignity… and so are they.
Let those with ears to hear… hear.
For everyone else, like Keith Green once said, ‘Going to church don’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald’s don’t make you a cheeseburger.’