I’ve been thinking about a certain type of people today. Let me see if you recognize them as similar to some of the individuals you have in your life. First, there is the person whom you take a strong disliking to, but later discover that the person you thought they were wasn’t quite capturing their essence. You had to change your view of them based on reality. These make for precarious interactions with a happy ending. I like those. I imagine you do too. But, I’m sorry to say they don’t offer the only ending to the story that begins with you and I not liking someone. Oh, not by a long shot!
There are other people who try our patience and appall our senses with their words and deeds who do not turn out to be someone different the person we calculated them to be upon our first impression. No, they turn out to be exactly who we thought. Sometimes worse. It gives one a knot in the stomach, or the heart, just to see them fall so far short of who we’d like them to be. Oh, it can be agony! I speak as one with experience–too much experience if you ask me.
Now, you may be wondering–as I sometimes do when I can’t get over my disappointment and anger–do I have expectations of people that are just too high? Do I want them only to make me feel comfortable? Do I think people were created only to make me find pleasure in them? I wish I could say that I don’t–that this is in no way typical of me—but to be truthful (both to me and to you) I would have to acknowledge that I do think this way, believe these things. I think it is so ingrained in me that I cannot see it objectively–instead I see it as something else.
Truly, I want it to be something else. I want to blame it on their sin. But, if I was really only guilty of righteous anger wouldn’t I want to lovingly root it out of them rather than pontificating what they were doing wrong? Wouldn’t I have endless patience–a patience that waits on God to do His work, seeing that without it my neighbor is just as much a beggar for holiness as I am? Wouldn’t I…the list could go on and on. Frankly, I get tired of it. It’s almost as frustrating as the list “why can’t she…?” and “how can he…?” In a very real, spiritual sense neither one of them is going anywhere…except around and around the same ground that cannot be changed by human striving alone (even if it is together).
It is ground that shows me my futility. The futility of all things–great and small–that are so far from the beauty and harmony that God meant them to display. But the problem I wrestle with is greater than this outwardly visible depravity. The fullest picture shows more than that. I am trying to wrestle all of these things back into the form of what they should be. I think just by trying, I can accomplish this. All by myself. But my goal is just as futile as what I’m trying to change around me.
I forget that God made me and everything around me to display His love and creative order. We are not to create order and beauty but witness to One that is. I don’t have to be obsessed with whether I or someone else is innately beautiful–my chief concern is whether they are accurately reflecting, as much as is possible for Post-Fall humans, the wonder of God’s character. And to the degree that I’m grieved over their weakness in reflecting Christ, I should not try to fix what’s wrong with the reflectors. Jesus came to do that. But, I often forget that He came to do it a very different way than I would have.
He came to fractured sinners with His love, not analyze how capable they were of loving Him. He came to save men and women who couldn’t save themselves. He came to do a service we could never repay or return ample thanksgiving for. He came with the goal of love…He blows my goals of supposed righteousness and people beautification right out of the water!
He shows me that reflectors only produce the Light of the One they reflect when they have been cleaned by the very light that filters through them. This is a dirty job, and a slow one too. I wouldn’t chose it–I think if I were the Light of the world, I would avoid people-reflectors all together. But, Jesus doesn’t. He has all the time in eternity to make us into the Jesus-exhibitors that He wants us to be. If only I’d learn to be as unhurried about others’ progress as He is. If only I’d see His grace as the the only redeeming element in the story of every man and woman’s return to God–even, (yes, especially) my own.