March 2019 archive

Pt. 2, about controversial things

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So, I just wrote about controversial things, and a friend commented:

Please write more especially on the relation to the overlap of courage, fear, wisdom, and dying to self with that “non-person” phenomenon.

I will explain my own progression in these areas and include insights from my husband that helped me along the way. (It helps me organize by thoughts by numbering ideas, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a distinct progression.)

  1. Logical arguments mean almost nothing…. This lesson took years. I used to participate in a forum that discussed ideas, issues, etc. And the major life lesson I took away from that experience is that truth or rightness of itself doesn’t win people over. Logic has it’s limits. We are not at all solely logical beings. A winsome expression of the truth, a pleasant personality, general respect for others, self-effacement– these are the factors that tend more to win the day. Hopefully they are combined with truth.
  2. “Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
    Bind them around your neck,
    Write them on the tablet of your heart.
    So you will find favor and good repute
    In the sight of God and man.”
  3. Truth somehow becomes untruth if it’s used as a club or means to beat people down– I think because the non-verbal message is untrue to God’s nature.
  4. I went through a number of years when I was in an emotionally hostile environment due to some church issues. My husband, a pastor, became the main pastor of our church in a time of personal and public crisis for others in church leadership.
  5. During this time of hostile environment, I was personally having my most blessed insights about “opinion” matters.” However, sharing this was even openly attacked, so I became basically silent. For the sake of greater issues/hurts in our church and because certain key hearts were closed, I mostly remained silent. For years. My outlet was my former blog.
  6. However, I realized that God didn’t always approve of silence. Silence is comfortable to a point. But God didn’t make us to be creatures of silence, and there were potentially harmful opinions being loudly propagated.
  7. I wasn’t silent all the time. There were moments I could speak appropriately and I used them on rare occasions.
  8. So, I realized that my “opinion” (personal leadings/lessons/insights from God) were to bless others in my influence. That doesn’t mean others will do what I do, but as a person in leadership, I am a unique individual whom God leads in specific ways, and the cumulative effect of that will have a general influence.
  9. One lesson from Vitaliy’s evangelism: Look for open hearts. And be a person around whom hearts can open. Or a person with a skill/knack to opening hearts.
  10. I had to really clarify my opinion to become a more universal truth. I had to not become stuck on certain practices or outward showings of a truth. I had to state the truth. Example: the truth is that you should love your child. –That is a very deep and searching truth. I can’t “preach” the methods of loving because anyone can do a wide variety of actions and have love or indifference. But I can share wisdom insights, some specifics, etc.
  11. Also from Vitaliy: My opinions or ways of doing things have a particular result in my own life because of who I am, my personality, my character, my resources and situation. But just prescribing those opinions/actions to others results in a wide variety of outcomes — because those people are very different from me in a multitude of ways. They will not get the result I get by just copying me.
  12. However, I focused on my example and living out the truth: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Others should be able to look at my life and be able to copy my faith, though the external actions may and will differ.
  13. Pray. It really is the Holy Spirit who changes an opinion, assuming all sides (truths, opinions, info, etc) are known. All I can “do” is not to make my opinion or belief (or the truth itself) malodorous to others by my obnoxiousness, snobbery, self-righteousness, pride, truth-beating, etc. Prayer also changes me and re-aligns me to Jesus as the salvation of mankind, not the “salvific” (surely! right? ) effect of my opinions.
  14. And when the Spirit grants open hearts (and after years, He amazingly did this!) there will be the fruit in others’ lives that God wants. And that’s more important than just winning some type of following.
  15. P.S. I try to re-examine my opinions periodically and ask God if He wants me to change in any of these areas.
  16. There’s something I may be forgetting, but that’s it for now 😉
  17. About the loud people who easily spout their opinions: don’t assume they have an overwhelming influence because they’re loud or because they easily talk about their opinions/beliefs, and because they silence others. God knows how to limit influences. Pray He will do so, and that He will be able to do so in positive ways.
  18. If you have a major opinion/belief conflict with the/a/another leader, tread carefully. Sometimes, for the sake of greater issues of unity, there are reasons God wants us to be OK with not making a big deal out of something. It’s very situational. Like, I would probably never join the church whose pastor actively promotes something I strongly disagree with. I could convince myself, for example, that oh surely people need to hear another opinion, so I should join that church and fulfill that role…. Really? I’m not there to humbly learn, but to teach? …. Now, if it’s something I or that leader gradually grew into our out of, and we’re already both members, I don’t know what I would do. It depends on the culture and situation and God’s leading. I’m not for church-leaving. But God also extremely values overall unity in the church (in the general emphasis of the body’s glorifying Christ).
  19. Also from Vitaliy: If you are truly interested in blessing that Other Person (or group of people), ask God what HE is doing in that other person’s (group’s) life. Then pray to join that work (even if it’s only in prayer). Your Issue #1 might be issue #8 or #22 on God’s priorities for that person.

about controversial things

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My mom is probably cringing.

Honestly, I am cringing, a bit.

Have you ever analyzed your own progression as a person with opinions? I think about this, I guess as I get older and make more defining life/parenting/schooling/health choices, how I hold those opinions begins to define me, maybe more than the opinions themselves. Weirdly. Or maybe it’s the other way around– that how I express my opinions is basically the result of who I am.

But I like to think I’m growing in the first way, that I am growing in maturity, hopefully, in how I express my opinions, and in understanding those who have very deep-seated opposite opinions. I think about who I’m becoming, and so the lines I would allow myself to cross (ex. rudeness) or the barriers of communication that I place around me (ex. not allowing myself to be rude) are a big part of who I am becoming.

I also struggle a lot with just being silent. It’s a really big temptation to become sort of a non-person and just never express an opinion. Silence can be a good thing, like as a pastor’s wife I try very carefully not to state emotionally charged opinions. It’s a weird line– the non-person thing and choosing to subsume things for the gospel’s sake.

Ramble, ramble.

When I was in birth work, this was really, really hard, and it’s been a relief to quit that work because of this. Because I had so many opinions. And opinions are a mix of judgment and conviction, so we have to learn to hold them lightly, yet hold them for ourselves because I think it’s a way God communicates individually with us, if we let Him, and not just follow the crowd for the sake of comfort. It’s one thing to do what “everyone’s” doing because everyone’s doing it. Another thing to do it because you searched out God in that thing. This is why, bizarrely, I think people can come to opposite conclusions and have godly motives.

Also, there are complex ways we receive, filter, and “believe” information which make it impossible for us to agree with one another. So in a big way, there really is just no point in trying to explain. Two people read the same book and have opposite reactions. Two people watch the same movie and have opposite reactions. Two people read the same “facts” or information and have opposite reactions.

So I’m going to talk about health care choices– birth choices, vaccine choices, administering medicines choices. For example [this assumes first-, second- and some third-world countries’ choices] , two people meet a friend whose child was irreversibly brain damaged by a vaccination (true example, I can give you name and number, though they don’t speak English). One friend says, Wow, how rare and unfortunate, but it’s such a small risk, I don’t mind vaccinating my child and all other children. The benefits of vaccines are greater than the risks. The other says, How tragic, I would never put my child or another child in that risk; I would rather risk the small possibility of contracting some usually-not-fatal disease …. Another example, a non-vaccinated family of children contracts whooping cough and has to live through all the stress and fears of that coughing. Some parents look on and say, No way I want that stress. Other parents look on and say, That’s not such a bad experience. (And there are rare children who die of vaccines and rare children who die of a common disease, and we could argue about that on and on, which one is the risk all people should take.)

It’s hard to let people chose their risks. It’s hard to be honest about what the risks really are.

There are times I try to step back and say, God, if I’m wrong about this, please show me…. It’s tricky. For example, the information could be right and applicable in one situation then incorrect and inapplicable in another situation. We don’t know how individual children will react to one thing or another.

Same with birth. So.many.choices.

And the use of medications. So.many.choices.

Even in reading and researching, I try to read all sides. But I also know that I am leaning towards believing my bias–that my tendency is to find an authority who will appealingly and convincingly state my bias.

But in the end, I’m still choosing between risks.

I have found a few things helpful, because when it’s your kids, these things can take on terrifying levels:

  1. My relationship with God makes a difference. But it makes a difference to people in different ways. Here is my way:
  2. God made bodily processes to work. I don’t think they evolved. They were specifically designed and made complex and beautiful. Better left undisturbed. For example, the fever is there for a reason. It has a purpose, though it makes me nervous. My nervousness and concern for the fevered one is there for a purpose. Do I use a fever-reducer so I will feel relieved? Do I see a good reason in the child to use it?
  3. God leads me in patterns in these questions. I have distinct patterns in my life how God leads me in these decisions.I have sat next to a burning child with something to give in hand, asking God what to do. I have gotten distinct answers. I also pay attention for moments when God might break the pattern.
  4. I understand that I am comparatively wealthy, eat a varied diet, have access to reasonable levels of healthcare, clean water, understand microbes and disease transmission, have access to abundant information, etc. These are wonderful blessings God has provided for me throughout life. These factors influence my personal analysis of various risks.
  5. I try to discern types of fear. There is a fear that is God-given and natural. It’s a good thing because of sin. There is fear that is debilitating and driving, that wants to destroy me and others by its demands. It drives me to sacrifice to idols, to bargaining with and trusting in things or people that, in truth, cannot save me. And determining what course of action is needed in any given situation is a sorting out fears, or choosing from the spectrum of risks/fears.
  6. For example, my daughter (6yo) had stomach pain. It didn’t stop. We took her to a pediatrician who said she was constipated. The pain didn’t stop. That night, I just knew, somehow knew instinctively, that I needed to set my alarm to wake up in the night to check that she hadn’t died in her sleep. I never said it aloud, it was just such a deep knowing/assuming. But before we slept, we decided to call the ambulance. As I watched her drive away, I was absolutely sure she would die. (Ended up being a very serious appendectomy, huge infection, etc; she didn’t die).
  7. Consider: A doctor and medical intervention didn’t help us the first time. Where is the line of trusting doctors and trusting God? Are we asking/expecting of doctors/medical care what they are not able to give us? Life and health? Diagnoses? Absence of disease? Relief from pain? Though legally they are considered able and competent to do these things … can they really, if God does not reveal it to them and allow its efficacy in our lives? The fact that there were antibiotics for her peritonitis was wonderful–and that they worked.
  8. We often gain from medical and scientific advances. Yay for antibiotics. Yay for c-sections. Yay for x-rays. Yet they are limited and even harmful in other ways in this sinful world. The things invented to save us also injure us to some extent. I guess that goes back to the personal choices …

I could go on and on. I’m only warming to my topic…. But anyway, those are my current-level-of-maturity ramblings about controversial topics…..