Thoughts From The Back Seat

Okay. So I’m not so proud of this one. But I will say it just helps because in a sense it puts all of my notes-to-self for the past few days together… and apparently, there’s a common point to be had in it all. -JB

Updated 092018 -JB

*****

Today, I am reminded of a perspective on life which encouraged at least one other person on this planet:

Instead of living each day as if it was your last day on earth, why don’t we live as if it was the first day of our life?

Every day we open our eyes and wake up in the morning is a blessing in itself. These are the first seconds, the first moments of another day full of possibilities, opportunities, and adventure.

And in the light of this, while we certainly ought to appreciate each other more, we  would probably do so in a greater way if we interacted with others – NOT as if it was the last day we would be seeing them, but if we saw them in the light of who Christ is and what He did for them, and for all of us.

This means that we appreciate people, not from the fear of not knowing when we would see them again, but from the overflow of the unconditional love that God has for each and every one of us through Jesus Christ. It’s only through this foundation that we are able to see people truly; That is, to see them beyond their past faults and their present performance. We see them from a perspective of peace, and at the same time a powerful excitement about how Christ raised them up as new, righteous creations, one with Christ and forever reconciled to God.

 


 

My time here in the USA for this year 2018 has had me sitting down in the very back of the SUV of my brother on either side of the country. Mom always sits in the middle, acting Grandma-in-charge of child entertainment/maintenance. Side note: This opens up a new perspective as to how much I respect my mom, for her patience in dealing with these rowdy, rowdy kids, in the sense that she was as patient in dealing with her own rowdy, rowdy kids.

Now regardless of if it’s eerily quiet in the car, or if all hell breaks loose in the middle row, there is something about where I’m seated that does spur up thought and encourages reflection.

Here on the east coast, it’s all about my brother’s daughters. The youngest one strictly wants mommy only. Mommy is the end-all even if Grandma or Daddy try to calm her down. The second girl is starting to get an idea of what she wants and asserts that she wants only what she wants, quick to question her parents when they refuse, even quicker to react with higher volume.

This is the same thing over on the other side of the country, only I don’t deal with nieces, but nephews.

My initial response to this was to react with anger. These kids. Only thinking about themselves. So inconsiderate. Then, by God’s sweet grace, I am brought to the understanding that they don’t act the way they do with full awareness and intention. It’s that they don’t know any better.

And this is by no means a high-horse commentary on my good brothers and their wives. I won’t place the blame on the parents. They don’t know any better – or, rather, they’re doing what they can to the best of their knowledge.

I’m obviously in no place to make any sort of commentary. I don’t know any better. But am I just going to leave it at that? I’m not to berate them. Or myself.

The best way I know to influence at this time is to just trust. I don’t discourage doubt more than promoting trust. If we see each other with at least that small slice of trust and understanding that we are taken care of, regardless of if it’s how we expect or not, with the best of each other’s abilities, that sets us free from so much tension coming from distrust.

 


 

Of course, this would bring me back to how much I miss my late father. For 99% of the time I had with him, I feared him, all coming from the fact that I just don’t trust him. Now that I understand that he did everything he did for me, mom, and my brothers and my family, it just breaks any doubt that he loved us the best he could.

All the times he raised his voice against us were definitely a reaction to our own flaws and shortcomings, but the way he responded was the best way he knew how to handle it, for our sake. All the times he dragged me out of bed or out of the video game trance to do something else, he wasn’t doing it just to get at me and to piss me off, more than to make me a productive person. Today, I’m a stickler for efficiency and effectiveness because, in his own unique ways, my dad was teaching me by being the dad he was.

My brother beside me, sitting down and going through documents of his own right now, while we wait for his car to get fixed? I used to look at him from a position of pride, so condescending. Now, I respect him because what I thought were attacks from him to bring me down, are his ways of showing brotherly love to me. He’s like my mom; giving straight-up feedback which no one else would give.

It all starts with our families, and no doubt we get enough practice with each other!

 


 

The truth I’m finding out is that we see each other in the body of Christ the same way we see how our God is to us. The level of how we doubt authority/each other is the level of how we doubt God.

And before I have y’all thinking about the flaws in your relationship and introspecting and placing too much attention on your shortcomings and ultimately your performance, I’m going to stop you right there and have you take a step back.

Yesterday we went to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens. On our way there, my niece was being absolutely unreasonable, throwing a tantrum because she wanted to go to a particular playground in a particular mall, no alternatives, and right NOW. My normally entertaining and jolly brother had to pull out the big guns – not necessarily by raising his voice but by threatening my niece that if she whines just one more time they were never going to that particular playground in that particular mall, ever again.

Needless to say, there was tension, in spite of our efforts as Uncle and Grandma to calm her down and raise the overall mood in the car.

Coming from the Botanical Gardens, well, the whining was still there (it never goes away, apparently), but the thing was, even in the presence of tension, I found myself just rolling along with the words and reactions and interactions in the car… in peace, without any frustration or anxiety.

I raise all this up simply because there was something about being in the Gardens that literally shifted my entire perspective and brought me back to the peace I ought to just live and breathe from.

See, sometimes you just need to be in nature for you to be reminded of the beauty of life beyond the obvious. Something about being with life just gets me appreciating family and relationships. About how it all just comes together. Something about being with life gives life.

 


 

My point in all this is that we, as humans, have the default option to be so introspective and consequently so frustrated with ourselves and the people around us. But praise God, because through Christ we have such a better, life-giving way – simply, to love as we are loved, and to exude peace as Christ Himself is our Peace, so literally alive in us, as we are alive in Him, just overwhelmed, soaking in the Peace that He is, and not merely gives.

Andy Stanley says that there’s been a change in the Golden Rule, or at least in how we see it nowadays. What was ‘do unto others what you would want others to do unto you’ has sadly turned into ‘do unto others what others have done unto you’. We are quick to take out our anger on others when people have been angry at us. We’re quick to hurt people in the same or even exceeding levels that we have been hurt.
While hurt people hurt people, yes, forgiven people forgive people. And in this world, there’s only one Person who walked this world who introduced true and pure forgiveness, love, and mercy and grace, that we would do the same to our friends, family, and especially our enemies – none other than Jesus Christ Himself.

When we understand how we are so loved by God, there’s no stopping our beings from loving others, not exactly in the way that they expect, but definitely in the light of the One who would never leave or forsake us.

When we are questioning ourselves, or others… Let’s take a trip to the back seat and do some thinking, because it’s probably from that safe spot where our perspectives open up to trust God, because where He takes us is always going to be the best for us. And when the car does stop, get out, and smell the roses.

Wherever we are, in transit, starting off, or stopping, Christ has us living, free from fear of dying. 

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