What we are taught from childhood on is what carves us into the people we are now. Children absorb not only what they are told but also what they see. Their world is their home and family. What happens there sets the path.
Have we been teaching children to think only of themselves?
Have we taught intolerance?
Have we taught hatred?
Have we belittled them?
Or have we taught love?
Education is not just what we learn in school. That is important and the more we learn the more we can understand about the world around us. The more we learn about the lives of others the less likely we are to be intolerant. However, learning in early childhood is crucial.
Every kind of education is necessary to make the world a better place. We must help families to teach their children well. We need to marry what we learn at home with what we learn of the world. The more knowledge the better. Never stop learning.
This morning the pastor at our church said in her sermon…spoken to God….“Let me not confine you in the narrowness of my mind.” This is a very profound statement.
Whatever your belief, if you espouse any God, this tells us where most of us want to be. We want a God who is like us. We want to create God in our image instead of the other way around. We want a God who thinks like us. We want a manageable God.
If God is like us then God has the same bias, the same prejudice and the same belief system. Then it is easy for me to point fingers at others and scoff at their beliefs. It allows me to pick and choose what God thinks. Aren’t I amazing?
This God can occupy a nice closed box in my mind and I will only let out what I deem appropriate. However, God is tricky and sneaks out of the box in and plants ideas that I don’t want to consider. He/she is constantly challenging me and widening my mind, calling me on prejudices and making me rethink my ideas.
It is abundantly clear to me that however much I could live with God in a box that is not going to happen. And in reality it would not be something I want.
I see a God who is infinite and intimate. I see a God whose mind I cannot comprehend. I see a God whose thoughts are so far above mine that the universe can’t contain them. Maybe this is not at all comfortable but this, for me, is God.
“Until you dig deep you only know a small part of the human heart.” Another quote from “Tea Time for the Traditionally Built” By Alexander McCall Smith. His books about Botswana have much wisdom in them.
We can’t know everyone really well. It’s not possible. In most cases we don’t even try to. We only see the outside…the piece that people show to us. Too often we all are wearing masks and don’t want to let anyone in. It is difficult to get beyond the mask. Sometimes we can’t.
Sometimes there are people who drive us crazy…people who get on our last nerve. We can hardly bear to be around them. Then someone tells us that they spend all their time caring for a mother with Alzheimer’s. And lo! we realize that the person who seemed so awful to us was too stressed, anxious and tired to be nice.
We had to dig deep to find out what it is like where the heart lives. We have to be willing to be the caring person. We have to open ourselves to the idea that there may be something in their life to explain how they act.
I have met a lot of people in my life. Some of them I never wanted to see again. I may have been right about some but I also may have been wrong. I didn’t take the time to find out. I hope someone else did.
Today I read my daily meditation from Richard Rohr. In it he said “At their immature levels, religions can be obsessed with the differences that make them better or more right than others.”
I have found this to be true in my own life. As I have said before I was raised Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran and Baptist. It didn’t take me long to decide that since each one was a little different in perspective that none of them could be completely right. I honor that eclectic background as it made me have lots of questions and be open to differing answers.
I hope I don’t offend anyone with this story but it was something that gave me pause as a child.
I attended a Baptist church with my best friend off and on. Each week they had an altar call and people went to the front rail to profess their belief and “be saved.” After a while I noticed that there were some people who went to the rail each week. This raised the question for me “can you be saved more than once and what exactly does it mean?” I must have been about ten or eleven when I was struck by this.
Other incidents in the various churches brought questions to my mind and formed my early theology. It made me very clear on one point. There is a lot more that connects us than divides us. We often make a big fuss about the differences and forget that as we are all Christian we should be united under the same God.
To take this thought one step further in college I had the opportunity to study other religions in depth and I found that some of them accepted the same deep principles that my faith has. Again I was broadened by the idea.
I wish that we could all concentrate on the things that make us alike instead of the things that separate us. I wish that each faith and denomination could see the big picture instead of the tiny details. Our world would be so much better.
This morning the minister in our church began her sermon by saying “truth said in love hurts before it heals.” I agree with this statement but would like to add the word “uncomfortable or painful” before truth. Some truth is good to hear and is uplifting. Sometimes we need to hear things that we didn’t really want to hear. It is important that we hear them but it can really hurt.
In a small example I can remember my younger daughter saying to me “you should change your hairstyle. You are funkier than this…it doesn’t suit you.” Mildly painful to hear but of course it was absolutely true and I did what she said.
There are much more painful examples. I am sure that each of us have some. The truth, if it is said in love, can hurt. It may take time but I do believe that it will finally heal. We must take care with when and how we speak that truth. Sometimes the hearing would be too painful and would destroy a fragile ego. Discerning when to say something is critical. Hopefully only when it will actually help.
Our sense of self can be fragile and those who love us are the ones who mirror our value to us. Therefore it is important t continue to mirror goodness when we can and pain only when necessary.