Each morning of my teen years started the same way. Before the sun rose, I’d pull on boots and trudge out to the barn, bleary-eyed and still in pajamas. Even now, I remember my family’s morning routine. After the animals were fed, I would make my way back into the house. Sitting at his spot in our kitchen, my dad would be eating the exact same breakfast each day while he watched the morning news: always toast, Oreos, chocolate milk, and The Today Show.
Twenty years later, my morning routine continues in much the same manner. Before the sun rises, my daughters and I slip on boots with our pajamas as we make our way to the barn. After packing lunches and in between bus pickups, I steal away ten minutes each morning to catch the news headlines during breakfast.
Keeping my familiar routine feels comfortable, like I’m holding a vigil to the past while quietly slipping into my day.
Even when my kids were little, I held tightly to my morning news. I’d watch while feeding babies or listen while coaxing toddlers. My television friends connected me to the world as they faithfully showed up in my kitchen each morning, keeping me informed and entertained.
Lately, my morning routine feels more like an obligation than a retreat. My television friends still offer news, but it’s too often laced with dissension. I miss the days when we could share news and opinions, offered with an equal measure of respect. The headlines feel more like the stuff of middle school lunchrooms instead of thoughtful conversations.
The harsh words and criticism make me sad. There’s no better word to describe how my soul feels as I watch people tear each other down day after day. Somehow the world seemed nicer when I was little.
We’ve become so divided, we can’t find our way back to center.
I wish we could blame the hateful words and harsh tones on “mean” people, but sadly the same attitudes have crept into our churches and homes. We’ve bought into the lie that there’s only one way to be, and people are either with us or against us.
In the midst of our fight to speak the truth and make disciples for Jesus, we’ve lost our way. Dear friends, sometimes we try too hard to defend our faith as if our words and actions alone can save a single soul. We’ve become so serious about the honor of our message that we neglect the people to whom we deliver our words.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.
Ephesians 4:15 (ESV)
The trap of being “right” is so alluring. We want to be good Christians — always speaking the truth and loving people without being too gracious, as if too much love could negate the value of God’s truth.
What would happen if we cared less about what the person in the next pew was thinking and more about what Jesus desires for our lives?
If Jesus was here with us, how would He respond to our everyday life, the people we encounter, and the latest viral post? In my heart, I believe He’d be the first to defend the misunderstood and to call out those feeding dissension. He’d be less committed to a party or denomination and more connected to the neighbor down the street. Jesus did the absolute best, regardless of what was best for Him.
The Apostle Paul calls us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV).
In the middle of our very messy faith, we must leave room for the messy faith of others. The closer I get to Jesus, the less certain I feel about the ideals I once held firm. He challenges me to expand my view of His greatness and love, to see the world through compassion.
The way we live, the words we say, and the grace we give are the ways this world sees Jesus. When we shout our beliefs and degrade our neighbors, the power of our message diminishes. The more I learn about Jesus, the less I really know. His love for people is unimaginably greater than I could ever fathom.
Dear Father, please don’t let my lack of understanding keep a single soul from knowing you.
There is no one whom Jesus will not welcome into His kingdom. No matter how right we think we are or how well we perform, only He can save us. The greatest gift we can offer this world is to give ourselves away, to lay aside our correctness in favor of showing people what it means to be loved.
Sit, listen, and allow space to disagree. The sacred gift of civility offers space for your soul to breathe and your faith to grow. Truth in love overcomes fear and brings us closer to each other and to Jesus.