This piece is the devotion I was privileged to share yesterday at our church staff meeting.
I had a lousy day yesterday…I mean, a REALLY bad day. It ended up OK, but the majority of it was pretty rotten. I don’t need to get into details…but it was one of those days that puts marriages and families on the rocks. I’m thankful that our marriage is built on THE Rock and has the foundation to stand through times like yesterday.
The issue, as a few of you may have gathered from an email you received from me, revolved around the discipline of children—though the issue had not yet come to a head when I sent that email. After all of the dust had pretty much settled from the day, Elicia and I were talking it over and I said, “The thing is, I’ve got to learn not to take it personally when the kids misbehave. It’s not like they’re intentionally out to hurt me. On the other hand, it also speaks well of the depth of love I have for them that they are able to hurt me so deeply.”
It seemed like a good topic to discuss today…not child rearing, per se, but relationships and hurt.
We take a lot of things personally in a context like ours here. The team here at First Assembly is far closer than many other church staffs. We like to think of ourselves here as family, not just coworkers or even friends. This fact alone is one of the biggest reasons I was excited to return to Yankton. But as you all know, in the context of family sometimes you really just want to kill each other. Those of you here who worked in close contact with me while I was a part of the pastoral team here know exactly what I’m talking about…because I’m pretty sure there were times when some of us were ready to throttle each other. But the fact that we’re all still family today speaks of the depth of our love for each other, and of Jesus’ love for us.
A few weeks ago, Pastor Randy put out a piece in the bulletin about using care not to fight in front of your children. It’s great advice, because not only does it create feelings of insecurity in children, but also we often say things in an argument that we maybe don’t mean…or at least that we don’t mean the way they come across. Why is this? Because, our feelings get hurt due to the depth of our relationship and we end up reacting out of those hurt emotions rather than out of our understanding of the other individual. It’s easy to feel abandoned by those you love in those times, but it’s important to remember that the issue would not even exist if the other person didn’t care about you. The opposite of love is not hate and anger; it is indifference. I’ve never been hurt by someone with whom I had no relationship. Sometimes, we have to learn to not take things personally. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” It’s important to understand that this verse isn’t advice to avoid vulnerability at any cost. It’s advice to use a filter…to look deeper…to remember relationship…and to consider intentions.
Rather than putting our guard up against relationship and being defensive, it’s critical that we use what we know about the other party and consider their intentions…because folks’ actions often don’t represent their intent very well. We have to learn to see each other they way that Jesus sees us…which is admittedly easier said than done when someone says something that you find hurtful. I’m thankful that the Lord is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of my heart (Heb 4:12). Not only does this mean that He can see through my façade when I’m being superficial, but it also means that He can see my true good intentions when my actions don’t represent them so well. When conflict arises among people in relationship, it’s important that we step back and ask the Lord to give us some of His insight into their heart. We need to seek to understand their true motives. Guard your heart, because sometimes people are just creeps. But also guard your heart against the temptation to jump to conclusions about those you love—even people in this team here. Sometimes, the best advice is simply, “Don’t take it personally. They didn’t really mean it that way.”