Our Responsibility = No Pain

Recently I was talking to a friend of mine about how gut wrenching it was to have a difficult conversation, and I related how difficult it was to cause them pain. In an attempt to comfort me they said they had 3 questions they ask themselves before doing something that could hurt someone. Their first question was if it was necessary. Their second question was about the origin of my motivation. Their final question was if I had prayed about it first.

I found this very reassuring because I had the right answer to each. A problem had risen to the point that it was consuming too much of my time, making my life harder than necessary and creating a desire in me that I knew to not be holy or wise. As we continued to talk he noted that more and more he is hearing that people just don’t care about causing undue pain, they were always concerned with what was in their own interest, not in the other person, or even caring what the consequences might be.

One of my goals in life has been to not bring undue harm to any other being. This is a very delicate topic, especially when one considers the fact that I am a proud hunter and fisherman. When I was being taught to hunt there were two things made very clear by the man and his sons that took me hunting in college. The rules at the ranch were very clear, “You will eat anything that you kill”, and “If you shoot, you aim to kilI”. It was often explained that animals can feel pain but aren’t able to comprehend the reason. For this reason it is of the highest importance to make their suffering as short as possible.

After these lessons I was given a gun, showed how to handle it safely, how to shoot, and finally what it meant to take a life. I had spent weeks going to the ranch firing and missing, and being frustrated when others got birds and I did not, and then having to do the cleaning(as a right of passage). Finally I got my first kill, I had an immediate rush of excitement followed immediately with regret. As I walked up to the wounded animal, I started to cry and understood perfectly what I had to do next and why. I had to end its suffering, I wanted to take back the shot, undo the damage and pain and suffering but I could not. The only other way to end the suffering was kill the bird and I did so. When I did I felt weirdly guilty and proud, proud that I knew that I could be self reliant but guilty about taking a life. As time has passed and I have continued to hunt I have held the ideal of not causing undue harm in high regard.

As my father had always told me, everyone who wants a gun should be made to go hunting until they kill something. It is the only way to gain a true understanding of what it means to hurt something, to kill something, and why life has such sanctity and needs to be treated with great respect. I learned on that day why. As I have continued through life I have come across those that enjoy spreading pain, and wonder what happened that made them so miserable that they felt they need to share it by causing more.

In the same way I will not cause pain without
allowing something new to be born,” says the Lord.
Isaiah 66:9

God often causes pain, but only when necessary as is shown all throughout the old and new testament, when people had gone too far astray from his plan for them. In my recent studies it has been made apparent that so often when we wonder the why for all the hurt in the world we have no further to look than our culture, and at times myself, as I often see the ripple that my mistakes have created.

“‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do.
Let both grow together until the harvest.
Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds,
tie them into bundles, and burn them – Matthew 13:29-30

Some wonder why God does not simply step in and remove the “weeds” from our lives. But what if he did? How sure are you that you are producing spiritual fruit, and not like the weeds that are false wheat? Simply because those who may seem like weeds may eventually grow to bear fruit and it is not our place to judge them as they are on a different path from us.

As I personally want to be considered to be the wheat I choose to follow the ideal of not causing undue pain, because while undue pain is worthless pain still has its place. Pain stimulates us to change in large and small ways, making it a sad but necessary fact in all our lives. But it always sucks to be the person that brings that pain on to another, and rightly it should. All I can do day in and day out is my best to make sure that I have to a infrequently as possible by learning from when I have created pain.

Praying for My “Enemies”

Recently a friend, in her blog, described a reaction to someone being honest and open about who they used to be. Who they were fell into a category of people that she had “hated”, or thought that she would until now. She was perplexed at the paradox of caring for someone who she knew she should hate given what they had done.

For the wages of sin is death,
but the gift of God is Eternal Life
in Christ Jesus our Lord – Rom 6:23

She came to acceptance by recognizing that God sees all sin as equal, big or little. That God’s grace is unending, all covering, and all forgiving. I commend her for taking the time to struggle with it, because sadly in today’s world so many would rather choose to either; be lazy and hate, or reject the person and continue to hate.

 You have heard that it was said,
‘Love your neighbor. Hate your enemy.’
But here is what I tell you.
Love your enemies.
Pray for those who hurt you.
Matthew 5:43-44

What came to mind was the idea of hate; I have often struggled with it myself. God calls us to love our enemy, when we hate we lose perspective, we forget to love and show compassion.

I know that when I was younger I always pictured my “enemies” as the worst, most vile, evil people imaginable. My “enemy”, my “arch rival”, the “terrorist”. People that are (hopefully) far and away plotting our ruin and demise. I want to make them to be so much worse than they are so that I can hate them and see them as less than a person.

But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness.
They walk around in the darkness.
They don’t know where they are going.
The darkness has made them blind. – 1 John 2:11

To flip the table, how does your enemy see you? Do they EVEN know that they are your enemy? Do they REALLY seek your demise? Your downfall? Your next failure? For the most part (hopefully) the answer is no. Hate is blind, it is not of the Lord and it brings so much more pain where love and healing could be.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
And he said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 1
This is the great and first commandment.
And a second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ 2.
Matthew 22:36-39

Have you ever met a “criminal”? Someone who made a mistake, and got caught? Had things been slightly different could you be a “criminal” now? As is very often the case for people who commit crimes, be they small and petty or large and “unforgivable”, the person who committed them is still a person. A person that may wake up hating who they are, what they have done, who they have become, and who often feels trapped because they are in a life without God. Would their life be better with more love, patience, understanding, acceptance? Whose would NOT?!? These people are broken, in the most need of God’s Grace, His Love, His Understanding, and His Acceptance. So often they continue to spread their brokenness until an outside force causes them to stop.

A person’s wisdom yields patience; 
it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. – Prov 19:11 

THIS is what God calls us to do, Love. Love by showing patience, by showing understanding, and by giving acceptance. How do you Love your enemy? The simplest and easiest answer, PRAY. Pray for them, pray with them, pray for God to use you to show this. Pray for an end to blind hatred. Pray for an end to senseless murder. Pray for those caught in human trafficking, both local and abroad. Pray for the victims, but you also NEED to pray for the perpetrators because they are spreading brokenness. Pray for healing. Pray for truth, understanding and compassion, the ENEMIES of HATE!

~ JPaul

Maturity, What is it?

Maturity, is it always being the “adult”, or is it doing the responsible thing, being accountable, being reliable and trustworthy?

Maturity is something that I have always struggled with, I REALLY enjoy being the center of attention, having the greatest story, doing those things that make me “special and unique”. I have always felt that it makes me, “me”. But occasionally I get frustrated when people mistake that fun loving side of me as being “immature”.

Maturity isn’t always behaving like a stuffy buttoned down adult, which is at its core either a very repressed (and in my opinion) a very unhealthy way to live. Maturity by its very definition is to come of age, or reach completeness. I am not, nor will I ever be “complete”.

I struggle with the fact that people have a hard time looking to me as an example because so very often I do my best to show the happy side of life. I have learned i) that most problems are transient and ii) focusing on the problem and not the solution only will make things worse. I very much dislike, that when I struggle to remember either of those things and let it show all over my life I hide. And when I hide I usually will self destruct. I hate that I have this huge desire to either show up and be happy, or not show up because I don’t want to being people down, or let them in.

I say this coming to the realization that the things that frustrate me the most about being treated as immature, being left out, excluded from serious conversations, and not showing people the problems that I have is my own fault. People are very unlikely to share when they don’t feel that they can identify with you or that you possess that element to your personality.

All of this to say that I if you see me playing a silly childish game, and trying to include you, it is possibly because I am avoiding something really hard to deal with or I want you to take a moment, forget the troubles and problems of the world and laugh with me, even for just a moment.