I just want to reiterate my theme song: We are all born different.
I don’t have expertise in much, but personality differences have been my area of specialization since the early 1980’s. I used to be a consultant on their implications for marriage relationships, teaching/learning styles, approaches to spirituality and even management skills.
We are different in both what and how we take in information from the outer world
We are different in how we process what we take in.
We are different in what we value.
So, we are different in how we respond to what we take in.
We are incredibly different in how we communicate.
We are different in how we live in the world……whether goal driven, pleasure driven, influenced by others or our own built in agendas.
We are different in whether we are focused on the present moment, the past or the future.
Words have different meanings and even a totally different impact for each of us.
It is an absolute miracle that any random group of us can agree or act in concert on anything, even in the same family, church, culture or country, never-the-less across cultures, religions, and nationalities.
However, both my studies and experience have shown me that after midlife we have a natural inclination to grow and develop more in the opposite strengths and orientations. So, age may have its perks and probably the greatest of these is a greater potential for peacemaking.
Here is a part of my personal journey that hopefully illustrates this possibility.
In my mid-forties I was accepted into a three year course of preparation for Lay Ministry.
A part of it was taking a battery of tests ranging from IQ to personality tests. Then we were given feedback on areas that might be problematic for ministry.
I was told that I had two areas with a potential for limiting my effectiveness in ministry.
#1. My IQ was high enough that I most likely always assume that I am right in any conflict of opinion. This is a weakness, because no matter how smart anyone is, no one, but God is right all the time. And….(here is the zinger) the most necessary quality for hearing God is humility.
#2. I was over sensitive and thus, easily offended.(My humorous, but pitiful first gut level response to this was, “If you know that, why would you hurt my feelings by telling me?”)
It has been a long and somewhat painful process of integrating these truths into my conscious responses to life.
Several years ago, I got into a conflict with my church’s Minister and the leadership of the church. This culminated with a woman Elder telling me that I was just an unhappy person who was never satisfied with anything. Frustrated, hurt and angry, I left organized religion for about two years. During this period I focused on trying to listen to God and my relationship with God became much closer and more fruitful. This culminated in the realization that I was, in fact by nature, both extremely idealistic and a perfectionist. These traits have a good side; I have been at times a change agent for the better. However, since no person or organization is perfect, they tend to make me critical of pretty much everyone and everything.
The realities and practical limits of an imperfect world filled with imperfect people, including myself, are like a pebble in my shoe. Coming to grips with the reality that in this life, we can only inch toward any ideal, never reach it, is as painful for the idealist as accepting the call to change is for the pragmatist. The ultimate challenge for all of us is becoming free to hear God in each situation. Sometimes God’s choice is a matter of timing, sometimes what seems good, may need to be let go to make way for something better as yet unseen, sometimes more time is needed for grace to change other hearts.
This is my prayer variation: “God, help me to change what you want me to change, to accept what you want me to accept, and to hear which you are calling me to do in each situation.”
Here are the challenges that I am still in the process of learning on how to hear God:
#1. I must let go of the assumption that my way of seeing an issue is the best or God’s way. It might actually be, but I cannot see the whole picture or the long term effects like God can, so I cannot make my opinions into idols.
#2. I must consider the realities or practical limits of the situation and be willing to inch toward or even let go of what I consider the ideal.
#3. I must let God heal the hurt behind the anger that any conflict carries with it, such as feeling unappreciated, rejected, like a failure, or somehow inadequate.
#4. I must trust that God is in every situation and can teach me and others what we need to bring about spiritual growth and good out of what seems so wrong.
#5. It may be necessary for us to take time and space to heal our wounds, but we need to avoid burning bridges. Sin isn’t feeling hurt or angry or even needing time away from a situation.
Sin is refusing to take the time to seek the grace and do the work needed to reconcile, however long that may take.