“Just give me the facts.” We men say it all the time. But sometimes our biggest problems stem from not accepting the facts. From deceiving ourselves and believing something other than the truth. This is particularly true of optimists like me. I’ll tell myself all kinds of lies to keep hope alive . . . to see a pony in the pile, to think a particular problem can be solved. Here’s a painful principle . . .
A problem without a solution is a fact.
To illustrate. Suppose I decide my problem is that I can’t dunk a basketball. Now I’m about 5 feet 10 inches, and I can’t jump. At all. I can lose weight, work out, hire a personal trainer who works with the ‘vertically challenged,’ practice jumping 8 hours a day, whatever. But this side of heaven, I’ll never dunk a basketball. There is no solution to this problem. So failing to dunk a basketball is no longer a problem, it’s a fact. I cannot dunk. Period.
Think about how much time and effort we spend on unsolvable problems. To call it a fact seems so final. So hopeless. The ‘cold hard facts.’ But wouldn’t it be smarter to accept the facts and then live in light of the facts?
Okay, that’s the post.
So what’s bothering you these days? Are you stuck, trying to solve a problem that has no solution? Will you accept the facts and set yourself free?
God is with you. He might not take away the problem, but He’ll help you deal with it. He won’t change the facts, but He’ll be with you as you live in light of the facts, no matter how hard they are to accept.
I’m not a ‘fantasy’ guy. Never finished a Harry Potter book . . . never read or saw The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But when Reggie Joiner explained the connection between imagination and empathy, he got my attention. He said, “Encouraging imaginative thinking in your kids can help them be more empathetic when they grow up.”
Last Saturday, my church held the Commencement Retreat for their most recent round of men’s mentoring groups. One of the guys shared about how God had changed him through the 10 months of mentoring. The stories he told resonated with me and everybody there. Here’s one . . .
“I’m about to exit the interstate when this car cuts me off . . . like cuts right in front of me. Before this mentoring season, I would have gotten really angry, maybe screamed some words, honked the horn or flashed a gesture if you know what I mean. But instead, I imagined the driver to be a single mother with her two kids in the back seat, running late to a job interview because her babysitter didn’t show. This interview means everything to her and her family. Instead of pitching a fit, I prayed for the driver, whoever it is, to be safe and successful with wherever they’re going.”
Not too long ago, I listened to a speaker tell about being in the car with some of his mentees when they came upon a police officer directing traffic. The guy had a scowl on his face and seemed just plain mean to everyone. One of his guys said, “Man, is he ever having a bad day . . . hope my wife never runs across him.” The mentor said “Oh, I know that guy. He lost his wife to cancer a few months ago. His daughter is really struggling with accepting the loss of her mother and has turned to drugs and drinking to hide her pain. The cop asked for a leave of absence but his boss told him to “get over it” and made him come back to work. Because of his personal anger and instability, his boss took him off regular patrol and relegated him to directing traffic, adding insult to injury.” “Is that really true?” asked the mentee. “No, I totally made it up. But it might be true. We’re called to love him, right?”
I’m most peaceful when I believe the best about people, especially when they haven’t given me reason not to. But that’s kind of ‘general.’ When I interact with someone personally and pause my thoughts and feelings so I can pay attention to their thoughts and feelings, I’m forced to imagine what they’re facing, the environment they’re living in, the dynamics of their relationships and how they really feel in that moment. Imagining can give us a head start on empathy, realizing we must stay in conversation and truly listen to learn what someone else is facing.
I’m reminded of Scripture’s challenge to husbands in 1 Peter 3:7, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect . . .” This is important here because I think it’s safe to say God would have us treat everyone in this way. Other versions translate “be considerate” as “give honor to” or “live in an understanding way” or (and I especially like this one) “dwell with them according to knowledge.” Listening is loving. We learn by listening and learning allows us to love better.
Taking the time to empathize and imagine another person’s ‘world’ is the first step toward showing them the love of Jesus and building a stronger relationship.
On the first day, God created the dog and said: “Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of twenty years.”
The dog said: “That’s a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I’ll give you back the other ten?”
So God agreed.
On the second day, God created the monkey and said: “Entertain people, Do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I’ll give you a twenty-year life span.”
The monkey said: “Monkey tricks for twenty years? That’s a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like the dog did?”
And God agreed.
On the third day, God created the cow and said: “You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves, and give milk to support the farmer’s family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years.”
The cow said: “That’s kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I’ll give back the other forty?”
And God agreed again.
On the fourth day, God created man and said: “Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I’ll give you twenty years.” But man said: “Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?”
“Okay,” said God, “You asked for it.”
So that is why the first twenty years we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves. For the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family. For the next ten years, we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last ten years, we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.