Monday, April 23, 2012

The List

Let me be honest about something here. I'm not always a very nice person. I sometimes have a really, really lousy attitude toward others. No, I mean really lousy. I make snap judgments, consider myself better than I ought. Some girls are raised to think beauty counts, and spend a huge amount of time working at such things. Some boys are raised to think that looks matter too, and spend more time in bathrooms with more products than I have in my whole house. 

But those boys and girls weren't raised by my parents. My parents had certain criteria, kind of like a list hanging on the refrigerator to remind us what really counts in life. They never hung such a list, though myriad other lists made it under those refrigerator magnets--shopping lists, chore lists, birthday lists, school supply lists...oh, the list is endless, really. But the list of what my parents drilled into us about what our priorities should be--we had no written list for that. It was written in our blood. Our blood lines, perhaps.

1. Intelligence. Brains. Academia. Education. Whatever you want to call it. This was paramount to my parents. I remember exactly one conversation with my parents about whether I would go to college. It took place when I was about ten years old. We were driving between one set of grandparents' house in Longview, Washington up the freeway to Seattle to the other set of grandparents' house--while my siblings were sleeping in the back of the car. The conversation went like this, "Of course you'll go to college. All of our children will go to college. And you'll marry someone who's gone to college too." The end. That's called bloodlines, folks. With both grandfathers and a father college professors (not to mention a couple of great-grandfathers as well), it was the expected this. The only expected thing.  My parents were snobs when it came to this.  AND they raised me to be a snob as well. They did. And it took. Sadly, it took. It's one of my chief flaws. This long triangular nose of mine is mighty good for looking down at those who are less educated or smart or cerebral or...whatever it is that all that training tells my flesh they should be. And I grade others in a split second. Honestly. Dang it.
2. Punctuality. This may seem like a strange second thing to put on this list, but in my parents' eyes, it counted. If they told us to be home at 6, they meant 6--or better yet, 5:55. There was no hedge in my family. No 'ish'--as in, "come about 7-ish". That 'ish' just wouldn't cut it with Mom, especially. She planned dinner for 6 PM every single night. EVERY NIGHT. No 'ish' involved. And if she invited someone over (which happened like once every blue moon), she didn't leave space for small talk and appetizers, because she had a schedule. The food would be ready when she said they were to be there. THE END.  This was so drilled into me that when I married into Beve's family, it was the ultimate shock to my system to discover that they were all about 'ish'. Every blasted meal, every single event was fluid. People showed up whenever they showed up, it seemed. Sometimes 3 hours late. THREE HOURS LATE???? I just about had a panic attack that first Thanksgiving, and I was just a guest. But it felt unbelievably rude that anyone would be so late, without cause. And Beve? He was never close to that late, but he tends to run later than me. And it's been a source of irritation for as long as we both have lived...I'm still grading him about that one, too.
3. Confrontation. In my family it was absolutely NOT okay--EVER--to talk back to our parents. Or to slam doors, go off and sulk, say mean things, be disrespectful, impolite, etc. The list here is long. I suppose it all could be summed up in respecting our elders. And it was iron-clad. I'm telling you there was not a chance on this green earth that I would have yelled at, or talked back to my mother or father when I was growing up. No way, no how. No matter what I felt inside, no matter how wrong or unjust or whatever I thought them. It just wasn't my place. They were the parents, the authority and that was that. And I fully believed that they were right in demanding this of me. In fact, I believed it so much that I remember being at a friend's house once when she was yelling at her mother--I was both embarrassed to be there, and angry that my friend would disrespect her mother that way. 

These three things have unequal values, perhaps, but they have governed the way I've raised my own kids to a large extent--kids who also believe in intelligence, who know what I mean when I say 4PM, and who knew better than to slam a door in our home.  

The thing is, God has a list too. But it's a different list than these things that have been ingrained in me.  God's list doesn't have punctuality on it. Even writing that sentence makes me realize how silly it is that I get so 'hepped up' about it (as my mother used to call getting upset, when she was referencing her Kansas farm grandmother). What does the God who is outside of time care if we're 15 minutes late to something? And intellect isn't on His list either. Wisdom is, but that's a completely different thing.  Intelligence is a gift. Education can be attained, but wisdom--that's His.  Given by and sanctified by Him.

Respect--that is on His list. Honoring one's parents? Definitely on the list. But not the way my parents had it. In God's Kingdom the economy is based on a relationship of grace not of fear.  Not of, "You better stay in line."

So which 'list' am I talking about? There are so many lists in scripture to choose from. There's the 10 commandment list, but that's so crowded with what we shouldn't do that it's not very life-giving--though still, always at the core, certainly. Then there's the list in Galatians 5: 22-23, where Paul speaks of the fruit of the Spirit-- "which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
Or Philippians 4:8-9  "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace with be with you."

It's through these lenses that I should judge those around me--I think they'd be called Kingdom-colored lenses, don't you? How could I judge harshly if I really judged through the lens of what is pure, right and praiseworthy?  Or full of love, joy, peace and patience? 

I have such a long, long ways to go...

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