We’re now one week into Lent. I consider myself successful so far. But I can’t get too excited, because Lent isn’t about success or failure. I’ve learned this week that Lent involves a lot of grace. In biblical Greek, the word for grace is ‘Charis” meaning; a gift or blessing; favour, gratitude and thanks.
God has a lot of grace for us, his human creation, but I also believe we have grace for God as well. I offer God grace by giving thanks for all He has done for me and others. I give him my grace because I continue to fail and falter at being all that He has created me to be, yet He still loves and cares for me. His grace is what allows me to offer Him grace.
St. Paul shared this experience with us, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 8-10).
He tells us that His gift to us is His power. We can withstand so much more with God’s divine power. We are wanting, wishing for, and maybe even missing what we’ve given up for Lent. We know that our Lenten sacrifices are temporary, but our other struggles might not be. With God, it’s not a matter of time. Whether the struggle is short lived or life long, He is asking us to accept that his Gift to us is sufficient. Our weaknesses are met with God’s power.
During Lent we are given the luxury of choosing our desert experience. Jesus didn’t get to choose his desert experience; it was handed to him and God allowed Jesus to decide how he would handle the struggle. Jesus showed us with his own life how to handle the difficulties that are part of our life. He accepted the gift offered by God and was victorious. God didn’t offer one gift to Jesus and a different gift to us; God offers the same gift to everyone. The differences lay in whether or not we choose to accept it.
Questions and Reflections:
What are some ways that God’s gift (grace) is present in your life?
Do you believe that the same gift that God gave to Jesus, He has given to the rest of us? Why or why not?
In what ways are you making use of the grace that God has given you?
There have been a few incidents that have happened in various environments that I am involved with that made me stop and ask myself, “Have I been turning a blind eye or have I been turning the other cheek?” I think this is a question we should all stop and ask ourselves sometimes.
To honestly ask yourself this question, it’s best to take a look at the meaning of both of these phrases and actions.
Turn a blind eye: “An idiom describing the ignoring of undesirable information.” Source: Wikipedia
Turn the other cheek: This requires a much longer explanation and can’t be simplified into one sentence, so I opted instead, to quote a few paragraphs from Marcus Borg as found on Belief.net
“The key to understanding Wink’s argument is rigorous attention to the social customs of the Jewish homeland in the first century and what these sayings would have meant in that context.
To illustrate with the saying about turning the other cheek: it specifies that the person has been struck on the right cheek. How can you be struck on the right cheek? As Wink emphasizes, you have to act this out in order to get the point: you can be struck on the right cheek only by an overhand blow with the left hand, or with a backhand blow from the right hand. (Try it).
But in that world, people did not use the left hand to strike people. It was reserved for “unseemly” uses [Wiping one’s self after having a bowel movement]. Thus, being struck on the right cheek meant that one had been backhanded with the right hand. Given the social customs of the day, a backhand blow was the way a superior hit an inferior, whereas one fought social equals with fists.
This means the saying presupposes a setting in which a superior is beating a peasant. What should the peasant do? “Turn the other cheek.” What would be the effect? The only way the superior could continue the beating would be with an overhand blow with the fist–which would have meant treating the peasant as an equal.
It is tempting and often times easier to turn a blind eye to injustice and other wrongs we witness being committed against others. This past lent I have once again been reminded that Jesus does not want us to turn a blind eye, instead, he has commanded us to turn the other cheek. It isn’t easy to do, and it comes with a cost which is why it is often the option least likely to be chosen.
Jesus calls us to not retaliate. Justice is not a form of retaliation. Jesus doesn’t expect us to be docile and allow ourselves to be abused, discriminated against, and systemically oppressed. However, what he does tell us is that injustice exists, and we can fight against it without resorting to violence, bloodshed, and physical injury.
When we live in an unjust society, we still have to go to work for corrupt employers, we still need to follow certain laws that are passed, and we still have to deal with dishonest institutions who are often ready to discriminate against certain populations. If we spend our time fighting injustice with constant community violence, we take away from being able to use our minds and skills to change our culture from one of injustice to one of justice and inclusion.
When it comes to dealing with atrocities in our communities, I truly believe that Jesus is asking us to use our minds instead of our weapons. Have an open mind, be willing to sit at the table with a diverse group of thinkers and together create a legal and social society where violence is not a necessary way for living. When we use our minds, we might never have to pick up a weapon to strike our oppressor and those who discriminate against us.
QUESTIONS and ACTIONS:
How do you respond to uncomfortable situations involving discrimination and systemic oppression? Could it be categorized as “turning a blind eye” or “turning the other cheek”?
What are ways that you can deal with others in a non-violent manner while fighting for respect, justice, and rights?
If you haven’t already read all of Matthew 5, I highly recommend it. If you’ve read it in the past, it’s still a great chapter to review, these teachings are never outdated or irrelevant.
Celebrities having mental health issues is not new. Every year there is a celebrity or former celebrity who announces to the world that they have a mental illness. There are also celebrities who have not yet been diagnosed with a DSM-5 condition, but I wish they would be. I hate watching famous people have mental breakdowns with the world watching as entertainment.
Our society has conditioned us not to be cruel towards those with cognitive disabilities or mental illness, but only if they are not famous or a politician. Some how I get the feeling people enjoy making fun of mentally ill celebrities because they don’t get to do so in their every day life.
Have you ever called a bi-polar woman you know a *&^$# @!#&*?
Would you send an email to the management team at your workplace informing them they are all sociopaths?
When a people tell you they have depression, would you look them in the face and call them an attention seeking whiner?
I caution people, that when they are on social media or in group conversations; be aware of how you make references towards mental illness and those who have it. I am definitely guilty of using the words “crazy”, “stupid”, “idiot”, and “dumb” on occasion. These words have been applied to all sorts of nouns in my conversations such as: “That was crazy!”, “Vegan cheese is dumb.”, “That is so stupid, why would anyone buy that?”. Over time I’ve done my best to consciously replace them with other words such as, “well alright then.”, “I see.”, “Interesting.”, or my favourite, “What the….”.
When we talk cruelly about a celebrity’s mental illness or symptoms of illness, we are not just speaking about that specific celebrity; we are unconsciously expressing how we feel about the traits of that person’s illness. No wonder people are afraid to speak openly about having been diagnosed.
Say all you want to about Kanye West and his nonsensical rants, his self-comparison’s to great achievers of the past, and his belief that he is one of the greatest humans to have ever lived; but do so knowing that he presents as possibly having a DSM-5 condition. A mentally healthy person does not behave as Kanye does. A mentally healthy person does not believe the things that Kanye West professes.
We were entertained by Charlie Sheen’s mental breakdown and his tiger blood. We laughed at Jason Russell’s naked psychosis. We enjoyed Britney Spear’s bi-polar misadventures in parenthood and driving. We waited with anticipation to see what Amanda Bynes would do or wear next.
Our society needs to stop finding joy in watching other’s have mental breakdowns. The symptoms of mental illness are not for entertainment.
Yes, you read that correctly, Jesus the Introvert. I believe that according to the examples given in the bible about how Jesus lived, he showed signs of being an introvert. Does this mean my fellow introverts are finally free from the social guilt of being an introvert? No. Extrovert types are still more acceptable in our North American culture and everything from homes to cubicle office space is designed to accommodate them.
This is part one of four in my “Jesus the Introvert” series where I will be highlighting some of Jesus’ introvert habits and writing about the significance of these traits as a spiritual discipline that if given a chance, extroverts can find as fulfilling as being in a room full of party people.
What is An Introvert?
There isn’t one “type” of introvert, or extrovert for that matter. There are varying degrees of introvert traits, but they all have some of the following in common:
– gathers energy from being alone, energy is depleted by being around too many people for too long,
-mental and physical energy is drained by over stimulation from being around groups of people in busy work and social environments
-processes thoughts and generates ideas internally
-tends to be more reserved and reflective
-enjoys solitary activities, but is not anti-social
-likes to quietly observe before making decisions or participating
Prayer and Fasting:
Jesus spent time alone in prayer connecting with God and himself where he utilized that time to rejuvenate his body and mind. In Matthew 4 we read of Jesus’ 40 days alone in the desert. Being alone for 40 days might feel like emotional and social death to an extrovert; but for Jesus, he did what he knew he had to do to prepare for his calling. If Jesus needed to take a social break sometime during this period of prayer and fasting, who knows what might have happened to himself spiritually. Instead of giving in, Jesus passed the test of temptation by resisting Satan with God’s truth straight from scripture. He did this alone. He didn’t need a crowd of people to take up for him. He had no one, it was a battle here on earth between himself and Satan, but don’t be fooled into thinking it wasn’t a spiritual battle. Jesus prepared for and won that battle with solitude, fasting, and prayer. He won that battle for himself and for the entire human race.
Being in community with others is an important part of our spiritual growth, but there is something different about being alone and welcoming God’s spirit to communicate with us.
Being alone gives us time to deepen our relationship and dependency on God. Times of solitude remind us to be quiet and focus on the promises of God and the lessons He wants to communicate to us. God has messages that are meant to be delivered to you in solitude. These are messages that can only come to us when we are alone in silence with a receptive heart and mind. It is also important to not be in a hurry to tell others what God has been laying on your heart. An extrovert will want to quickly run and tell somebody or everybody what has been revealed to him during quiet times with God, but an introvert knows to be still and ponder the message. Whatever is revealed to you during your time of prayer doesn’t always have to be shared with others. If God leads you to share it with others, then do so, if He doesn’t, then it is alright to keep it to yourself.
Let’s not forget about another introvert in Jesus’ family, his mother Mary.
In Luke 1:29 Mary is said to have been “…much perplexed by his (the angel’s) words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” After the post-natal visit and prophetic words from a group of shepherds in Luke 2:19 Mary, “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” It’s not a coincidence that the bible writers chose to make note of Mary’s habit of pondering what had to have been confusing, frightening, and odd news.
In a society that favours extroverts, let’s not forget to embrace and value introvert traits. We can develop an appreciation for introvert based spiritual disciplines by following the ways of Jesus, and we can do that by starting with prayer and fasting.
Do you spend more time praying in groups or praying by yourself?
Does your church or place of community gathering place more of an emphasis on introvert or extrovert expressions of faith and spiritual disciplines?
What are some of the introvert and extrovert expressions of faith practiced in your Christian community?
Do you lean more towards introvert or extrovert expressions of faith?
Here’s a challenge for you. This week, after your time of prayer see if you can spend at least 5 minutes in quiet solitude, saying nothing, and doing nothing except welcoming the presence of the Holy Spirit. It might sound strange if you are not used to doing this, but I can’t stress the important of sitting in silence by yourself, welcoming the Holy Spirit. We are used to rattling off prayers to God, but it is more difficult to then sit in silence afterwards. You can do this sitting on the floor, lying on the floor, sitting in a chair, standing, but whatever you choose you need to be able to be still in that position for 5 minutes.
May the presence of His Holy Spirit bring you peace and wisdom.