Do you want to know something? I've been mulling the same subject over and over again for a few weeks now, wanting to share it but fearing that it would be too muddled to make sense. But of course now that I'm writing this, you'll have figured out that I have decided to try and share it anyway. So here it goes.
Do you remember the first scene in The Lion King? Surely you do, but just in case, it opens to Elton John singing "The Circle of Life" as all the animals come to pay tribute to the newly born lion cub. The zebras and gazelles and everything else are gathering, while the lyrics blare, "it's the circle of life, and it moves us all..." which of course is talking about how everything in the "circle of life" is a response to something else. One action leads to another, and another, and on and on it goes.
That's what's been on my mind. Not the animals, but the concept of response. Like the song says, everything in life is a response or reaction to something else. One thing happens, and that sets the course for the next thing to happen.
I was pondering how different my life would look if everyone I knew and interacted with treated me exactly how I wanted them to. See, I'm always giving myself a little bi on my behavior as long as I'm reacting to something that has been done to me unfairly. For example, someone does something ridiculous in traffic and almost costs me my life? Well, certainly I have earned the right to a little frustration and a hearty, "What were you thinking, Dumbo?!" as I drive by. Someone is a verifiable jerk to me? Doesn't that mean that I have every right to rant and rave a little before (or even after) I forgive them? In other words, is it fair to think I should have to react perfectly in a situation where it is because of something unfair that has been done to me that I am upset?
Well, I don't know about fair, but how about right? The fact is, there are a thousand things that happen every single day that we are going to react to. Some of those things are going to be very unpleasant, and undeserved, and sometimes, those things will be so deeply hurtful that it will be hard to function, much less react in the "right" way. It is familiar territory to us all. No one is exempt from being treated like dirt, from being judged unfairly, from being snapped at for no reason, from being betrayed by someone we trusted, from being lied about. And for me, it is after one of those moments that I am most likely to respond with my gut reaction: anger and hurt. I have justified my response over and over again, but it wasn't until recently that I began to see that maybe my reaction was more important than I realized.
I heard the other day something that confirmed this. What I heard was a quote from Ghandi that was something to the effect that he likes our Christ, but he doesn't like our Christians. Wow. And the ironic thing is, we are supposed to be the example of Jesus to the world. A poor example as a collective whole we are making. And it hit me that maybe part of it might just have something to do with our reactions.
Jesus was treated poorly, unjustly, despicably, and He always reacted in love. Never in anger or in hurt. And as a follower, He asks me to do the same. It's not like He doesn't know exactly how it feels to have to react to something completely wrong and unfair. He did that daily. He knows, and still, knowing how hard it would be for us, He calls us to a life that goes beyond reacting naturally to the junk that comes our way. He calls us to act supernaturally by letting go of the offense, giving up our right to lash out at what is done to us, and responding in love. Oh my goodness, nothing comes less naturally to me than that. But if it did, and if it came naturally (because of Jesus) to all of us, what would the world see? What would "Christians" look like if all the bad that came our way was met with love instead of anger? What if we weren't driven by what has been done to us, but instead we were driven by what Christ has done for us?
It's got to be one of the hardest things that Jesus calls us to do, and I honestly can't fathom being able to really do it. But, there's a good reason for that. I CAN'T. I'm no more able to do that on my own that I am able to walk a tight rope 1,000 feet in the air. It's one of those things that I really think is only possible when we let the Holy Spirit do it through us. That is what it means when the Bible says, Christ in us. It is His power giving us what we need to do the things that are so completely opposite of what comes naturally, that it is only through Him that it can be explained.
Easy, it is not. But I'm ready to start trying.