The old proverb that absence makes the heart grow fonder has a lot of truth...and a dark side. I think it should be quoted better as "absence makes the heart see whatever it wants to."
Because the heart does that. It makes snap judgements that are often completely wrong.
To defeat the heart's tendency to picture what it wants, I think there are a few key strategies: kindness, critical thinking (which is different than being scornfully critical) and spending time actually in the presence of the real person.
Kindness is important because without it, assessments can become harsh rather than straightforwardly truthful. Thinking the best of someone until proven otherwise is not a weakness, especially if you are working to know them truthfully. But you have to be careful that kindness doesn't make you untruthful in your own mind about what you see and hear.
Critical thinking is a skill that has to be learned. It's part of learning to truthfully assess what you see and hear. To be able to understand what is rather than what we imagine to be is crucial to any good relationship, whether between friends, parents and children or spouses. Critical thinking is asking "is this idea I have correct? What is the evidence? Have I missed anything? Is there another way to look at this?"
Then we wrote emails for several months doing our best to understand the other person's character and way of thought. We kept asking each other "is this what you mean? What makes you draw that conclusion? Why do you want to do that?"
We really liked the picture we were getting, which is why we went to the last step and spent as much time as we could with each other and our families to discover if our minds had formed an accurate picture. This is the third piece of getting through any illusions the heart might be creating.
If it's really important for you to know another person - and there are many people who come into our lives worth really knowing - it's invaluable to keep in mind that your heart will try to form an inaccurate picture of them. It's worth countering the heart's tendency. Because the truthfulness level of your relationships will affect your entire life.
Don't let your heart make bad images for you either way.
The first year Ben and I celebrated Passover, a family member had a comment that we've heard variations of ever since: "That seems kind of presumptuous, celebrating something we didn't have any part of. I mean, it really wasn't our ancestors who were slaves in Egypt."
The question is...who are we then?
Paul addresses Gentile Roman believers in this passage about the true worth of his people and the mechanism by which Gentiles were being included in the covenant with Israel - which is what Jesus' life and death was all about. He began the passage speaking about how God always retains a remnant of his people for himself but that many had been blinded for the sake of allowing the Gentiles to seek a place in God's family.
11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
The tree that we belong to, the root from which we are nourished, is that of God's People. Rather than having somehow evolved beyond them, we were brought in. We aren't a higher enlightened version of God's People...we are stand-ins. Wild branches being brought in to bear fruit when the natural branches wouldn't. But the stalk and the roots are the same. We are not supposed to be a new brand of God's People. We are supposed to be of the same kind. So when God says, "Speak to the Sons of Israel and say..." he is speaking to US if we have been grafted into the tree of his promise and covenant. It is as if we ourselves have been cut away from our own genealogy - our wild olive roots - and spliced into a different one. No longer Jews and Gentiles but one People. By faith, we become part of the family...just as by lacking faith we can be broken away from the family again.
It's interesting, by the way, to note Paul's reference to the dough being offered as first-fruits. That is an ceremony commanded in God's instructions for his people to do every year at the time of Passover. Paul is clearly not past celebrating it, since he declares the ceremony holy.
7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
We have not evolved beyond the faith of Abraham. We hope to share it, to be like his children. To bear the fruit God was looking for from the beginning. This is part of what it means to love God with all our hearts and souls and strength: to acknowledge the root from which we come and to celebrate the things God has done for us as children adopted into his family.
Get ready! Passover is coming. The leaven needs to come out of our houses. It's time to remember that we too have been freed from slavery by God's intervention.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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