With the best of intentions

I weathered another round of what I assumed to be food poisoning. Tired of hanging out in the bathroom, I put on a brave face to hostess visitors, babysit, teach an English class, and drop by the neighbor’s with a plate of crepes.

But when holes were poked in my food poisoning theory, suddenly my bright shades of resiliency and selflessness took on a contaminated hue.

I had been so sure I could trace it back to those fried sardines…

I took a too-late day of quarantine to keep me from infecting the rest of the world. The next morning I dropped by the post office and the grocery store. On the way home, I noticed I was being dogged by the persistent admirer who, after a clarifying encounter months earlier, had vanished from my life. Until now. And there he was, looking bigger, older, and maybe even a little more unhinged than the last time I had seen him.

My intention to weave myself into this community’s tapestry put me in his way. Or maybe he put himself in my way. Or maybe we’re simply two clashing fibers woven side by side, which is bound to happen now and then in every community. Just wishing him away rather than confronting him probably was never the answer.

Why do best intentions sometimes sour?

My recent decision in the best interest of all turned out to be in the best interest of none… and involved a fair amount of straightening out.

I suppose it’s fanciful to believe that sacrifice can validate decisions. Still, why do some of the decisions we make, even at our own expense, turn out to be the wrong ones?

Maybe it’s because we don’t understand the big picture. Or because our decisions are not the only decisions affecting lives.

When we take a spill on our good intention bicycle, the true measure of resiliency and selflessness may be found in our ability to stand up, gently brush the gravel from the crevices of our knees and continue on our way.

And be grateful when others forgive our mistakes and miscalculations.

And thank God for the neighborly shopkeeper who is standing in his doorway to watch us safely home.


Photo by Dmitrii Vaccinium on Unsplash

No one understands me!

Do you ever feel misunderstood? Like the big, bad world is judging you by circumstance with no desire to understand your motive?

The truth is, we can never understand each other. Not fully. We have tools, like personality tests, that, on their best days, help us offer grace when we don’t understand each other. Living together helps too. But we just don’t quite get each other. Even those people who confidently nod and give you a smug smile when you do something predictable.

You’re not the only one who feels misunderstood. Ask God about that. He even had His people write about it in the Psalms and later in Romans. 

“The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”

(Ps. 14:2-3.)

“…as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.”

(Romans 3:10-11)

We humans, in our fallen brokenness cannot fully fathom a holy God. So, if anyone is allowed to complain about being misunderstood, it is God. 

Because, guess what else. You are understood. By the One who is least understood. He has searched and known you and discerned your thoughts from afar. He is acquainted with all of your ways. You cannot speak without Him knowing exactly what you will say. (Ps. 139:1-4)

You are understood. May that knowledge be too wonderful to wrap your mind around! (Ps. 139:6)

All we get are windows

“All we get are windows,” he had said.

And this after my week of cancelled plans, disappointed tears, and familiar feelings of uselessness. But his words rang in my head all weekend so that now in the middle of a lively West African church service, my mind was still stuck.

The dissonant keyboard chords, the steady drums and tambourine and my mind was thousands of miles away in last summer.

I could still hear those testimonies of broken men and women who were crying out to God for the meaning of their years of overseas service—men and women who felt they had little to report except failure.

“All we get are windows of time in people’s lives. We walk with them while we can.”

Sometimes those windows feel pointless. Like walking with someone on their journey is a waste of time and couldn’t God please bring someone else into our lives? Sometimes the windows feel so nice that we frantically try to prop them open when they begin to close. But they close anyway and we label them as aborted opportunities.

In the snippets of time we have with people—these “windows”—sometimes we lose sight of the bigger picture and think that the windows are all that matter. That’s when we feel useless, like failures.

The keyboard, drums, and tambourine faded as a new song leader took the microphone. Pacing back and forth, she started an African version of “Alleluia.”

“Alleluia. Alleluia. For the Lord God Almighty reigns.

“Holy, holy are you, Lord God Almighty!”

Behind the song leader was a pillar that supported the center of the little church building. There on the pillar, neat rows of pink and white silk rose buds formed a cross.

“Worthy is the Lamb! Worthy is the Lamb! Amen!”

Amen. So where will I place my focus? On my interpretation of efficiency or on the bigger picture: the glory of the Lamb? On the brevity of the windows of time or the fact that the Lamb is worthy of a life spent in faithful service?

Skeletons in the Savior’s closet

If anyone would have a perfect family tree, it would be sweet baby Jesus, right? No one who wants to rule the earth can hide skeletons in their closet. Any politician can tell you that.

In the end of the Old Testament book of Ruth, the writer gives a summary of Jesus’ lineage up to King David. First mentioned is Perez, son of Judah. Instead of a squeaky clean Old Testament saint, we find that Perez was the result of Judah mistaking his daughter-in-law for a prostitute (Gen. 38). Any good journalist would have sniffed out that scandal in a heartbeat and plastered unflattering pictures on the front page of every newspaper.

But that’s not all. This genealogy also mentions Boaz’s father, Salmon. But who was Boaz’s mother? None other than the heathen prostitute, Rahab (Josh. 6). Shocking.

Boaz marries Ruth, a Moabitess. Where did the Moabites come from? Well, when Lot is told to flee the city of Sodom, he and his daughters escape to a cave. There, the daughters conspire to preserve their father’s line and the eldest gives birth to her father’s child, Moab (Gen. 19). A sensational story that only God had the guts to write.

The family tree leaves more scars as generations march into history. Why didn’t God hide these skeletons in His Son’s closet instead of recording them for all people for all time? He had set up His Son for political failure.

But Jesus wasn’t a politician. His goal was not to erase the past, but to redeem it. God could have chosen a purer heritage for His Son; instead, He painted a stunning picture of redemption. These broken relationships in Jesus’ lineage wounded the heart of God, but out of them came Jesus, Healer of broken relationships, Hope of the hurting world.

Merry Christmas!