A couple of months ago, when I was giving a talk to the band of Christians I run with up here in Amarillo, I asked everyone to go home and ask some important questions (based on some of Paul's relational teachings in Colossians 4) to some important people in their life.
Wives, ask your husbands: "Where do you not feel respected by me?"
Husbands, ask your wives: "Where do you feel unsafe with me?"
Children, ask your parents: "Where have I been disobedient?" or "Where do you not feel honored by me?"
Parents, ask your children: "Where have I been a discouragement to you?"
Employees, ask your bosses: "Do you feel I work for your success or just mine?"
Bosses, ask your employees: "Do I treat you rightly and fairly?"
I asked my wife...my passion makes her feel unsafe. I don't know if you've noticed, but I get pretty passionate about stuff. From my view of myself, I have very few actual convictions, but the ones I have run really deep. I'm not saying this is a positive thing. I'm not saying it's negative either. I'm not even saying that it's accurate. I'm just saying that this is my current view of myself. At any rate, when an idea comes my way that taps into the deep convictions of my life, I get very excited about it and speak with a lot of excitement and a desire to act. When I do this with my wife, it feels as if my commitment to the idea is bigger than my commitment to her, her feelings, her opinions, her desires. I don't like making my wife feel unsafe with me.
I asked my dad...this was a tough one for me, because my dad has had to face my deepest convictions (read: judgments) where I made it clear to him in no uncertain terms that I felt he wasn't measuring up. I am absolutely certain I have not handled myself with him as Christ would have on way too many occasions, and am equally sure that I have blind spots about this. Whether his answer to me was flowing from his grace or not, which he has much of, I'm not sure. But dad said that even when we had hot disagreements, he never felt dishonored by me in them. He knew that my intent was from love and conviction. This was a cool word from my dad, as you might imagine. On the disobedience realm, he remembers when asking (read: demanding) his sons go and clean their rooms, my older brother would angrily go do it, but throw his toys around in the doing of it in obvious displeasure; my younger brother would feel the threat of a spanking and hop instantly to it in fearful urgency, but also with coercion. But I would hop and bounce happily to my room with a compliant "okay!" and a smile, only to go to my room and play rather than clean. Yeah, he laughed about it now. I don't think it was quite as funny back then. (see Mt. 21:28-31)
I asked my ministry assistant...she said yes. And it was cool, because she came into me first and asked me her question. I said that I feel she works very hard for my success, and all those she serves. Even those with whom she is justifiably frustrated with, I see her working for their success. She did tell me of one time when she felt like I asked her a question about her work environment that instilled hope in her for a change that would have greatly served her family, that I never then acted on. Not a huge deal, she said, but hey...I asked.
I asked my mom...And when I asked her, I worded the question, "How have you felt dishonored by me." She first dulled the blow for me by saying, "I would say, how I have 'not felt honored' - because I haven't felt dishonored by you." This was a cool word from my mom, too, as you can imagine. But she did say, very humbly, and not wanting to be a complainer that she felt like the only thing she has asked of me these days is a weekly phone call...and that she feels not honored when weeks go by and I have not honored that request. I was very humbled by this, open and receptive enough, and maybe, finally, grown up enough to not excuse myself for this dishonor of my mom. I have no excuse except that my life is my own, and undisciplined, and forgetful concerning this simple, unimposing request. It even took me asking about it for her to mention it. I'm sorry, mom, and ask your forgiveness, and commit "in front of" all these friends to serve you in such a way. It certainly is no burden when I talk with you, quite the contrary, it is a joy and a pleasure. For one thing, I don't have a bigger fan in the world, and for another, your depth of insight and willingness to explore all things is a delight. And for another thing, you make it easy and guilt-free to hang up when I need to. So know that you are doing your part, and my oversight is not a commentary on your worth, nor is it because you are some sort of burden.
I asked my bosses...but I have eleven that could be considered bosses of the traditional sort, and I hope to be sharpened and humbled, and hopefully affirmed, too, by their answers. But I will tell you here and now, it is because they don't treat me rightly and fairly, but with far too much grace and favor, balanced with relational challenges of honest truth and feedback always packaged in love, that makes me their biggest fan. They are godly men...all. And we at the Southwest church who have them as our Shepherds and trust them with our hearts know how blessed we are. And I am glad to suffer all the accusations of kissing up that I will receive from many of you (if history continues to repeat itself...hahaha) in order to say it of them. Because it is true.
I asked my kids... They are seven, five, and three (actually, Jakin 4 as of Monday, but he was three 2 months ago). I had them to myself one night, having sent their mother away for an exciting weekend with a friend, and I isolated each one of them and asked them their question. All of their answers boiled down to this: "When you don't play with me." Wow. I learn so much from them...they are my best teachers. I remember a wise old great-grandfather, when I was having my first child and collecting wisdom from the experienced, told me with tears in his eyes as if he wished someone had told him when he had kids: "Just play with them, Brian. Play with them." I can barely hold it together thinking about the profound wisdom in that, and the bloody battle I have to engage in within myself to honor it's simplicity.
May Christ my King continue growing me up into living as one of his subjects...a Kingdom citizen...expressed in every relationship that I will ever have. And may he do so in you.
Some call this kind of introspection "work". Some call it a beatdown. Some call it grueling. I guess, in a way, that is accurate. But I do it all gladly for the joy set before me that can only be had through it.
So I call it life to the full.