Archive for the ‘Understanding’ Tag

My Dad Died a Hero to Many   16 comments

My father’s mind began to wane several years ago, and friends encouraged him to give up writing and preaching.  He acquiesced begrudgingly since losing his public ministry made him feel useless.  When visiting him, one of those friends  would ask, “How are you?” and dad would always say, “Terrible!”  “Why?”  “Because I’m still alive!”  He was ready to “go home” and last week he finally did.  I expect he was greeted with my mom’s loud, raucous laughter echoing through the halls of heaven.

Family, friends, and colleagues remembered him with admiration at his funeral.  He was a good man and a gifted leader, a hero to many.  Years ago he asked me if I had any heroes, anyone I admired and sought to emulate.  He expected me to point to him and was sad when I didn’t.  Though I respect him, I cannot emulate him any more than an ostrich can emulate an eagle.  An ostrich hatched by an eagle would simply be lost and confused and self-condemning as long as he tried to imitate the eagle, and all the eagle’s encouragement, advice, and example on how to be a better eagle would only make matters worse.

To his credit, dad eventually made room for my way of being, though he couldn’t understand it.  He tried to understand, but he was stuck in his own framework of thinking, as though the eagle saw his ostrich son running and interpreted it to be “low flying” or “slow take-off.”  His efforts to accommodate my way of being were inspired by love.  Instead of treating me like a deformed eagle, he accepted me as a mystery (because he was unable to grasp the idea of an ostrich).  I’m forever grateful that he did not condemn me for who I am and how I live.  For that reason, although our viewpoints were so contrary, we were never estranged.

And yet we drifted apart.  As I slowly discovered my true self and tried to share it with him, I could not make it comprehensible to him.  He could not see outside his own box, and so our relationship devolved into general, disconnected niceties because real relationship requires mutual understanding.  Over the years, I have grieved the loss of that relationship as I think he did, and so his home-going was only the final step in that loss.  It is sad, but the tears have long since run their course.  When I see him again, he will see me for who I am, and that is cause for rejoicing.

In the meantime I will give him his well-deserved honor.  God made him an eagle and he was determined to be the best eagle he could be and raise up a huge flock of eagles to follow in his flight.  He was admirably successful.  For that he will be remembered for a generation.  I am glad for those he blessed.




Great Picture Books   Leave a comment

I love children’s books with powerful truths.  Leo Lionni has written “Fish Is Fish,” a story of a fish imagining the world as described by a frog.  Here is Fish’s mental picture of a cow:

Fish Is Fish

It is basically a fish with four legs, horns, and a “pink bag of milk.”  It is a profound parable of how we see everything from our own perspective, even when we do our best to be “unbiased.”  We unknowingly skew everything to match our preconceptions, experiences, personality, etc. so that we can wholly misunderstand others even when we listen with best intentions.  Seeing things from another’s perspective is an art and skill that require patience, humility, empathy, curiosity, and practice, and it is one of the most powerful expressions of love we can grant.

Posted May 9, 2015 by janathangrace in Reading

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No Easy Way To Love   6 comments

I was a 45-year-old bachelor when I started dating Kimberly, and my friends, assuming I was girl-dumb, insisted I romance her with flowers, fancy chocolates, and fru-fru gifts…  take her to see a chick-flick…  say “I love you.”  I smiled and nodded to placate their eagerness, but I knew they were wrong.  For starters, Berly prefers cheap chocolate and is ambivalent about gifts.  They might have known “women,” but I knew Berly.  The problem with our romance pop-culture, and much of the marriage enrichment industry, even many Christian seminars and books, are the notions that all women are alike, that men cannot understand them, and therefore that husbands should simply learn some basic rules for marriage maintenance.  Men regularly come home from a weekend retreat with a checklist to follow: kiss your wife goodbye when you leave for work, tell her you love her, have a weekly date night, and for goodness sake drop the toilet seat after peeing.  And those are the better men, the ones who are really trying.

It’s a deep sadness that our most intimate relationships are held together with stock routines because we’re convinced we can’t understand each other.  The gender gap might as well be an intergalactic separation, after all, women are from Venus and men are from Mars… and we’re apparently lost in space.  It’s certainly a nice gesture to take a quiz on our five love languages and task oneself (say) with giving three daily encouragements to a spouse, but how much does that help in understanding one another deeply and thoroughly, which is what the relationship truly needs.  It is almost as though we’ve given up on real relationship (vulnerable sharing, open listening, trusting, understanding, accepting, valuing, empathizing) and reduced love to what we do for one another.

Mutual understanding between the sexes is not easy or quick.  It takes a lot of time and energy, not to mention fear and pain, and perhaps for that reason our culture has largely abandoned the effort as hopeless.  “It has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried” (as Chesterton said of true Christianity). But nice words and kind behavior can never substitute for the gritty, real work of heart connection.  The first is comfortable and functional, like a pair of old shoes, the last is revolutionary.

Posted February 23, 2014 by janathangrace in Personal, thoughts

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