I’ve been away from this blogging discipline for quite awhile. The last blog I posted was about having courage to believe in myself. Frankly, I have been working on that process. I am learning how fundamental learning about myself is to how I approach life and relationships. Actually, my relationship with God, grants me access into a deeper, and more honest understanding of my value, gifts, talents, and the manner in which I am hard-wired to approach life. Counterintuitively, this self-knowledge and honesty helps me approach others with greater understanding.
My dad used to say that a man is tempted to live in one of two ways: Either he is hard on others and easy on himself or he is easy on others and hard on himself. While I understand what his point was, I have begun to see that the manner in which we see other people is tied to what we think and feel about outselves. As I have stated before, Jesus’ statement regarding the two most important commandments (Mark 12: 24-34), points us to a principle of relational life. I suppose if I were to put a name to the principle, it would be: Vine Life. Jesus uses the picture of a vine as a means of describing healthy living….
John 15: 1-17
“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.
“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.
“You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.
“But remember the root command: Love one another.
In a vine, the elements necessary for life of each branch flow while it is connected to the vine. If a branch is seperated from the vine and the flow of nutrients, it shrivels and dies. If the branch is still intact, however, they are enriched and grow, and the nutrients are passed along to other branches which sprout from the original branch.
My relationship with God, reminds me that he chose me. He calls me his friend. He created me to be fruitful. To be someone of value to him, to other people, and to myself as I express my passions in unique beauty. I am also reminded within this relationship that there is also dysfunction within me. But the presence of my dysfunction does not deter nor detract from my value. God communicates that to me as only God can, in love… by giving me good things I don’t deserve…. by continuing the flow of life giving nutrients while I remain connected to him. I can then be safe. I become thankful for my gifts, yet humble regarding my weaknesses, and that it is ok to have both. I don’t have to pretend to be something I am not, because who I am is enough… actually, its really good. Knowing this produces courage within me to believe in other people. I don’t have to keep a mask in place. I give others what I have received from God. The life flows through the vine into me, and through me into other people. I also give them room to work through the issues in their life. I can become involved, if it seems to make sense and they are open to it, but I do not control them nor their process. That is God’s work, and I am fully incapable of doing God’s work. I sometimes forget that.
Learning my own areas of passion and the manner in which I naturally express them, helps me understand and value the manner in which other people express their individuality. The danger is when I expect other people to love the same things I love and to express that love in the same manner as I do. I saw a great illustration of this today on the cable tv show, “Overhaulin”.
I love make-over programs on tv. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the object being renovated is a home, a vehicle, or a person’s wardrobe and fashion style. I just love to watch someone enter a person’s world, and give them something of beauty where there was once mediocrity or ugliness. The show “Overhaulin'” uses the automotive, creative genius of Chip Foose and his team of artisans to completely redesign someone’s automobile in 7 days. The process isn’t completely straight forward, however, because they want the transformation to be an elaborate surprise. They scam the owner of the vehicle with the help of close friends or family, and a steady supply of actors who fool the “mark” into believing their vehicle has been stolen or wrapped up in extensive red tape which will require it to be out of the owner’s possession. The scheme isn’t just one scam at the beginning of the week where the “mark” is advised they will get back the vehicle at the end of the week. The practical jokers aren’t that kind. They string the owner along, with repeated scams which continue to highten the tension of the “mark”. Often, the vehicle has some sentimental significance to the owner, like it was his father’s car who bought it new, or the owner just has a passion for the vehicle and is intent on restoring it but just hasn’t had the time or money… whatever the reason, there usually is a strong emotional tie to the vehicle, so it’s loss is extremely upsetting. To make matters worse, as they tape the show, the actors and mechanics talk to the “mark” via the videotape they will eventually see. As they view the tape, they will also see themselves fighting for the return of their vehicle, which can be really embarassing to the “mark”. It’s really a great show!
Today, I watched “The Best of Overhaulin.'” In this segment, they bring former recipients of Fooste’s creative makeovers, and talk to them about their experience during their show, and how people have responded to their “new/old” car. I immediately became particularly interested in one of the former “marks” when he mentioned that his was the tenth project the show had taped. The car was an Oldsmobile 442, a real gearhead car. A 70’s muscle car that could really get up and move in its day. Actually, the guy had taken pretty good care of the car before the makeover, and one of the scenes included the two actor/hosts showing some speed while they “stole” the car.
When the owner was being interviewed by Chip, genius car designer and hands-on gear head artist, he was asked how he liked the car now. The guy, of course responded with pride and gratitude, but then something very interesting happened. Chip gently said, “I hear you changed the motor…”
After a slight pause, the owner said, “Yeah…” and then began to explain what he had done and what systems he had kept in place from the original engine makeover. He spoke almost apologetically, hoping, I suppose, that his changes hadn’t offended Chip and his team. However, Chip responded gently, with no trace of being offended at all.
As soon as Chip asked the question, my mouth fell open. To me, changing a Foose design is like taking a paint brush and paint into the Louvre, and beginning to change the smile on the Mona Lisa because you feel it’s too subtle. Suddenly, I saw that I had a dilema on my hands. How was I to interpret the actions of this car owner? One way of interpretting his actions was to believe he was too picky. One of the most famous car designers in the world had changed your car from good to priceless and it just wasn’t good enough for you. What a small-minded, egomaniacle little man….
Another way of looking at it is that the owner felt like a victim… like it wasn’t his car anymore. Someone else had done the work, and in his mind, it now belonged to them. How prideful. How short-sighted….
Suddenly, a new thought crept into my mind… What if…. What if this guy just really loved to work on his car? What if it were one of his passions? Maybe the guy loved the new design, but he just loved getting grease under his fingernails. Maybe he comes alive in the creative process of working on a car he loves. Looking at the guy in this way helped me. The manner in which Chip Foose responded to the owner makes me wonder if this isn’t the case. Chip wasn’t threatened by the guy’s work. He seemed to understand it. Mainly, because Chip is a car-guy too. He is ALWAYS hands-on during the process. Chip’s father was a world-class car designer, so I suspect he grew up in a garage with a screw-driver in his hand. If anyone would understand the love of working on a car, Chip Foose would, because he shared the same passion.
I love thinking that thought. Two passionate people who hold lightly to the metal upon which they work because they know it is the process that holds their attention. And change just means a lengthened, enjoyable process. The car was like a canvas upon which they could both create and express themselves. By working on the same canvas, it became a shared piece of art. That is so cool!
Knowing ourselves opens us to deeper sharing with other people. However, it takes courage to hold lightly to our own perceptions and assumptions about somebody else. The healthier we are individually… the more secure in our value as defined by God… the easier it is to accept and love others deeply.
Knowing what we love, helps us see the same value in someone else and appreciate their courage to express that love…