"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

To Conceal or Reveal?

By Micky Wolf

It’s happened to all of us at one time or another.

As we unpack our groceries we make a discovery. Unwrapping the fruits and vegetables, we notice a couple have spots that weren’t obvious when we made our selection of the plastic-covered trays. Separating a bundle of chops into portion size meals, we realize the bottom two, hidden beneath several layers, are more bone and fat than meat.

Did a distracted worker miss the spots that indicated the spoiling process had begun? Maybe. Did another employee intentionally bury the lower quality pork so it would be sold along with the good? Maybe.

Either way, it becomes obvious we didn’t quite get what we thought we paid for.

Concealing or revealing lesser quality produce or a few cuts of meat is one thing. Quite another when it comes to you and me—and our flaws and imperfections.

For the Christian, you’d be hard pressed to find a stronger admonition for what happens in day-to-day living, or as we pass from this life to the eternal.

Yet it is important we keep our eyes and hearts focused on several key words in this statement:  “…naked and exposed to the eyes of him…”

What does this mean for you and me?

While Scripture does make several points of exhorting us to help others avoid sin and sinning, it is also clear that the work of deciding who has what kind of sin in their lives—concealed or not—is a matter of Divine revelation and intervention. Not yours. Not mine.

None of us is crazy about others seeing our ugly stuff. So shame-filled can we be about the poor choices we’ve made—the spots and blemishes we’ve taken on ourselves or inflicted on others by our actions—we shudder at the idea of ‘being discovered’. For many people, the only consolation is in sharing the rotten part of ourselves with a trusted spiritual guide or in the private space of our prayer closet.

And that, in the end, is a good thing.

Not that we are sinning. Not that we sin and try to conceal it.

But that we make the choice, the moment we sense in our hearts that God is calling us to render an account, to take responsibility for the whole of who we are—our goodness, our sinfulness, our flaws, and our imperfections. That applies to the here and now of our life as well as the hereafter that is to come.

God doesn’t get distracted. God does not bury the bad stuff. Rather, God loves us beyond anything we could ever dream or imagine. Unlike the tomatoes with spots or the chops with fat, he chooses to work with what we might consider unsightly or unappealing to bring about healing and restoration in the whole of our being.

God uses it all. Nothing is wasted in his economy.

For that, we can be eternally grateful and thankful.

Do I feel a need to conceal my sin, my flaws and imperfections?

A need to expose or reveal others’ ugly stuff?

How do I feel about God using it all to work his healing and restoration?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Venting as Fuel for Personal Change and Growth

By Micky Wolf

Vent: To relieve oneself by vigorous or emotional expression;
frustration or anger
 [Merriam-Webster Dictionary]

Mumbling, grumbling, yelling or complaining—just a few of the many ways we can let someone know how we’re feeling or what we’re thinking.

As a culture, we are reasonably understanding and accepting of these kinds of rants, unless the one venting is being mean-spirited or making it personal—hitting below the belt.

Good psychology (and spirituality) tell us a sincere, honest “vent” can be healthy. Yet as with most things, there’s more to this than meets the eye. Or, in this case, the ear. It’s what we don’t see—the hurt beneath the anger—that needs acknowledged and transformed.

The key? Allowing the vent to serve a positive purpose—motivate change within.

Change your perception of the process.

The vent in the photo allows the moisture and heat of drying clothes to move from the source to outside our home where it literally dissipates into thin air. Harmless. Would be a very different outcome if we tried to restrict or confine this process.

Venting, by nature, is all about relieving pressure. For you and I, that means learning how to allow that process, with all its intensity and negative energy—frustration and hurt—to flow into a space that will do no harm.

This doesn’t necessarily mean finding an empty room or vacant lot to express your frustrations, worries, or concerns. It does mean taking time to inform others you need to ‘release steam’ but desire to do so in a way that will not be destructive to them.

It is possible to be a gentle venter.

You read that right.

If you happen to be standing near the vent in the photo, you might be surprised to hear how subtle the action occurs. With little fanfare—or commotion—the fins lift with a soft whoosh. And as quietly, return to the closed position when the dryer load is finished.

It can be the same for you and me. Really.

Give yourself a moment to consider what it is and why you are about to vent. Then be mindful—and heart centered enough—to express what you need to say in a tone and with a demeanor that gives the other person the opportunity to acknowledge and hear you. Without feeling the need to run for the nearest bunker to seek shelter and safety.

When the venting is finished.

For the dryer, that means the clothes can be returned to the closet, or folded and put away in the drawer, ready for the next wearing.

For you and me? If our hope is to allow venting to serve as positive fuel for change and growth, we need to pay attention to what we can discover about ourselves or our circumstances after the outburst.

Maybe we are frustrated (hurt) because we are working too many hours. Lack of sleep will make the kindest (Christian) person a short-order crank. Take a serious look at cutting back on commitments to incorporate more down time for rest and relaxation.

Maybe we are frustrated (hurt) because we are spending our time and energy on people or things that occupy time but are not necessarily the will of God for our lives. It can be a real wake-up call the moment we admit we’re living our life to please others rather than the Divine.

Maybe we are frustrated (hurt) because we are weary of coping with chronic illness (in ourselves or a loved one) or are overwhelmed by the challenges and details of daily life. It takes a humble person to accept that we are beings with limitations. Or that the only real control we have is how we respond (rather than react) to the events of the day.

There’s no time like the present to open ourselves to the possibilities for personal change and growth.

If that means giving yourself the gift of a healthy vent, why not see it as one positive way to allow God to work all things to good? (Romans 8:28)   

How do I feel about venting?

Are my experiences more negative than positive?

Am I open to allowing God to use venting for personal change and growth?