Life is complicated, you know.
As much as we all long for clear lines, black-and-white truths, absolutes and guarantees, there are very few things in life that fit neatly into one category.
Life gets more gray for me with every passing day, and I’m not just talking about my hair. Issues become even more multi-faceted. Different perspectives can all look equally valid. And mutually-exclusive truths are becoming harder and harder to find.
Either/or makes sense to us. But both/and is much more common, and much more messy.
I’ve finally begun to make peace with how little I actually know for certain. But it’s okay because God does. God knows everything and I know Him and He loves me and on my better days, that feels like enough.
There’s nothing like a good world crisis or two to turn us all into a bunch of experts. Mean experts, at that.
We watch the news and read the articles and start saying things like:
THIS is the ONLY solution. And if you don’t agree, you’re a THIS and a THAT. (And the ‘this’ and ‘that’ are not good things, by the way.)
There are heated debates everywhere we turn. Work, home, church, parties, hair salons, bars, restaurants. (Bet there will be more than a few spirited discussions over turkey next week.) And social media makes us even braver because we can throw rocks while hiding behind the shield of a computer screen.
It makes me want to climb up on a chair, wave my arms around and yell, “Attention, everyone! I have something to say: IT’S COMPLICATED!”
I may only know a few things but if life has taught me nothing else, one thing I can stand on is the fact that it’s complicated. All of it. There’s always more to it than we know.
I remember having a conversation with Beau a few months ago. He was relaying a story to me that he’d heard about a divorced couple that I don’t know. The story was slanted, as expected. I listened patiently until he was done and agreed to the grossness of the actions of the vilified party.
Then I said, “But hey, just remember this: Divorce is never 100% one person’s fault. It may be 50-50. It may be 99% and 1%. It may be somewhere in between. There are always at least two sides to every story. You only heard one.”
That was not a surprising thing for him to hear or a hard thing for him to grasp. That kid’s a deep well and gives people lots of room to be flawed. (A quality for which I’m personally very thankful.)
I’m unwilling to determine where I stand on most issues until I’ve gathered a sufficient amount of information about said issue. The problem is, no amount of information to me ever seems sufficient. I read articles and books, watch news anchors interview experts on both sides, I talk to well-informed people. I gather and learn and gather and learn ad nauseam. I try to figure out where I stand and how to communicate it with kindness.
But usually before I can land on an issue, another disaster occurs that takes over my research. Or there’s laundry that needs to be folded, we’ve been out of milk for two days because I’ve put off going to the store, a kid needs to be picked up, a blog needs to be posted. In short, regular life happens.
And often while I’m doing my beautiful, blessed, charmed, regular life, the pain of others looms in the back of my mind.
When I’m doing laundry: We have so many clothes. And as soon as something gets a stain on it or a hole in it, we get rid of it and buy something new. So many people are cold. So many people only have one set of clothes that are rotting off their bodies. They would probably be so thankful for our castoffs.
When I go to the store: We have so much food. I’m going to Publix to buy pretty much anything I want only to take it home and try to make it fit into an already full fridge, freezer or pantry. Food is so yummy and easy to come by that I actually have to TRY to eat less so I don’t get fat. What a wonderful problem to have.
When I’m running: I’m running on purpose. I’m CHOOSING to run. For my health. Because I have too much to eat. I’m not running for my life. No one is chasing me. I’m not the least bit afraid that a group of militants might walk around the corner and shoot me, or worse, NOT shoot me.
My survivor’s guilt has aged into a sober thankfulness for my blessings. And yet, what about them?
I was born this race in this country into this socio-economic group. I did nothing to deserve what I have. All are gifts. Gifts from a God who likes me better? No, gifts from a God with a plan for the universe who put me right here, right now for such a time as this. And I am to surrender these gifts every day to the God who is redeeming the whole world, which He’s still got in His mighty hands.
I did well in school because my parents were involved in my life, I was well provided for, I had enough to eat, a safe place to sleep and was never in need or afraid. I went to college because my family could afford it. I got a job because I had a college degree and decent clothes to wear to the interview.
I cringe when I hear others say that people don’t ‘succeed’ in life because they don’t work hard. They may not be working hard in school or working hard at a job because they’re working hard to survive. To many people, the American Dream is no more than a fairy tale.
Terrorism is complicated. It’s not just a matter of removing the Bad Guy of the Month from power. There are always other a number of runner ups just waiting in the wings to fill the hole. And they may be worse than the previous dictator. And allying with another group that’s neither all good or all bad makes things even messier.
The refugee crisis is complicated. It’s easy for me to sit here drowning in comfort and make sweeping statements about letting them all in or keeping them all out. Safety, mercy, economics, logistics, relief, short-term plans, long-term plans, compassion. Seriously. It’s so freakin’ complicated.
Abortion is complicated. Some do it carelessly and selfishly. Others are terrified, under tremendous pressure from family, unaware of any other options, or alone. And if they keep the baby, some will judge them for accepting government assistance or needing other kinds of help. It’s not just a matter of keeping the baby alive. The mother and child must have a life that’s livable on the other side of the birth. COMPLICATED.
None of us know the whole story. ANY whole story. And no matter how hard I try, how much I read or how long I stall, I will never have all the facts.
Everyone’s perspective is as slanted as any news source. We are all shaped by our different life experiences so being 100% objective is just not possible. Not one of us has the only right answer. And maybe that’s okay.
Love is the answer, to be sure. When in doubt, err on the side of love. But what does that look like, in practical terms?
To be completely honest, many of the worst decisions in my life were made in the name of love. When it comes to blind, unhealthy love, I’m a professional. My name is Lindsey and I’m codependent. (Hi, Lindsey!)
Right at the beginning of Paul’s letter to his beloved friends in Philippi, in the middle of telling them how much he loves and misses them, he writes this:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to determine what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11
For years I read it as ‘that you may abound more and more…’ He’s not talking about them having more knowledge, insight and discernment. He’s talking about their love.
He knows their love well. They had poured it out on him and he gladly received it. And what he prayed for them was that their love would continue to mature so they could determine what was best.
Paul understood that it was complicated. Paul LIVED complicated. And he knew that simple love could not solve the problems of this world. He wanted their love to be seasoned, full, wise and complex, strong and nimble enough to morph into whatever version of itself would best serve each individual situation.
Before Jesus sent out His disciples on their first missionary practice run in Matthew 10, He gave them a pretty straightforward pep talk: Stay in Israel, heal the sick, drive out demons, don’t take anything with you, etc.
In verse 16, He says, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
Not just innocent. Not just shrewd. Both/and. Complicated.
We must love. We must love hard. And we must pray for God’s wisdom (which He PROMISES to give, if I ask for it) so we may be able to determine what is best. So we can love WELL in each situation.
Then our love won’t be about quick fixes or assuaged guilt. It will be about the Kingdom of God. You know, that thing we’re supposed to seek first, even before the answers to our issues.
It’s all so complicated. Let’s leave room for issues to be complicated and not try to force them into boxes just so we can easily understand and make judgments.
And for heaven’s sake, could we please just treat each other with kindness, respect and grace as we all wrestle through determining what is best?
Think about the beautiful brilliance of it. God gave us each different life experiences, personalities, gifts and knowledge. If we each bring our valuable perspective to the table as an offering and combine it with the perspectives of others, we come up with multi-faceted solutions to multi-faceted problems.
World crises can become a call to collaboration with each other instead of a call to arms against each other. Complex love for complicated issues.
And as people see Christians from different sides of the aisle, different sides of the computer screen and different sides of the world come together over disaster, the Kingdom of God takes a little more territory back from the kingdom of darkness.