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Choosing the back roads of our lives

March 25, 2017 GMT

Have you ever driven from the east side of Montana to the west side? There are many routes that one can take. The most well-traveled road, as we all know, is I-90. This route will take us right through Montana on the least challenging and fastest path, barring snow (yes, I know … that’s a dirty word). It’s a pretty drive, but it still does not compare to the beauty one would see traveling by the plethora of back roads.

I have observed over the years that when the going gets tough, humans tend to drift over to the easiest and less-challenging path. This isn’t always a bad choice, in my opinion. Some things need to be easier. If I need to get to Missoula and am on a tight time schedule, then I need to take the interstate.

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On the other hand, some things deserve the more challenging route, like relationships. More specifically, the relationships in church are an area that might require some bravery. Friendships in church are of utmost importance because the church is one community where we should be able to offer and receive support, comfort and connection. However, it can get messy and — dare I say — hurtful. And when it gets confusing and painful, admit it ... we often run.

Church is supposed to be a haven; a place where we can be the real us and not be worried about getting hurt. But what makes for these feelings of safety? If I head out on some back road in the middle of the Beartooths, I am going to travel prepared so that I have at least a sense of safety. This same preparation can help us in how we relate to others inside those potentially frightening walls of church.

Oftentimes one hurt leads to others. We have this expectation that we shouldn’t get hurt in the church because it is supposed to be that safe haven, and when it isn’t it can be devastating.

Entertain an idea with me for a moment. What if we expect to be hurt? What if we change our perspective on what safe means? What would happen if we decided that pain was part of the process of any deeper relationship? If this is something that intrigues you, be prepared for some mental gymnastics. Hopefully, though, leaders of your church are working to provide an atmosphere of rest, making it easier to work on a perspective change.

An honest inventory of our own weaknesses, strengths, gifts, ability to communicate, vulnerabilities and ability to trust are a few areas that may be part of a perspective change. It may mean spending extra time on your knees, asking God to show you how to make this perspective change. It also may mean extra knee time and Bible time healing from past hurts and learning how to forgive. I guarantee that it won’t be easy. But if we see it through, it will be worth it.

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It takes time to build this form of vulnerability in our thinking, so don’t expect change quickly. Be patient and enjoy the breathtaking views along the way.

Taking on the adventure of getting to know ourselves and those around us more deeply, even to the point of being able to maneuver beyond our walls and those of other people may prove difficult. But it can also be amazing and extremely fulfilling. It may end up being one of the most beautiful journeys you ever take.

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