Wisdom Requires Lower Gears

I love driving in the mountains as it requires different techniques than what become routine in the city. Routine driving amounts to gas, brake and steering. Going up and down mountains requires consideration of the brakes or they will get burned up. When ascending and descending, the gas is required to get up the inclines but the brakes will smoke and turn red if you ride them to slow down on the declines too much.

The solution is changing gears. You have to drop down to a lower gear to allow the engine to do the work. The lower gear cause the engine to turn faster and, in effect, lose some of its efficiency. When going down hill in low gear, the higher revolving engine slows the car without using the brake. Then, a shift back into high gear puts you in position to go up the next incline.

I was going up and down a mountain yesterday and thinking about the dynamics of what it takes. It seemed like a good picture for where I am in the broader context. I feel like I’m traversing windy roads that go up and down and the same old habits of brake and gas are not sufficient for navigating the course. I have to be skilled and dropping into a different gear.

As I turn fifty, I’m finding that less is more. As I hit challenges and circumstances, I’m learning not to just apply the gas and press the brakes. I’m learning to throttle back. Otherwise, my brakes start smoking and you can smell the friction.

Working with people requires emotional coasting. While they are working their stuff, I can’t make it my stuff. When their perspective and intentions don’t align with mine, I need to allow for lower gears to get me down the hill as things are worked out. Lower gears, in this case, means security in my identity that affords me the calm that comes with confidence. My emotions can’t take the ride that the road suggests; they have to be governed or I’ll burn up.

Less is more and God is a better driver than me. I’m learning how to trust Him with me and others differently. I don’t always get it right and I can tell when that is the case by smelling the friction of my emotions. When I am able to trust God with my circumstances and know that He is good and for me, I can release the need to speed up and slow down where I should be coasting and letting the engine do the work.

He’s Not Your Baby

One day as I was checking the docket at the courthouse, a woman approached me and asked where a particular courtroom was. She went on to explain that she was nervous because her son was scheduled to appear on a possession of marijuana charge.

“Why does that make you nervous?” I asked.

“He could go to jail,” she said.

“Did you drive here today?” I asked. After confirming that she had driven her son to the courthouse, I responded by encouraging her, saying “Well, if he goes to jail, just drive home.”

“But he’s my baby,” she explained.

“How old is he?” I asked. After learning her son was 19, I told her bluntly but as kindly as possible, “He’s not your baby. He’s a grown man.”

It was about that time her son joined us. “Is this him?” I asked, and she affirmed it was.

“Listen,” I said, turning my attention to him, “you are not a child anymore. Smoking weed and getting your mom to drive you to court are childish. You are a man, you are equipped to be a man and it’s time to start being a man. When I was a child, I acted like one, but when I became a man, I put childish things behind me. It’s time for you to do the same; you are a man and you are capable of putting childish things away.”

This young man’s shoulders straightened up, his eyes locked in and everything about his body language accepted the reality I was presenting him. His mom, at the same time, looked terrified. It was clear she was much less ready for him to be a man than he was.

I don’t know what happened with his court case, but whatever consequences he had to deal with were a benefit to him. A misdemeanor on his record is a small price to pay if he was able to allow the consequence to draw him into responsibility.

Love allows for consequences because consequences allow for repentance. When we have to deal with the implications of our immaturity and/or depravity, we are more aware of the goodness of God. From the place of pain that results from our rebellion or immaturity, we get to choose. We can either choose to submit our lives to the goodness of God or maintain our rebellious attempts of making our own way. The choice to submit our lives back to the goodness of God is much more appealing when we have tried it without Him and are facing the reality of our choices.

We all mess up, but what we do is not who we are. Don’t rescue people from their consequences and don’t believe their mistakes are who they are any more than your mistakes are who you are. The kindness of the Lord leads to repentance, not the sloppy compassion or harsh judgment we may offer in its place.

It’s graceful to let people realize grace by letting them deal with their own consequences. The realization of grace is born of fire, and fire burns every time. Let it happen. We aren’t doing others any favors by being less than honest in our relationships. Honesty includes the willingness to allow others to choose as well as to experience the results of their choices.

From “Abundant and Free; Seeing Life Through the Lens of Grace” now available on Amazon.

We All Need to Get Suspended Sometimes

There is a controversial battle going on between an NFL star, Ezekiel Elliott, and the NFL right now. There were accusations against him from a former girlfriend that he had physically abused her. The accusations were investigated but no criminal charges were brought. The NFL, however, decided to conduct an independent investigation and ultimately suspended him for six games. Now there is a lawsuit in federal court in an attempt to overturn that suspension.

From the information that is leaking out, the accuser had made threats of ruining and blackmailing him and there are apparently some real questions of her credibility. It’s swayed public opinion to lean in many cases to more of a benefit of the doubt for Elliott. What has come out in those same leaks, however, are some sordid details of a lifestyle that has been cruising towards trouble for some time.

Details regarding sex, drugs, abortion and an apparent embracing of a lifestyle that is out of control have emerged. Despite that apparent immorality, fans have begun to rally behind the running back in hopes that he not be suspended so that he can play without suspension. They want to watch him run and catch. They want to be entertained.

I’m an attorney and believe in due process. Evidence needs to be handled and processed correctly to ascertain an accurate picture of the truth. Without respect for the process, justice is compromised and order gives way to subjectivity and chaos. With that said, while conceding that all I know about this is through the media, it appears that Ezekiel Elliott might need to be suspended for Ezekiel Elliott’s sake, if nothing else.

Consequences are the best thing that can happen to us when we are living in patterns of destructive behavior that are not the intention of our design. Consequences quicken our awareness of our humanity and potentially open us to the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance. Getting caught or frustrated in our detours help us put things back on track. We need the order and justice of authority to avoid the downward spiral of rebellion and immorality.

I don’t know what is going to happen with the legal case, suspension, rushing yards, etc. of this 22-year-old young man. I do know, that the appetites and choices of most young men will lead us towards our own harm if we aren’t accountable for those behaviors that will ultimately hurt us and hurt others. We all need to get caught, whether by circumstantial evidence or an airtight case. If not, we are all prone towards the detours that keeps us from our destiny. We all need a suspension sometimes, to keep us from running further and further off the tracks.

The Benefit of Authority

You know what we all need? A boss. We need somebody to be the authority in our lives. We don’t always want one, but we always need one. I’ve consistently seen the value to oversight and the danger in being left exposed without a covering. Left unchecked, practically all of us will start to divert off course sooner or later.

The value of a boss is that legitimate authority makes a way for us. Submission provides a benefit to the one that is submitted. Where we will come under authority, we have the opportunity to be elevated beyond where we could go without that covering.

The framework of order ordained by God is authority, submission and honor. Without all three, the other two don’t get a chance. In other words, without authority, there is no framework for honor. The framework accommodates purpose that extends beyond our limitations. The framework provides a multiplier to our gifts and abilities that can propel us beyond our ourselves.

Most of us have some bad boss experiences so we wince at the idea that a boss is a good idea. We think we would rather go it alone. If we could just do what we know is right without the hassle of the reports, reprimands, disagreements or other opinions that differ from ours, then we could really get it done. The problem is that left completely without authority, the things that we began with good intentions become distorted by our lack of perspective.

In a corporate setting, authority takes care of itself. In an entrepreneurial or volunteer situation, you may have to be intentional about submitting yourself. Submission doesn’t have to be formal, but it does have to be weight-bearing. To get beyond yourself, you have to welcome the oversight, correction and influence of another. It can be a mentor, assuming you are truly submitted, but that mentor or other influence must be dedicated to your good to the extent that they are not afraid to call out your bad.

Submission is a benefit where there is righteous rule and it is even beneficial where there is unrighteous rule. Where there is righteous rule, authority makes a way for the one that is submitted. Where there is unrighteous rule, authority shapes the character of the one that is submitted. While either can be for just a season, both can propel us on to bigger and better things than we could or would accomplish on our own without the benefit of the framework.

 

 

Consequences Are Your Friend

One day I was checking the docket at the courthouse when a woman approached me to ask where a particular courtroom was. She went on to explain that she was nervous because her son was scheduled for an appearance on a possession of marijuana charge. “Why does that make you nervous,” I asked her?

“He could go to jail,” she said.

“Did you drive here today?” I asked. After confirming that she had driven her son to the courthouse, I responded by encouraging her that “well, if he goes to jail, just drive home.”

“But he’s my baby,” she explained.

“How old is he?” I asked. After learning that he was 19, I told her, “he’s not your baby, he’s a grown man.” It was about that time that he walked over. “Is this him?” I asked, and she affirmed that it was.

“Listen,” I told him, “you are not a child anymore. Smoking weed and getting your mom to drive you to court are childish. You are a man, you are equipped to be a man and it’s time to start being a man. When I was a child, I acted like one, but when I became a man, I put childish things behind me. It’s time for you to do the same; you are a man and you are capable of putting childish things away.”

This young man’s shoulders straightened up, his eyes locked in and everything about his body language accepted the reality I was presenting him. His mom, at the same time, looked scared to death. It was clear that she was much less ready for him to be a man than he was.

I don’t know what happened with his court case, but whatever consequences he had to deal with were a benefit to him. A misdemeanor on his record is a small price to pay if he was able to allow for the consequence to draw him into responsibility.

Love allows for consequences because consequences allow for repentance. When we have to deal with the implications of our immaturity and/or depravity, we are more aware of the goodness of God. From that place of pain that comes as a result of or rebellion or immaturity, we get to choose. The choice to submit our lives back to the goodness of God is much more appealing when we have tried it without Him and are facing the reality of our choices.

We all mess up sometimes. The stuff that we do is not who we are. Don’t rescue people from their consequences and don’t believe that the mistakes are who they are any more than your mistakes are who you are. It’s the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance; not the sloppy compassion or harsh judgment which we may offer in its place.

Walking Out Is Permissible, but Not Beneficial

Some students at Notre Dame exercised their First Amendment rights and walked out of their commencement ceremony a few days ago when the Vice President of the United States began his speech. While I certainly would (and have) defend their Constitutional right to leave in protest, I challenge their judgement in choosing to do so. For any courage they may have displayed, their lack of honor and maturity was that much more glaring.

These young people, while accomplished in the sense that they have earned degrees from such a fine institution as Notre Dame, haven’t really done much of anything yet. Their lives are just getting started and they have much to learn as they endeavor to accomplish things they have only dreamed of. By contrast, Vice President Pence has graduated from undergrad and law school in addition to serving as a U.S. Congressman and the Governor of Indiana prior to his election as Vice President.

They presumably walked out over disagreements with his policies. He is a staunch conservative who undoubtedly offends their beliefs. Now that they are out of school, they can do something about it. They can organize, write, volunteer or run for office, among other things. They can enter the conversation with greater focus and commitment now that they aren’t distracted by their studies. They can get in the game, but the game requires that you stay in the room. Not walk out.

The idea of ideas requires dialogue. Those young people don’t have things figured out solely from their own perspective any more than Mike Pence does. To sharpen, refine, develop and deploy their fledgling beliefs, they have to stay in the room. They have to hear the other guy(s) out if they want to actually be heard. It goes both ways. There may even be things that he, or others that they disagree with, say that they learn and/or grow from. If they stay in the room for long enough, they may get to share something that challenges or develops the belief of their antagonists, whoever they turn out to be.

Honor is not solely a reflection of the other person; it’s a reflection of the character of the one that is offering it. You give honor because your have honor to give, not just because they earned it. Honor given where there is disagreement isn’t agreement, it’s a reflection of the maturity of your character. It’s evidence of the humility required to serve and credibility required to be heard. Honor stays in the room.