How to Win Without Trying

After 51 years, I’m starting to get it. The fire that has burned is best used when restrained and tended in order to prevent unintended casualties even where the goal is achieved. When I am able to not take the bait and step into a fight that doesn’t have to be fought, the peace and position are far superior to the aftermath of a contentious outcome (even a victory).

Less is more, even when less is elusive. Maybe especially when less is elusive. When we can throttle back and allow for ourselves to be subject to the adverse interests of others in a manner which is non-inflammatory, we gain the superior position. In other words, when we will concede the superior place, we inherit it.

Jesus most often referred to Himself as “Son of Man.” He could have called Himself a number of things, including “Son of God” or “King of Kings,” but instead He chose “Son of Man.” He chose the lower position from which He would serve and not be served. The result was a legitimacy that was never really in question. It was a superiority which couldn’t have been threatened, anyway.

Trust is essential to this posture and trust is built through relational experience. The way to the lesser position is by reliance on a  Source greater than ourselves. It’s a trust that exceeds our personal ability and a willingness to allow for the outcomes that may contradict our desires.

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

What has already been entrusted is the fuel for what convinces. Experience in trust breeds confidence in trust. What little has been offered is fuel for the potential of more.

In effect: I trust that God is able to take what I have trusted and make it more. I have been convinced and am being convinced. God has called to me and I have been persuaded; now He is continually persuading me as I continually trust step by step and grow in Him. We believe in part and then are convinced in that part to trust for the next part.

Being convinced allows for the security and peace that facilitates the apparently lesser position. It affords the freedom of knowing victory without having to try to win.

Stopping for Lunch and Enjoying More Than a Meal

hot-dog-upc1r8-clipartThere was a particular day when I was practicing law full-time which was filled with one court appearance after another. It was a busy, fast paced day where the best that I could do for lunch was a hot dog from the vendor on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse. In the middle of running from one courthouse to another and thinking continually about either what just happened or what was about to happen, I stopped to get lunch.

The lady working the hot dog stand had a look of weariness from trying to make life work when answering my inquiry about how her business was these days. She replied that it has been really hard lately. She said that she is just trying to get by and offered no hint that there was a marketing plan or sales strategy she found to be realistic when considering how to turn the financial corner.

Not too long after she was honest with me about her lack of fortune, she asked me if I was a lawyer (it’s the tie that gives it away) and how my business is. Here’s the thing about her question; she seemed to really care about my business and wanted to hear my answer. She shifted with ease from the reality of her plight into empathy for mine. Through the exchange, we each offered a few encouragements and she finished with “God Bless.”

I walked up to that hot dog stand pre-occupied with things that I was thinking about that mattered not only to me but to others. Here’s the thing, though; the things that I was thinking about were either in the past or the future by thirty minutes or more each way. What was in the moment was the hot dog lady.

The honest interaction and insight into the world of someone else who cared enough to ask and encourage me sent me walking away enjoying the residue of peace. Peace only comes in the moment, not in the memory and not in the possibilities. It’s only available now and we can either let it land or wave it off. Our engagement from one moment to the next can connect us to the human condition through other humans and we can know the peace that comes with contentment only available for a particular moment. Or not.


The Right Reason

Abraham_lincoln_&_usns_mercy_in_company_(by_usn_photographer's_mate_3c_gabriel_r._pipero)When I first started practicing law, I was outside the courthouse one day with a lawyer I was doing some work for. He was telling me about a civil case he had been working on and a discussion he had with his client. The client wanted to pursue litigation and take it to trial because he wanted “justice.” The lawyer told him, rather cynically, that the courtroom was the last place that justice would happen. His point was an attempt to get the client to consider settlement.

I had many clients following that come into my office and want to sue someone or pursue something on principle. I would explain, time and again, that the only person that ends up happy where disputes are fueled by subjective principles are lawyers. Once we get months and dollars into the process, everyone except the attorneys begin to lose interest and passion for once was an unflappable conviction.

I wrote the other day about an action of stepping into forgiveness. The action of forgiveness produces an emotion more than an emotion produces forgiveness. Our emotions will tend to lie to us if we let them and if we submit to the emotions we’ll have a hard time letting go of the offense. We’ll make decisions based in hurt and from anger instead of logical moves to move forward.

Forgiveness is the release of the need for justice. It isn’t releasing the truth of justice, it’s simply not holding control of the justice. It’s allowing the consequences of another person’s actions to be determined by someone or something other than the one that’s hurt. More accurately, forgiveness is allowing God to determine justice without needing to help Him.

If you know Jesus, you know mercy. He didn’t meet you with justice, but mercy. It doesn’t mean that you weren’t guilty; it means that He isn’t going to hold it against you. It means you are forgiven. “Forgive us as we forgive others” is the way He taught us to pray. Forgiveness flows through; we don’t have to be the Source of forgiveness, but we are to be distributors.

The counsel I gave those clients seeking to pursue legal matters on principle didn’t mean that the legal system wasn’t the right place to resolve disputes. It simply meant that the rationale and emotions that motivate litigation need to be grounded in something other than the passion of principle. Even a favorable verdict doesn’t bring internal healing. Only heart level forgiveness can do that.

Broken Peace

horse eyeThe difference between a champion and a potential champion is the ability to bring the potential into such focus that it is actualized. The immaturity of a potential champion has to accept the harnessing of their potential to realize their destiny. The analogy used in my last blog post was that of a racehorse receiving the bit to allow for the reigns that yield to the direction of the rider.

That picture of a horse under control has a contrast. The contrast is a horse that is wild and refusing control. It is a horse that rebels with all efforts that it doesn’t agree with which would otherwise be for its good. It’s a stallion that kicks the crud out of everything and everyone around it with great consequences of destruction and wasted potential.

When there is an out of control stallion with great potential that kicks at every effort to rein it in, people scatter. The force and intentions of the hind legs of that rebellion will hurt antagonists and innocent bystanders alike. The cross posts of the fence get knocked out with the frantic rejection of authority over the power and potential. Things get messed up by the immaturity and stubbornness of what might seem to be legitimate apprehension of yielding control.

If and when the rebellious stallion yields to the legitimate authority in its life, it will finally rest. Remember the scenes from Westerns when the bronco is finally broken? It is peaceful and submitted through heavy breath and sweat which reflect the battle it had just raged against control. That rest, especially by contrast to the chaos of the resistance, is peaceful.

There is peace available to us that exceeds understanding but it’s counterintuitive to what the world would suggest:

  • It’s a peace that comes with submission and relinquishment.
  • It’s a peace that comes when we stop kicking the restraints and accept the bit.
  • It’s a peace that comes from knowing who we are.
  • It’s a peace that comes when we see ourselves as the champions we can be by His design and reject the lies that the stallions believe regarding the need to protect themselves.

Stallions are orphans with no other options for their provision, protection or place. Champions know their place is assured because of Whose they are as much as because of who they are.


Source of Honor

1280px-Medal_of_Honor_ribbonEvery once in a while, we get to see a little deeper. We get to peel back the onion one more layer and enjoy a fresh perspective which was there all along but not evident from our point of view. A little over a week ago, I received a deeper glimpse into honor.

For the past few years, honor has been brought to the forefront of my thinking. First, I became more aware, then more educated, then more intentional, then more tested and eventually more convinced that I don’t know anything about honor at all. As much as I try to want to, there are times that nothing in me wants to honor except when it’s driven by motivations that are the opposite of honor.

As I set out to lead men on a Quest last week (see Tuesday’s post), I was praying and thanking God that I get to do this. I love getting to walk in purpose that has eternal implications and love the opportunity to agree with God in how He sees men despite their flaws. So I pray and I thank Him and recognize that it’s Him that’s leading them, I’m just invited along for the ride and as an instrument He may or may not choose to employ for their benefit and His purposes.

In thanking Him that I am invited, equipped and commissioned by Him to do this, I prayed thanksgiving for the honor of getting to co-labor in this thing. As I prayed that specific prayer, it occurred to me that He does, in fact, give me honor in allowing me to be involved at all. God honors me. He honors all of us.

He commissions us (see: the Great Commission) for His purposes. He invites us in our flawed, temporal state into His perfect, eternal purposes. He honors us despite our inadequacy and employs us despite our limitations. He doesn’t need us, He chooses to include us.

That was the first thing . . . that God honors me (us). The second thing that comes from the first thing is that makes Him the source of honor. In fact, He is the source of everything that is good, perfect and eternal. He is the source of love, joy, peace, patience, etc. Without His supply, we are just trying to generate His stuff from our lack.

The prayer was good for me. The realization was one that accepted His honor and that acceptance was the source of honor which I could then give away. When I can’t figure out to honor the seemingly dishonorable, I need to go back to the Source. He will supply.

Showing the Way

feet washingThe central question in conflict should always be “what about me?” The easy and preferred statement is “let’s talk about you” but the treasure is in “what about me?” For as long as I maintain a focus on you and your behaviors and you do the same, we are certain to remain at an impasse. As soon as one of us decides that there might be something in and about ourselves that is worth inspection, confession and change then we have a shot at resolution.

The greatest value of relationship is the provision of a mirror for reflection of our own faults. Left to ourselves, we can insulate and isolate to the point that we are content even in our own cess pool of depravity. But in community or relationship, that stuff starts to stink enough that others smell it and they don’t like it. Because they have their own smells, we’re usually not too excited about hearing from them about us because we were just about ready to tell them about them. Thus, the cycle can begin.

The greatest value of marriage isn’t the romantic high points, it’s mundane figuring out of how to live together. There is great value in the untapped selflessness within us that has no way or no need to be expressed until we are committed to work out a relationship. Selflessness expressed comes out to defeat selfishness which was previously allowed the dominant position. There is nothing comfortable or easy about it, but that is the cost of maturity and wisdom.

The same is true at some level of clubs or work or church or any other group that we seek to interact with humans routinely for a common purpose. There  is going to be stuff we disagree on and those disagreements will give us opportunities to exercise in our selfishness or allow selflessness to become primary. It’s the display of selflessness that is the display of Christ within us.

Jesus was perfect yet He went willingly to the Cross through the suffering that it entailed for the glory of the redemption it afforded. He allowed others to prevail in the moment to glorify the Father and to make a way for the greater good of every one of us. He is the model.

Not a single one of us is Jesus, but that doesn’t mean we don’t look to the Cross for an example of our possibilities. It’s possible for us to glorify the Father when we willingly choose to allow for others to be right despite the fact they are wrong. Our selflessness puts Jesus within us on display instead of maintaining our position of prominence when we are selfish. When people see Him in us over us in us, then He is glorified and they might see the way that has been made for them, too.