Whilst driving the other day, I passed a friend of mine from church at a roundabout junction who began following me, going in the same direction I was going. He later texted me the following message:
‘Hey Tim. Good to see you. You have a missing N/S/R brake light that needs replacing. Thought I would let you know **smiley face**’.
After finding out what ‘N/S/R’ meant (near side rear, apparently), I came to the understanding that I had a dodgy brake light that needed fixing. Aside from the ‘Oh great, yet more cost and inconvenience to sort out my car’ reaction, I was thankful that someone else noticed a flaw in my car that I was totally unaware of. There are reasons cars have brake lights, important ones, so it follows that when they aren’t working they should be replaced ASAP. Had I not seen my friend, and had he not made me aware of this deficiency, it could have been a while before this could be rectified.
I would make a good detective, wouldn’t I?
Anyway…I wonder how much this episode reflects the importance of edifying one another? Or as a wise man once put it, ‘as iron sharpens iron’.
Much of the time, we’re aware of our own struggles (often more acutely and critically than we perhaps should be) and know what it is we’re working on. Alongside this, however, is allowing others to give us a gentle and constructive nudge in the right direction because, sometimes, they see things we don’t. Our perspective, emotions and circumstances only allow us to see and feel certain things. We have limitations. This means that, at times, we need to rely on others to make us aware of the dodgy breaklight which could be damaging ourselves and perhaps others as well.
Gaining perspective from others is important in highlighting what we are doing well and not so good in, and should play an important role in our relationship with others. In the Bible, in one of my favourite stories, we are told of an encounter Jesus had with a woman who had allegedly been caught in adultery. According to Jewish custom, this woman should have been stoned, but instead of condemning the woman he highlights the hypocrisy of the accusers, tells the woman that He does not condemn her and instructs her to her life of sin.
I am not sure what was going through this woman’s mind upon encountering Jesus. Whether it was shame, fear, condemnation or something else, what seems certain is that she went away corrected, yet loved. Up until that point, she may have had no idea just how much Jesus loved her.
Sometimes we need someone to remind us that, contrary to our understanding and perspective, we are valued, loved and forgiven. I’ve certainly needed this reminder over the years.
On a rather more practical level, I remember being told by my someone at work that I had developed this habit of asking people a question, and rather than letting them respond or finish what they were saying I would quickly interrupt them by rephrasing my original question or changing the subject. I was scared of any hint of silence and was therefore not allowing the person the space to respond. I had no idea I was doing this. Since then, I have been so conscious of this and can see how it often hindered my interactions with others; giving people time to respond, even when this involves that awkward silence, encourages them to talk more openly and expressively than they would do had I annoyingly butted in at every opportunity. Thankfully, although that temptation to speak to soon sometimes lurks, I’m a lot better than I was!
Being told that there is something in our life, our work, our relationships, our attitude, our perspective that needs work on is never easy. It requires humility, courage and time. But if we can discern what correction and instruction is right – such as it coming from people we know and trust, and who approach it in the right way – humbly receiving their words and guidance can help enable us continue our journey that little more safely, both for ourselves and others.
I took my car to the garage the other day to get the brake light replaced. It cost £1. Today I realised my windscreen wipers are hinting at the first signs that they need replacing. The life of my car is proving to be a good mirror of life. You deal with one thing, then along comes something else.
Thankfully God’s grace is ever sufficient and ever giving.