Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Traditions of Our Fathers

I have some pretty big biases in my life.  I have a "crazy right-wing" tendency, which I really have to work sometimes to shut off.  I was raised in a family where the more traditional view of things was not dismissed, necessarily, but also not blindly accepted.  As I have grown, I have discovered that when I "research" an issue, I usually am not doing anything of the kind.  I am really looking over a whole lot of information, and the pieces of information that resonate with me are the ones that support my already firmly established opinion.

A particularly difficult and firmly-held belief of mine was challenged recently, in a way that didn't address my bias, exactly, but did bring a question into focus for me: is my way of thinking about this issue correct?

I had to pray about it.  It was a hard prayer, because there was a real chance that I had been wrong about this belief.  It was an attitude that had been passed down for generations, and changing my mind about this one issue touched on a lot more than just the issue itself.  It meant changing me.

As I prayed, I asked about the traditions of my fathers.  Were there attitudes, beliefs, biases--traditions--that my fathers had passed down to me that were wrong?  Could these attitudes be the very ones that I cling to most tenaciously, making them part of who I am?  Are these attitudes benefiting me and expanding my abilities to serve God and His children, or are they holding me back?  Most obviously, what would God have me do about this issue I was praying about?

I realized that in my years of praying about this issue, I had never really felt peace about my decision. However, I feared the alternative.  I think the traditions of my fathers interfered.  I wasn't entirely comfortable with either decision, but instead of moving forward and trusting in the Lord to make everything okay, I was staying in my comfort zone, which wasn't really all that comfortable.  I was so tied to not "following the crowd" that I couldn't get a clear answer.

Thankfully, the Lord is gentle and patient.  When we have hard lessons to learn, He is there to support us and to soften the blow.  How I love Him!  How thankful I am for His Son!

I am concerned when I see people on their soap boxes, berating and vilifying people who don't see eye to eye with them.  I have been on the soap box, and I have been vilified.  I have compassion for people who are doing their best to make good decisions and aren't always getting it right.  What's more, I see that often the decision isn't so cut and dried, and often there is a lot of conflicting information to wade through.  How do you make a decision when there are valid points on either side, and both camps are mud-slinging? When I have struggled with those kinds of decisions, I have felt that I had to hide a part of me, that people would not be understanding or even keep me as a friend if they knew the truth about me.

And so I have a plea to make: before you berate a person or group for any "wacky" belief, remember that we all have stuff to learn here.  We all have traditions that have been passed down to us that are incorrect in one way or another, and we all have to sort out for ourselves which traditions are good and which are not. We all are doing the best that we can.  Do your best for you and your family, and understand that people who make decisions you don't agree with may be doing the same.  Remember that behind every "stupid" decision or remark is a person with feelings, one who is likely struggling with lessons that you may not understand.  Having struggled in those ways, I pray that those around me will be compassionate.  And I pray, too, that I may remember, and extend that same mercy and compassion to others.