Making music when people are messy

The desire for contact with other human life is buried in our cells. On DNA level we are image-bearers of the God who created us for a love connection with himself. We’re made to be in relationship – with him and others.

Sadly, that whole Garden-of-Eden thing derailed us.

Which means that sometimes relating to others is easy and wonderful, as intended. And sometimes it’s train-wreckish.

For his third birthday, Cameron got one of those cool plastic trumpets with the little plastic tubes that he can fill up to various levels with water, so that each coloured plastic knob that he presses produces a different cute plastic pitch when he blows into the thing.

Maybe it’s like that with people.

You can fill a plastic trumpet tube with just a little (murky, toddlerish) bath water, and it makes a sweet sound. Or you can fill a plastic trumpet tube with a lot more of the same water, and it makes a sweet sound. The sounds are different – higher, lower – but both are sweet.

Some relationships are deep – meaningful, close, harmonious. Fantastic. Thank God, and pray against complacency. Those relationships still involve human beings, who have a long track record of doing silly things to hurt each other. Be deeply at peace with the people you’re deep with, and make a sweet sound.

Some relationships are shallow – superficial, and possibly fraught with glaring misunderstandings. Not ideal. But fortunately, it’s not about you. It’s actually quite freeing to think that it’s ok to feel injured, judged, disregarded or misconstrued. You don’t have to have deep, harmonious, I-totally-get-you relationships with everyone. You just need to make a sweet sound. So choose your attitude. Be kind. Be interested. Surrender your pride (i.e. People will tap the tip of your iceberg with knowing smugness and assume it’s all there is to know about you. So what?). Keep praying that God would best position you to reflect his glory and the grace of Jesus. And relish the moments of connection that do magically happen now and then in those I’m-not-sure-I-trust-you relationships – a shared laugh, or the fact that you both secretly love Atomic Kitten, or whatever. Know in those congruous moments that something is resonating with God’s image stamped in you.

Of course there are also deep relationships where cancerous, strength-sapping malice and misunderstanding lurk. Essentially, the same principles apply – it’s just more painful. Decide to love. Decide to honour. Decide to speak the language of that person’s strengths. Pray. Listen for a sweet sound and keep playing that note. Don’t necessarily expect a symphony to echo back to you. Not immediately, anyway.

Paul said, ‘If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.’ (Romans 12:18) When things are disappointingly messy, maybe it’s good to remember that the pitch is not necessarily the important thing. We need all sorts of tones and frequencies to make up the opus of life.

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