Monday, October 8, 2012

Show and Tell

One of the first bits of writing advice I received was show don't tell. It sounds simple, but it's hard to follow. I'm a writer, for heaven's sake, that's what I do...tell people about stuff through written words. But oh, what's that? It's not the best way to communicate? Rather, you should tell a story that shows what you mean. It took me a long time to get that. And it doesn't just apply to writing. It applies to living. Whatever it is we want to say or to teach comes through in our actions much louder than in our words. "Your actions speak so loudly, I can't hear what you say." True this, thank you, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Rogers and Hammerstein went out on a limb with this song written for South Pacific, Carefully Taught.

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

Children have to be taught to hate. They love, instinctively they love their mommy, no matter if she is the world's best or the world's worst, her child loves her. Until she teaches him or her to hate. And as a child learns to hate, love begins to wane. Not just love for the different, love for the same, for family, for friends, for God. Love and hate do not and cannot co-exist. So, please, sow seeds of love.

Extreme partisanship and divisivness rule and reign. People my age and older say it's never been this bad. But I suppose they've been saying that for years. It gradually gets worse. A society that isn't getting better is getting worse. I don't believe this can be turned around by imposing our beliefs, convictions, values, morality, or lack there of, on others. It can't be turned around by pointing to the past. We can't go back, nor should we want to. But we can and should learn from the past and move on accordingly. We can live by, and live up to, our own beliefs, convictions and values. We can and must live up to our own sense of morality without judging others.

In fact, if we're Christians, followers of Christ, we have to love and not judge. And I'm here to tell you, that's hard to do. Even as I get upset with racists and bigots who claim to be followers of Jesus, but have not love...there I go, judging them. And just as they would quote me book, chapter, and verse after verse to justify their disdain, to justify their judging and hating (not the sinner of course, just the sin, believe that and they'll tell you another) I will come back with verse after verse about love, grace, living in peace wherever and whenever it is possible. I will come back with the greatest commandment and the love one another.

In the days of South Pacific it was racism. Native Americans and black Americans were still discriminated against and then Japanese Americans were added to the list. Today it is Muslim Americans and GLBT Americans who are discriminated against. All in the name of Jesus. Ooof. That feels like a punch in the gut to me. I wonder how God Almighty feels?

Here's how I imagine it. I am a mother of sons, no daughters, just sons and now some wonderful daughters-in-law and a couple of grandsons. My sons, born to me, share DNA with me and my husband, and each other. I love those boys. Each of them is so different. Each of them is following their own path in life. Who is doing the best? Who do I approve of and love more? Not one. Not one of them is better to me or more loved than the other. Each with his own personality, character traits, ambitions, likes, dislikes -- each of them is fruit of my womb and I love them like, well it defies description, how much I love them.

When someone suggests that one of my boys may be better or worse than another, it hurts me. If someone says you must be so proud of this one over that one, it kills me. I can celebrate one's accomplishment without being less proud of another's. I'm proud of all of them. I love each one.

So, that's how I imagine it is with God and all of us. He made us. He knows us. He loves us. Here's where my love for my sons, and God's love for us differs. God knows us inside out, he knows the good in our hearts and he knows the evil. And his word says we're all sinners, so yes, there is evil in even the best of us. But he loves us anyway. I don't know what my kids hold in their hearts, I don't know what their futures will bring. I just love them and hope for the best. God loves them and knows the worst. How about that? And he loves me and you just the same, too!

Knowing God, loving God, should bring us to this -- what now? What to do with the Bible verses that tell us how we should then live. We should live in obedience to his command in his word. Is that the point of the Bible, to be our personal instruction book? I think not. The Bible tells us all that we must do to please God. And then, in case we can't figure it out, his word tells us it is impossible to please God. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Without atonement, it is impossible to please God. Without the sacrifice of Jesus, it is impossible for us to please God. Furthermore, we don't even get to choose to believe. He has chosen us.

I'll stop there. Mid-thought. Though so much more is going on in my head, but I fear that I'm telling. I'll stop that and listen to my heart and see if there is a way to show. Meanwhile, may God bless me and you with a love for others that keeps us from judging and leads us to encouraging, lifting up, spurring one another on to good works. Amen.