Friday, May 10, 2013

The value of respect for everyone

Psalm 138:6-8 (NIV)

Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
   though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
   you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
   with your right hand you save me.
The Lord will vindicate me;
   your love, Lord, endures forever —
   do not abandon the works of your hands.
The more I explore my faith through the lens of parenting, the more I see the holes in my world view that ought to be patched before I consider myself someone who sets a good example for my kids. These verses from Psalm 138 provide a fantastic example. Reading through them quickly, they are individually empowering. God preserves me, saves me, vindicates me, shields me from the anger of enemies. Good news, right?

But I go back to verse 6 and pause. Yes, the exalted God looks with kindness on the lowly. And certainly I qualify as lowly, especially when compared to the Almighty. But I must guard myself against looking at all the things God is doing for me and thinking that makes me special as it relates to other people.

If I am going to state a belief that God is the creator of everything and everyone, then I have to acknowledge God also is responsible for the “foes” from whose anger I seek protection. If I beg with God to not abandon the works of his hands, that means not just me and the things I like, but everything, including the parts of the world I can’t understand or don’t care to encounter.

I’ve long maintained that the sooner we as humans start seeing similarities in one another instead of magnifying the differences, the sooner it will be easier for us all to share the same planet. But that’s one of those things so very easy to write when sitting at a keyboard thinking idealistically and so very difficult to remember when directly confronted with a person or thing that drives me up a wall.

In the same vein, I can’t look at the idea of God seeing the lowly from afar and being thankful I’m not among them. As I understand life, there’s God and there’s creation. As long as I have breath, I’m lumped in with creation, all of it, which means there’s no real sense trying to rank myself, or anyone else, above anything else mortal. None of us are God, and only God is deserving of the highest praise and glory. This belief doesn’t require me to sing hymns and cast about hosannas through all my waking hours, but it does get to the notion of remaining humble and remembering life is a blessing, that I am called to live in a manner worthy of God.

All of which is to say I need to be careful how I carry myself around my kids. I need to teach them to respect everyone and everything because it’s all the work of God’s hands. (I realize you can teach respect for others without a religious component, and I am glad certain nonbelievers take this approach. But to me it takes it a step further to try to see everything as created by the same God to whom we pray thankfully for giving us life and each other.) And more importantly than teaching them this through words is to show it through my actions. Which means I need to make sure I actually believe these concepts with all my heart, not just prop them up as some sort of talking point for conversations with impressionable little people.

Say it. Do it. Mean it. Live it. My kids will know when I’m being dishonest, and giving them reason to doubt my sincerity is the last thing I should be doing. Life takes on a bigger meaning when I think about those little eyes watching my every move.

A prayer for May 10:

Lord, look kindly on me, lowly as I am. I am thankful beyond words for your promise of salvation, but I need to be reminded I am still just me, flawed and looking to you to be made right. As abundant as your love is, as far as you’re willing to go for me, I will always be in need. I will always be incomplete until you decide I am ready to be fully in your presence. But I don’t want to like a broken life, rather I aim to be your humble servant. Use me as you need me, today and always. Amen.

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