50 things I once believed (3)

 

So, how and why did I come to change my mind about these matters of my faith? I see at least seven steps common to virtually all of my change in belief.

First, someone challenged my thinking. In essence, they dared to say to me, “I respectfully disagree, and here’s why.” It wasn’t a matter of confrontation or debate, simply a clear and respectful challenge (let me underscore the word “respectful”). Someone dared to ask me why I believed what I believed, patiently listened to my response, and then either deliberately tried to set up a checkpoint of thought in my path or tried to plant in my mind the seed of a differing view.

In a few words, they disagreed with me without being disagreeable about it. As a result, I learned, and continue to learn, to welcome, rather than resent, questions about my faith.

Second, I dared to truly consider what the person had said or written. Actually “consider” isn’t a strong enough word; “ponder” is more accurate. But we’re talking baby steps here; consider, then ponder! This is often no easy thing to do, particularly given the speed at which we live our lives today and how so very much competes for our attention every minute of every day. Distractions are about us like the air; they’re everywhere. But unless a thought, especially a challenging thought, has time to settle deep into our mind, we will never open ourselves up to the chance of changing our mind.

If I changed my mind about something, it was because I didn’t let things go in one ear and straight out the other. This could very well be the most personally challenging of all the steps I’ll list here, for a full and busy life is not a friend to reflection.

Third, I talked with God about these things with faith. I prayed for God to shed his light on the matter. I asked him to show me if I was wrong, where I was mistaken, and what path to take. I trusted him to lead me to a better understanding and practice of his will. I believed he would cross my path with the people, places, things, and experiences that would answer my requests of him.

I believe he did. And I believe he does.

Fourth, I sought more information from the person who planted the seed. This rarely happened at the time of the question or challenge, but came about instead after pondering the matter a bit. It was as simple as saying to the person who had differed with me, “I’ve been thinking about what you said the other day. Tell me more. I’m here to listen and learn, not debate or argue. I want to know more about what you believe and why for your view intrigues me.” Significantly, it was in this listening that I often discovered that some, or even all, of my conceptions as to what exactly others believed, or why they believed what they did, were often skewed mistaken.

How very embarrassing, but, oh, how enlightening is this step! In this I continue to learn that embarrassment is more often than not, a necessary part of learning. If I will not risk shame, I will not grow. It’s as simple as that.

Fifth, I investigated matters for myself. That is, I started reading and digging into the subject at hand and as I did so, I deliberately read outside of my comfort zone. I read things that challenged my views and differed from my understandings. I read the other person’s mail, so to speak. I tried to walk a mile in their moccasins. And as I did so, I deliberately tried to keep an open mind and to not engage the material in a combative spirit. And then, having read the other person’s mail, I’d go back and examine my beliefs in light of what I had encountered.

I have grown to relish this step, for it is here that I hear the cogs of my mind turning most clearly.

Sixth, I began to look more closely at the fruit of my beliefs and the fruit of the beliefs of others. Ideas have consequences and as I traced the trail of various beliefs to their logical ends and began to pay attention to how they were commonly and outwardly expressed, I discovered much more about the real “stuff” of these beliefs. I found that sometimes a belief that sounded reasonable in my head and didn’t meet strong resistance when expressed in words, actually made little sense at all, or was contradictory to the facts at hand, when put into practice. Typically, what I learned from these observations came as a complete surprise to me. I had expected one thing, but witnessed another. I believed that practice is the acid test of faith, but I came to realize that if I didn’t hang around long enough to see what happens to the belief when it was put into the acid, I’d never really know what my beliefs, or the beliefs of others, were made of.

I can’t begin to say how immensely powerful this single step was to opening my eyes up to my change in belief on some matters (for example, #6 on my list). Some of the most humbling experiences in my life have come from taking this step quite seriously. I believe it is one of the most commonly overlooked and least often practiced of the disciplines mentioned here. May this change.

Finally, I made it a point to not stop looking at, thinking about, listening to, and seriously considering, the minority view on matters. This didn’t come naturally for me, nor did it come easily or quickly. It was something I had to work hard at developing. What influenced me strongly then was the fact that there were people around me, or people to whom I frequently exposed my mind, who believed the same way I believed. They were “the majority,” in my mind, because they were my circle of influence. What slowly dawned on me across the years is that “the minority” view on a matter needed to be given extra attention in my mind if their perspective was to ever get a fair hearing. How so? Because the influence of “the majority” was so strong in my mind that it tended to filter out any real chance of detailed consideration of differing views. And so, I made up my mind to no longer be capable of being a mere bobble-head doll, nodding in near automatic agreement with those in my circle of greatest influence. I deliberately chose to allow other perspectives to go against the flow and challenge my thinking.

This is a huge, significant step for it strongly calls out what I actually believe about God. None of us hold our beliefs alone, but majorities and minorities don’t factor into the mind of God. As a Christian, I live under his sovereignty, not my democracy.

Without a doubt, I remain a very long, long way from where God would have me to be in terms of my walk with him, and my being shaped into his Son’s likeness. But this shaping must occur, inside and out, and must not ever stop. If by sharing these things with you, you find you’ve been helped in some small way, then I know that I have been helped as well.

God have mercy and give more of his light to us all as we can see it. And may he smile on all of us as we seek to become and reflect his ways. Amen.

this went thru my mind

 

Alzheimer’s: New Research Offers Tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

“The ravages of the disease … not only affect the 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s but also the 15 million-plus unpaid men and women who care for them.”

Difficult people: * Dealing With Difficult People by Sean Palmer; * Tackling Armchair Quarterbacks by Dan Rockwell

“The Reflexively Oppositional will always be with us …”

“Receiving criticism indicates you’re doing something. Get used to it. … In some cases, you invited their criticism by excluding them. You didn’t invite their input or participation. Worse yet, they felt ignored when they spoke. … In other cases, you invited their input but they rejected the direction you’re leading. In all cases, armchair quarterbacks wrongly believe they have deep insights.”

Distractions: What to Do When People Ignore You for Their iPhone by Jon Acuff

“I’m going to stop talking. Wait until they realize I have. And then hold up a small sign that says, ‘Are you still listening?’ You with me?”

Fluorescent bulbs (CFL bulbs): Stony Brook Study Reveals Harmful Effects of CFL Bulbs to Skin

“Our study revealed that the response of healthy skin cells to UV emitted from CFL bulbs is consistent with damage from ultraviolet radiation. … incandescent light of the same intensity had no effect on healthy skin cells …”

Food stamps: More Texas Seniors Receiving Food Stamps

“The fastest-growing group of Texans receiving food stamps is the 60-64 age bracket. In the past six years, those residents receiving food assistance – now issued in the form of a benefit debit card – has jumped by 106 percent …”

Immigration: * More Exploding Immigration Myths by Tim Archer; * The American Way of Eating by Matthew Soerens

“Sadly, some of these myths reside in my mind or at least in my feelings. Others are commonly held misconceptions about immigration, ones that may or may not affect how we deal with the issue.”

“If you want to get rid of illegal immigrants,” says Alabama sweet potato farmer Keith Smith, “quit eating.”

Israel: Israel to Revive Jordan River by Todd Bolen

“… the Jordan River has shrunk over the years but a new plan will bring the stream back to life.”

Just war: Is Christian Just War Just Like Jihad? by Lee Camp

“… we come to a doubly troubling possibility: First, that the mainstream Christian Just War tradition may, in fact, be closer to the teaching of Muhammad than that of Jesus. Second, that we American Christians have too often failed to live up even to the ethic of the Just War tradition: we seem pleased with its logic that war may be justified, but ignore the limits it imposes upon the ways we fight.”

Medicaid: More on Medicaid Refusal: Questions for Governor Perry

“Expanding Medicaid is a great deal for Texas and refusing to do so is not something the Governor should decide by himself before Texans have had a full and thoughtful conversation about what’s at stake for our state, and then the Legislature needs to decide on a course of action. Our state has an opportunity to help millions of Texans xget the quality, affordable health care they need, and we should not pass it up.”

Mental health: Study: People Who Are Constantly Online Can Develop Mental Disorders

“Researchers at the University of Gothenburg recently studied more than 4,100 Swedish men and women between the ages of 20 and 24 for a year and found that a majority of them who constantly use a computer and mobile phones can develop stress, sleeping disorders and depression. Sara Thomee, lead author of the study, said there was a ‘central link’ between computers and mental disorders.”

Politics: * President Obama and Common Grace by K. Rex Butts; * ISideWith

* “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

* “Take the presidential election quiz and see which candidate you side with.”

Theodicy: Where Is God When I’m Hurting? by Kathy Vestal

“Why does God not heal all the sick, raise all the dead, stop all the earthquakes, and right all the injustices of the world?”