Tuesday, December 27, 2005

How do Others See Us?

I had an interesting conversation with my sister Allyson the other day. It was her birthday, so I called her; she's five years older than I am.
Somehow she realized I was on a cell phone. She was amazed that I had one! Now Allyson and I have seen each other only once in the last 7 years or so, last fall at my other sister's reception for her second elopement. She and I don't communicate often, since we don't really see things the same way and misunderstandings can readily happen.
"How long have you had a cell phone?" I told her I'd had one for years. Now it was my turn to be amazed. "Oh, we don't have them, I guess we're just crotchety"; I don't remember how else she explained it. I would have been sure that she would have had a cell phone before I did. But she did tell me that she had a PDA. "You know what a PDA is?" Well, I don't know where she thinks I live, maybe in a hollow log in the desert somewhere, but I know what a PDA is. I don't know why she'd have one and not the other; I don't know why she'd find it amazing I'd have a cell phone and then think I wouldn't recognize a PDA...whatever.
So I wonder, how does she see me? Why wouldn't I have a cell phone? I'm not a trendy person, and they did exist a while before I got one, but now I find it very useful. I don't go for all the gadgets, just the calling ability.
Along this same vein, my daughter and I were talking about how so many people her age see the same movie in the theater 3 times before it expires; the trendiness of moviegoing and clothes and gadgets and all those things is very attention-getting for them.
You know how every family seems to have a particularly strong tendency in one regard or another that gives them their own unique flavor, their essence as their particular stamp on the human condition. I have often wondered what ours is; how people see us. I wonder it about my sister, my daughter's contemporaries, and others around us. What do they see in us?
I would above all prefer that they saw Christ in us, not that they would be mostly struck by my flaws, or those in my family. They probably see a good many flaws in me. My goal would be that beyond my flaws, my love for others would make a new acquaintance ponder first, silently or aloud, whether I was a Christian... rather than proclaim, "She's strange! You say she's a what?!"
Christianity will make us strange. We have viewpoints that are downright antiquated to the unbelieving world around us. We have standards that they will never understand apart from Christ. Our habits may leave them wondering why we don't strive for such enjoyable things as they build their lives to acquire. We should be strange! Nevertheless it would be tragic if that were all. The eye-opener to help them see Christ shouldn't be our viewpoints, our standards, our habits, though they all should be reflecting our faith...it should be our love, our concern, our kindness.
I am aware I need to change my approach from human effort to His effect through me. It's slow and cumbersome because my pride gets in the way so often and stops me from allowing Christ to shine through.
How do others see our family? We may perhaps be seen as the family without trends. We don't go to many movies, or buy the latest clothes (though I don't think we're of eras long gone either)...How can people manage trends?! It escapes me. Our lack of trendiness wasn't ever on purpose, just by necessity and priority. I would have it be that we're the old-fashioned, untrendy "We're here if you need us, have Christ, will share" kind of people. It often takes some time to give that message, I think; but that's what I hope people would see in us.
I think what I would like is illustrated in an anecdote I read long ago about a little girl's conversation with her mother. She asked whether God was bigger than we were, and was told yes, He is. Then she asked whether He lives inside us, and was told yes, He does. So then she asked, increasingly confused, "Well, if He is bigger than we are, and lives inside us, wouldn't He show through?"
That's what I want to have happen in my life. That's how I see that we should be known--that the light of Christ should shine right through.

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