Falling Out of Trees

Blogs are a dangerous thing. One person, one computer, and a never-ending stratosphere of possible opinions.

Opinions are a dangerous thing. You can become so enamored of them that you fling them on everyone around you, like so much Christmas tinsel. And at the end, when you’re done, you’re left with them. Such as it is.

I’m all for having opinions. I have lots of them. Just ask me. Or ask my husband. He’s fairly well-versed in my touch-points, and is gracious enough to let me have them. He’s amazing, that man. (That’s objective truth, not an opinion.)

Sometimes opinions cross a line, and become convictions. Wonderful things, those. Convictions are the things that lead people like Martin Luther King Jr. to march on Washington and change history. They are things that cause people to rise up to oppose injustice, rallying men like William Wallace to fight to the death for the freedom of his people. Women like Christine Caine and others become consumed with their convictions to free those enslaved in the sex trade (a conviction I share, though sadly, not to her level at this point).

Would that we all had deep convictions like those, causing us to rise up in the face of adversity, going beyond our human frailty to accomplish something outside ourselves, something bigger than we are.

The danger lies in confusing the two, turning our opinions into convictions. And then the real problem occurs-we feel that others need to share what we now believe to be convictions. We draw lines in the sand, daring others to disagree with us, and when they inevitably do (we humans have a deep-seated need to be right. Wonder where that started.), we vilify them, calling them ‘out of their ignorance’. Sometimes we even call them names.

The root word of conviction is the word convicted. Held prisoner. Chained to. Enslaved by. In Christian circles, we use the term ‘convicted by the Holy Spirit’ to describe where some of these things come from. I myself have a few of these: that Jesus is the true Son of God. That He came, in human form, to die for my sin. That He loves me, unconditionally. That His love is for the whole world, bar none. That real New York pizza is proof that He loves me.

Ok, maybe not that last one. Maybe.

Seriously, though, I think I would be willing to sacrifice everything I have–to die for my real convictions. At least I think I would. I’ve never had those convictions challenged in that way, so all I know is what I’ve got. I’m as convicted by those things as is possible at this point in my life. I am held prisoner by a love that gave all for me, voluntarily chained to the One who created me and knows me down to the number of hairs on my head.

These, I believe, are convictions I’m willing to go to the mattresses for.

Honestly, there’s not much else beyond that. I’m convicted that I will remain faithfully married to my husband for the rest of my life. I’m convicted that my kids are mine for a reason, and I’m the best they’ve got (that one keeps me up at night sometimes).

But I have a wealth of opinions. Ask me about everything from politics to the current situation facing my favorite football team and I’ll happily talk your ear off. I have opinions on where to shop, where to eat, how local traffic should work, what constitutes a too-high heel (on a shoe) and what is inappropriate on TV. I’ve been known to be a bit vocal about these things (don’t shake your head at me; if you know me, you know it’s true). I love a good debate, and won’t shy away from entering the fray.

Recently, though, I’ve been convicted in a different way. I’ve been convicted by grace and honor. I’ve become enslaved by the idea that, at the end of my life, Jesus isn’t going to ask me how many times I was right, or how many people I persuaded to agree with me. He is, however, going to ask me if I loved my neighbor. If I gave out to others the grace that was given me when I first believed, and every day thereafter. Did I honor those in my sphere of influence, treating them as if they were valuable? Or was I so concerned with being right that I alienated others?

In the Garden, there were two trees. One brought death. The other, Life. Since Eve made her unfortunate choice (moms everywhere are still regretting that one), mankind has become expert at leaping from one branch to another of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We defend ugly, hateful speech as ‘it’s the right thing to do’. I mean, after all, we know the plan top to bottom, backward and forward, right? We have the lock on what is right, and what is wrong. 

Don’t get all bent out of shape. Are there boundaries we shouldn’t cross? Absolutely. Murder, in all its forms (another conviction of mine, but that’s a blog for another time). And yes, there are moral boundaries. But the reason those boundaries were put in place was not so that we could browbeat others into submission; they were put there to help us avoid death. When we respond to others out of that place of rightness, we risk sacrificing ourselves on the altar of pride and self-righteousness, both of which only lead one direction.

How about, instead of throwing down the gauntlet and questioning others’ sanity, or salvation, or intelligence, we honored them, extending grace in situations where we might disagree? What if we were more concerned with relationship than rightness?

What if we switched trees? You in?

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12 comments so far

  1. Ineffable Jeff on

    It must be in the water. I’m hearing this a lot lately. *sigh*

  2. Jennifer Stracener on

    As always, well said, or written. I love you my friend!

  3. Josiah Solis on

    Ok…so I read this last night and honestly went to bed confused/slightly ticked off. I didn’t really know why, but something wasn’t settling right with me. God woke me up in the middle of the night and said, “you know the reason you’re upset is because you let your opinions shape your identity. When you’re ready, I’d love for my identity to shape your convictions.”

    WOah…so thanks for the post 🙂

  4. Cheri Cochran (@chericochran) on

    Very well written, and challenging thoughts. I love “being convicted of grace and honor.”

    And I’m betting we share similar opinions on that favorite football team of yours. 🙂

    Love you!

  5. Heather Pina on

    Great article!!That was good for me…several times I felt convicted by the Holy Spirit.(no pun intended;)

  6. Abigail on

    Nice…I like the “gauntlet or grace” contrast.

  7. Marissa Star on

    I freaking LOVE it!!!!! Love honor and gratefulness and love … No better way to get lawless than those!

    Seriously Nance you are a great communicator and I’m pretty convicted if we can get this … Like really get this … Watch out we might just change the world! And my opinion is I’m right! ;p

    Love you friend!

  8. Bonnie Billingsley on

    This is great! You amaze me! I love this! I love you! And yep, I’m pretty sure I don’t know much except; I love Jesus, My husband, my boys, and friends! And yes…Jesus gives us yummy stuff like pizza and other unmentionables to show us that he loves us! Other than that I am open to all sorts of opinions. Usually… Relationship is far more important! Ris is right if we get it we will change the world.

  9. imnobetterthanu on

    I love the proper use of grammar always present in your writing. More so I love your open, honest transparency, Beautifully written and only continuing what the Holy Spirit has been telling me for a couple months now of the need I have to work on loving others more, all others. Something I struggle with tremendously in some areas.
    The hate, negative colleague at work. The inconsiderate driver on the road next to me. The individual so judgmental of me and my unfortunate sins.
    Thank you for sharing.

  10. Leigh-Ann Joness on

    so true and ALWAYS a good reminder! it is easy to take our opinions, make them convictions, and then place them on others. thank you Lord for GRACE!! thank you for this!!

  11. Courtney Joy on

    I’m very much like you with opinions and I’ve been having the very same convictions lately about becoming more gracious and honoring.

    My favorite part of this is when you say “…at the end of my life, Jesus isn’t going to ask me how many times I was right…”. This is a helpful perspective.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  12. Jen Weiss on

    Thanks for the “tweak.” I feel like a computer that received a well needed trash bin dump 😉 and clean up. Running faster after reading 🙂 thanks for sharing.


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