written by Dori Bitikofer
I find myself unable to adjust my rearview mirror without thinking, “Don’t do that! You’ll loosen it and then it will just fall right off!” Those are my grandfather’s words, which were repeatedly gasped when I was a child. His car was precious to him. My brother and I were expected to sit in the car with our hands in our laps, touching only what was necessary. We learned early not to open, push, turn, or adjust ANYTHING.
Many things are engrained in us from a young age. Some, like my grandfather’s expectations for the treatment of his car are relatively benign, some are beneficial for our well-being, while others are toxic. The blaringly toxic issues are usually the easiest to recognize. Through much self-evaluation, counseling, and prayer we can work through painful events in our past, recognize that we are redeemed, and move forward in victory and purpose. But, what about the smaller issues that we convince ourselves are benign? How do we evaluate the actions of our daily lives? The book of James is a great place to start.
While reading through this book I began to think about the many theological debates I’ve had with friends and family over the years. I’ve had many good discussions, but also many verbal and scriptural battles as strong emotions came to the surface. As I look back on those discussions I am amazed at how seldom our disagreements came from scripture and how often they were rooted in our family/church environment. We had been taught a certain interpretation and so it MUST be.
This small book of James deals with so many of the issues that dictate how we process and discuss information, thoughts, and theology with others. I have been pondering that very small step between knowing what I believe and using what I believe to justify myself. In the process of justifying my own actions am I also condemning another’s? Am I using scripture to prove my viewpoint or actions as correct, or am I seeking what the Bible is saying to ME?
In the context of everyday life I may not be facing a theological disagreement. It will likely be one as simple as adjusting or not adjusting a rearview mirror. Although my grandfather spent a lot of positive time with us, there were moments when the knobs, buttons, and mirrors on his car seemed more important to him than our feelings or intentions. I must often pause and ask myself, “In large and small disagreements am I taking time to see from the other’s perspective, or have I already judged them and found them lacking?”
As I grew, I came to realize that sometimes the rearview mirror DOES need to be adjusted. I have also discovered that this can be accomplished (repeatedly) without coming apart. Is it possible that many of the squabbles and hurt feelings which take place in our homes and churches are rooted in our need to justify our way of doing things out of fear of it all falling apart?
Used by permission from The Burning Bush, Franklin Conference newsletter.