“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:8 (NIV)
As I am pacing around in my brain for my next blog post, it occurs to me how much I overthink things in life. Raise a hand if you are with me. (Yes. I see that hand! 5 rows from the back.) Our minds get caught in the gravitational pull of a mental black hole and it can be excruciatingly difficult to get out of it. In those moments my overactive imagination develops an idea. This idea tells me that I have to write something so elaborate and inspirational to spark interest in my blog. However, that’s not when I am at my worst. The most obnoxious occurrence of my own overthinking comes when relationships are involved. My emotions go haywire and I begin to think of every possible negative scenario that could happen. This usually happens when I’ve done some bonehead thing or get filled with angst about the great unknown, commonly known as “the future.”
Sometimes I just want to get out of my head.
I know that I am not alone with the individual who raised their hand in the back of the room. I know this because I watch my friends, coworkers, and people that I counsel do it all the time. Sometimes it is humorous to think about all of the things that my brain developed. Most times, it is just plain sad. Sad because all the scenarios (and there are some real dandies!) that I’ve spent a ton of energy creating in my head never come to fruition. Let me ask you this, how much time would you free up and at what level would your anxiety be if you didn’t overthink things? I know that I’d get more than a few days back in my life and a few more hairs on my head.
I think the biggest relationship that we tend to overthink is the relationship we have with God. If you are unsure if this is true, I bet you can find someone around you today who thinks that something bad happened in their life because God is mad at them. You might be that person. And it’s a shame that our minds take us there. If there was a parent who punished their child the way that some people think God is punishing them, I think that a call to Child Protection Services would be appropriate.
How did God become so cruel?
My guess is we are overthinking it (on top of some bad preaching). Just like we often create horrendous scenarios in our heads, we have the ability to do the same with our conception of God. That notion of God just doesn’t work for me. I am going to hang my hat on something simple and not too overthought. 1 John 4:18 reads, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” This doesn’t sound like the heartless, angry parent that some people call God. It sounds like a God that actually cares about our life and is not looking to punish us. How about you? Do you overthink things? Let’s put our brains and emotions to rest. Your head will likely become a much better place.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:9 (NIV)
I have a particular skill. This skill has gotten me out of all sorts of things. It is one of those things that is such a strength that it is also a weakness. You see, I can be very savvy at making excuses. There was a deep discussion I had with myself the other day. It went something like this, “I mean, those cupcakes aren’t going to eat themselves and I spent good money to so that I can be a benefit to my country’s economy. I realize that they are bad for me, I already had one, and that my waist line is not asking for more, but I want to be a good steward. Yep. I am eating this sublime, frosting covered piece of heaven.” Does anyone relate? Have you had these types of discussions in your head? I’m guessing that I am not alone in making excuses.
I use excuses to try to reassure myself with deception.
I will freely admit that there are times that excuses are legit. If you have children, you had a bona fide excuse when they decided that the time for them to piddle in their pants was moments before departure. Or that time when you are invited to a party and you come to realize that when they said “party” they meant one of those affairs where they want you to buy the world’s greatest, scientifically created, scented candles. These situations are beyond your control or are reasonably avoidable. But the ol’ song and dance that we drum up in hopes of finding a loop hole hurts us more than helps us. You can probably think of one or two instances in which you choose to make an excuse. I know that I can. But in that I also remember how selfish I was being when I was trying to “justify” my decision. Damage was done.
My excuses not only sabotaged my integrity with others, but also with myself.
Being that this is Holy Week and Easter is right around the corner, I can’t help but to reflect on some of the moments of that week. For whatever reason, Judas has been on my mind. There are some who think about the Bible way more in depth than I who suggest that Judas thought he was doing the right thing. That in his betrayal he was hoping to force the hand of Jesus to become the King of Israel in the way that he (and many others) thought Jesus was going to be. If that is true, I can imagine how Judas had justified his actions to plant that kiss on the cheek of Jesus. It’s amazing how we will violate our own principles to get what we want. With an excuse we end up losing a bit of who we are or who we want to be. Judas displayed this when he realized what his excuses led to—the condemnation of Jesus. “So Judas threw money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.”* Judas lost the integrity he thought he had. The weight of that was unbearable.
On the flip side, how many great things have happened because people moved beyond excuses? Revolutions have overcome oppressive dictatorships. Slaves were emancipated. Enemies have traded war for peace. Relationships have been restored. Some of the most incredible medical advances have occurred. Inspirational Paralympians compete and do things I can’t do. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” Despite what Jesus faced on Good Friday, a choice was made to preserve integrity. Moving beyond excuses really has changed the world. You or I might not change the entire world, but we can have an effect on the world right around us. We can passover the excuses to hold true to our commitments. We can find reasons why adding value to a relationship is more important. The only one that can do that is you and me. No more excuses. Let’s be the people who we say we are going to be.
*(Mt. 27:5 NIV)