At a workshop I attended, art and drama therapist Emily Nash shared an experience she had while working with traumatized children and adolescents at a residential treatment center in the USA. The boys who attended her class were often combative, prone to negative and self-destructive behavior, and unable to trust adults or even one another. Almost all had histories of severe abuse and emotional neglect.
Take a close look at the two guitars pictured above. If you were a guitarist, which would you pick up to play? Probably the one on the top with the straight frets (the thin metal pieces along the fret board that the strings are pressed down onto), right? Well, you might be surprised to hear that it’s the one at the bottom that some leading guitarists say makes the best sound. Odd, isn’t it?
One key element in our pursuit of Christlikeness is emulating the humility of Jesus. In the ancient world of the Greeks and Romans, humility was seen as a negative trait. It denoted a subservient attitude on the part of someone considered to be of a lower class. It was seen as a cowed attitude, one of self-belittlement or degradation. The honor-shame culture of that time exalted pride, and humility was seen as undesirable.
Have you ever wished you could do something that would change the world? But did you ever feel that your obscure little life would leave no mark? You have no idea how wrong you are.
We can all make a difference, every single one of us. That doesn’t mean that any of us can stop all wars, find a cure for cancer, and end all famine and poverty. But each of us can play the role God has given us to the best of our ability.
God knows everything about us as individuals. He knows our frame. He knows what we’re capable of. He knows our gifts, talents, weaknesses, and strengths. And despite whatever we might think of ourselves or our lacks, He picked us for His team!1 He is certain that, with His power, we have what it takes to fulfill the role that He wants us to play.
Each event in your life, each thought, each decision, each bit of love, and each interaction with someone else is like a thread in a tapestry. Day after day, dark threads and bright threads are woven together, often, it seems, without rhyme or reason, but in the end they form a picture. When I look at the tapestry of your life, I see a beautiful work!
In his book describing years of veterinary work in the harsh Yorkshire Dales of England, James Herriot tells the story of Tip, a sheepdog at a local farm. He first encountered Tip one freezing morning, when he walked up to the farmhouse door, looking for the owner. Suddenly, from under a pile of snow at the foot of the door, Tip emerged, cheery and full of excitement. James was shocked, and later asked the farmer why the old dog was left outside.
Don’t allow yourself to feel sad or discouraged about your imperfections, because you will never be perfect. Instead, be thankful that I am here to help you and support you. Then you won’t be tempted to feel bad when you stumble or fall along the way.
The Bible tells of a time Jesus went back to His hometown. I think it’s one of the saddest stories in the Bible, pretty much summed up in the final verse of the chapter: “He did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.”1
These people knew Jesus. They had watched Him grow up, and I guess they didn’t expect much from Him. So when He came around after He’d been doing miracles, they just couldn’t believe it. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?”2 they asked. It seems to me they were saying, “We know this guy. He’s just a carpenter—it’s not possible that He could be doing something great. It’s not like He’s the son of God or anything.”
One of my cherished childhood memories is of my older sister reading my favorite Bible story—the Good Samaritan1—to me from a picture Bible. I’ve never forgotten that “my neighbor” is not only the person who lives next door but also anyone whose path crosses mine.
Yet it was many years before I began to fully grasp what Jesus meant when He said to “love your neighbor as yourself.”2 I focused so much on the first part of the sentence that I sometimes forgot it had a second part at all.