Projection Rejection

One of the most challenging part of learning to work at McDonald’s in high school was grasping the “customer is always right” mantra.

Is the customer, indeed, always right?  Of course not. But if it costs you a little this time and they return as a customer, many stores choose to err on the side in favor of the customer always being right.

It just struck me that many of the customers are likely aware of this dictum.  And yet very, very few take advantage of it in a dishonest way.  I suppose you might say there is a broad-based social agreement in favor of respecting others. Whether I am the customer or the cashier, I am more focused on getting through my day as well as I can than I am on cheating someone else out of something.

But is this really a fair assumption? The tension I read on social media and see and hear on newsfeed might have one believe otherwise.

Some of us are indeed very suspicious that most everyone else out there is really out to get the better of us, to cheat us or hurt us or take advantage of us.

There is, it seems, an awful lot of suspicion of the other going around.  I’m not sure this has increased recently, but perhaps it has.  I know social media magnifies it.

As I contemplated an assumption of a broad-based social agreement of respect in terms of this (seemingly) increased level of mistrust and disrespect, and was stopped dead in my tracks with this:

How much of our increased mistrust and disrespect finds its source in projection?

When I am less trusting, it is often because I feel less trustworthy myself.   When I am feeling good about myself, I tend to be more generous and trusting of others.

I wouldn’t presume to tell you that all of your issues or suspicions or mistrust of some other person or group of people is entirely your projection of your own fear or lack of confidence or uncertainty or dissatisfaction with yourself.

But I will offer you this challenge: will you join me in rejecting the projecting of your own stuff onto others?

The more of us who do this, the more space, I believe, we create for the presence of the Kingdom of God here and now.

Putting Jesus “First”

“Put Jesus first.”  I feel like I hear this a lot.  The scripture that has informed our current sermon series, Colossians 1:15-20, supports this directive.  It says, after all, in verse 18

He is the head of the body, the church,
who is the beginning,
the one who is firstborn from among the dead
so that he might occupy the first place in everything.

But what does “putting Jesus first” look like?

In our society, people who “get to go first” don’t have to stand in line like everyone else. They receive protection from all the normal people; they can have guards and gates and get ushered to the front row or the luxury boxes.

Not only was Jesus NOT treated this way; there is no indication that Jesus ever sought to be treated this way.  In fact, I’m reminded that he said that “Whoever wants to be first among you will be your slave—  just as the Son of Man didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.” (Matthew 20:27-28)

Jesus WAS the head, the firstborn from among the dead. He DOES and WILL occupy the first place among everything.  He was also so secure in his relationship with God that he felt no need to act like it, or to show it off. In fact, he emptied himself, humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:7-8)

May you and I, and all who are trying to follow Jesus, be secure enough in our relationship with God that we, too, might not seek to be recognized as first, or as more important than others. May we follow the way of Jesus – and, in doing so, we’ll find we are putting Jesus first.

Lesson from a 3rd Grader

Yesterday I made my weekly trek to South Euless Elementary Schoolsouth euless 2where I mentor a couple of boys.  One of them is in 3rd grade, the other in 6th.  This week, I met only with the 3rd grader.

As usual, I checked in on social media. This time, I checked in with this statement: “What will I learn from a 3rd grader today?”

And my bluff was called. So, what did I learn from a 3rd grader yesterday?

That I don’t always communicate what I intend to communicate, and that if I don’t pay attention, I’ll miss something.

He and I have been meeting together over lunch most of this school year. Each time, he seems eager to sit down with me and start talking.

I learned early on that we are better off if I don’t force the conversation where I want it to go.  When I do, I quickly sound like just another older person dispensing advice and wisdom.  I know this because I see it in his eyes, and I hear it as he gently mocks me.  Sometimes he’ll parrot my words back to me. Sometimes he just says, at increased volume, “You tell me that every week!”

I don’t believe I do tell him the same think every week, but if I argue with him about that, then I’ve lost the battle for relationship before I’ve even started.

It is a challenge for a 52 year old to meet a 3rd grader on his own terms, but if I want this child to respect my experience and the wisdom and insight I’ve gained along the way, I owe it to him to try my best.

We only have 30 minutes together each week. Sometimes this will be filled with significant conversation. Sometimes it will be mostly his making faces at his friends at other tables.

But he still looks forward to my meeting him at lunch. That’s something I’ll take any day of the week.