Friday, February 10, 2012

I Think We Can Handle The Truth

I went to see "The Big Miracle" a couple of weeks ago with my two boys. The movie is based on a true story surrounding a collaborated rescue effort to save three grey whales that were trapped in the frozen waters of northern Alaska. My boys seemed to enjoy the movie, but I didn't think it was all that great, personally. As I often do when I watch a movie based on true events, when I got home I immediately began doing some research to find out how accurate the movie was. While I expected to find some variations from the actual event what I didn't expect to find was that the "happy ending" may very well have been a complete fabrication.

For those who have not seen the movie, I don't think I'll ruin it for you if I tell you the movie ends with the whales making it to open waters. After all, I don't think there would be much of a reason to make the movie if all the whales die. We all love happy endings and as you sit there watching this movie, you just know things are going to work out in the end. However, what if they didn't really make it to open waters? What if they spent all that money and manpower trying to free these three whales and their attempts completely failed? Could we handle that truth, or would we rather re-write the ending to make it happy?

As I read several articles about this actual event, the truth seems to be that nobody really knows if the whales made it or not. While many believe they did, nobody actually knows for sure. It is possible that the whales made it out to sea, but it is equally possible that they never made it and the effort was a failure. Naturally, the whales surviving makes for a much better ending, but when I see a movie based on a true story, I prefer the facts to be accurate for the most part. I guess what I'm saying is I like for true stories to be true. What would be so bad about the ending of this whale movie being accurate? Instead of manipulating the ending to go along with what most people hope for concerning the fate of the whales, what if the movie played out like the real life event? Couldn't we all handle an ending of uncertainty? I really think we can handle the truth.

We live in a world where truth is often hard to find. We have political leaders who hide the truth in order to maintain power, push their agendas, and "protect us" because they think we can't handle it. The news media does the same thing. Abortionists use the word "fetus" to convince themselves and the masses that they are removing tissue rather than exterminating a life. God forbid we speak of a literal hell because in the end we like to think that along with dogs, we all go to heaven. In an effort to be "politically correct," we shy away from speaking the truth for fear of offending someone. In relationships, we often steer around the truth because we fear the difficult conversations that often accompany speaking the truth. When we meet people we often put on masks and pretend to be something we're not because we figure if they know the truth about us, they'll reject us. We get a lump or a pain somewhere and we hesitate to go to the doctor because we don't want to know if its something bad. Somehow we figure if we just don't know, we will be better off. We would rather not know the truth if it is bad news. In a court room we take an oath to tell the whole truth, yet neither side really wants the whole truth, just the portion of the truth that benefits them.

I don't know about you, but I want the truth. I think I can handle the truth. I don't ever want to be like those young people on American Idol who have been told all their lives they can sing when they really can't carry a tune in a bucket. I think we should always be supportive of our children, but part of being a parent is having those difficult conversations with our children when we have to speak the truth. It is always a huge mistake, whether we are protecting others or ourselves by running from the truth.

Have you ever seen someone walking around with their fly down and chose not to tell them? Have you ever seen someone with food in their teeth and chose not to say a word? If you were that person wouldn't you rather someone politely tell you the truth rather than say nothing? Several years ago I got home from church to notice that when I took off my pants that the entire seat of my pants had come unstitched. I'm not talking a little hole, I talking a 6-8 inch gaping hole. Now, I hope nobody saw my tighty-whities, but its hard for me to imagine that nobody saw my bright white Fruit-of-the-Looms through the hole in my navy pants. Trust me, in an instance like that I WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH!

Sometimes speaking the truth is difficult. Sometimes it is extremely uncomfortable for both the one speaking the truth and the one hearing it. Sure, the truth may produce anger, tears, and many other emotions initially, but in the end, it produces freedom. Trying to protect someone by shielding them from the truth, often does more damage than just speaking the truth.

Concerning the whales in "The Big Miracle," sure I would much rather the story end with the whales making it to safety. I don't think anyone wants them to die. But, I can handle it if they did. I'm pretty sure my two young boys could handle it too. Perhaps, I would have to do a little explaining to them, but in the end I would rather them know the truth. Actually they do know the truth because I told them. I told them that in real life nobody really knows if the whales lived or died. Their response? "I hope they made it because it would be sad if they died." Amazing, it seems like they can handle the truth.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Basketball, T-ball, And An Important Life Lesson

I have two young boys. My oldest loves to play basketball and my youngest is just about to play his first year of T-ball. I got a bit tickled when I took my youngest to sign up for T-ball and his T-ball tryout resembled a local little league version of the NFL combine. Like any dad, I would like to see them do good in whatever they do. That being said, I could really careless if they prove to be great athletes. If they listen to the coaches, respect others, and give a hundred percent on the field that's really all that matters to me. I never want either of my children to equate success in sports or any other field for that matter, as the standard that wins their dad's approval or acceptance.

I remember when both of my boys were born. They needed to do nothing to capture my heart. When my wife was pregnant with our first child, she asked me if I thought when he was born if we would just sit around and stare at him all the time. After he was born I caught myself repeatedly standing by the crib and just staring at him while he slept. I did the same with our second boy. Naturally, as they have grown, there are certain expectations and responsibilities that have come with age. However, they still need to do nothing to capture my heart. If my boys grow up and play in the NBA or Major League Baseball that would be great. Yet, while the world would see them as pro-athletes, I would still see them as sons who need to do nothing to capture my heart. I would hope they would grow to understand that their identity was not tied to their skills, gifts, or abilities. I would hope that they would grow up to understand that what they do is always secondary to who they are.

God is our Heavenly Father. Our acceptance into His family is not based on merit, ability, gifts, or works. We are sons and daughters of the Creator of the Universe. Our identity should not be found in anything but that truth. We need not do anything to capture His heart. The grace of God is not perverted or tainted with this world's form of performance acceptance. Like a loving father, He loves us at our worst and loves us at our best. He's not embarrassed by our performance nor is He impressed by it. He longs for us to rest in the truth that we are His sons and daughters. When we find our identity in our gifts, abilities, or performance then we have really made an idol out of those things. I pastor a church, but that's not who I am. I am a son of God and what I do is secondary to that truth. If I were to stop pastoring, my position of son remains unchanged. If I were a professional athlete, though my bank account may enjoy a nice increase, who I am would remain unchanged.

Knowing who we are results in true freedom. When I understand who I am, it then becomes unnecessary to prove anything to anyone, including myself. However, if I struggle to understand who I truly am, my life will be consumed with a need to perform in an effort to prove to everyone who I am, especially myself. I can not be truly free until I understand who I truly am.

If my sons miss every shot they take or miss every time they swing the bat, I'm as good with that as I would be if they make every shot they take and knock it over the fence every time they swing the bat. As long as they grow up to understand that their performance has no bearing on their positions as my sons and my acceptance and approval of them. If they'll understand that, then they'll be free to shoot and swing for the fences. And in that freedom, I think they'll get to experience what should be the number one rule in sports and in life....enjoy the journey and have a blast!