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February 25, 2013

When I listen to people talk about their experience of Haiti, when I read what they write about it, it seems they either focus on the negative aspects of the country—the poverty, the devastation, the dust and the garbage, the things they feel entitled to but cannot find here—or on the beauty—the natural beauty of Haiti and the beauty of the people.

I think back to the very first post I wrote upon arriving here, and the title I chose for it, Is This Heaven or Is This Hell?  I had to choose whether I would focus on the negative or the positive.  The same choice applies to how I see life, how I see others, and how I see myself.

There is a Cherokee legend that I’m sure many of you have heard, but it deserves retelling here, as the lesson has some relevance.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Whether I feed the negative or the positive is my choice.  As I make that choice again and again, it becomes habit.  I no longer have to make a conscious choice, it just becomes the way I see things, the way I do things.  When I look at the world, I see the beauty.  When I look at others and myself I search for the good that is in everyone, no matter how deeply it is buried.

God could not make us perfect and still have a meaningful relationship with us, for to do so He would have to deny us our ability to choose, and a relationship without choice is no relationship at all.  So He chose to do Himself what was necessary for relationship.  He chose to focus on the positive in us, His own image stamped upon us at creation, and forgive the negative in us.  This is His gift to us.  We can choose to accept that gift or reject it.

I can extend that gift to others by forgiving the negative I see in them, and choosing to focus on the positive, putting relationship ahead of my desire they be “perfect” (or at least perfect as I define it).  Such is love.

When God looks upon us He does not see the negative.  He does not see our sin or our sinful nature.   Through the life and work of His Son, He sees the Jesus in us, the Son who delights Him, whom He loves, and with whom He is well pleased.  Does poverty or illness—whether physical, mental or spiritual—or anything else extinguish the image of God within us?  Never!

When Jesus met the woman at the well He did not see a Samaritan, someone to be disdained by Jews.  Rather He saw a woman in need of living water, and brought out the good in her.  When He was confronted with the woman caught in adultery, He did not see her as her accusers saw her.  Rather He saw a simple sinner, and condemned her sin while extending mercy toward her.  When He was approached by the centurion whose servant was ill, He did not see a Gentile, a heathen oppressor of the Jews, but rather a humble man of deep belief, and He marveled at that.  When he encountered lepers, He did not see those to be shunned and avoided at all costs.  He saw people in need of physical and spiritual healing and touched them in their need.   As a follower of Jesus, I am called to do the same, to separate the sin from the sinner, the negative from the positive, and respond to the positive.

I do not suggest I do not see the negative.  I am by no means a Pollyanna.  Rather I choose to give the negative less weight and give the positive more importance.  Neither do I suggest that I am consistent in choosing the positive over the negative in all areas.  God has over time taught me some very uncomfortable lessons in this regard.  As well, anyone who knows me knows all too well there are certain subjects (most especially the machinations of world politics) that bring out a great deal of negativity in me.  But I try to use that negativity to motivate me toward working toward change rather than just being critical.

When I look at others I try to do what Mother Teresa says she did:  I try to see the Jesus in them.  I try to see what God sees.  In Matthew 25,  Jesus tells us He is indeed in everyone, that whatever we choose to do for others we do for Him.

The negative or the positive; the choice is ours to make.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Margaret Vallance permalink
    February 25, 2013 5:41 pm

    Blessing or cursing – great post Barry!!

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