Sunday, February 10, 2008

Blind Spots

I was in a hurry. I had less than an hour to do a quick intense workout at the gym and than get to work. Most of the snow from the previous day's storm had been ploughed, and the major roads had been cleared. I checked the time. Seven minutes to get to the gym. In and out. The driver in front of me, however, apparently did not feel the roads were clear enough, and they were going very slow, as if expecting another storm to hit any minute. I switched lanes, hoping to pass, but the right hand lane was full of even slower drivers.

"C'mon! Move it!"

I switched back into the left lane and pulled up close behind the driver in front of me, hoping they would get the message. They didn't. I checked the speedometer. You have to be kidding me! For the next ten minutes we hit every yellow light, and stopped, and proceeded at a pace akin to a light jog. When the right lane finally cleared, I checked to see who was driving in front of me.

"Another middle aged Asian woman." I muttered.

It figured.

By the time I got to the gym it was too late to do anything but some light cardio and than hop in the car and head to work. I was still miffed eight hours later, when my shift had finished. Slow ass women drivers.

It wasn't until the next day, when I was praying, that I realized what had happened. The more I thought about it the guiltier I felt. I've always considered myself someone who accepts everyone on equal terms. I didn't. The truth, as it was brought so heavily to bear in those moments, was revealed in an instant. No matter how loving I thought I was, it didn't change the fact that I still had some blind spots. Big ones.

It's not something we think about a whole lot these days. Our culture is fast but not introspective. We often equate education with understanding, especially when it comes to the differences between people, between cultures and genders. We call people who are racist 'ignorant', with the implication that with just a bit more knowledge, racism would disappear. But the knowledge is not something you learn in a classroom. It is the knowledge of self, and human nature.

It is hard to admit that we favour certain types of people over others. That we think things about men or women. And as you get older, often what happens is that we become less understanding. Our acceptance rate falters. We've seen things 'a thousand times' before, so why would the next time, the next person, be any different.

What we don't realize is that so many of our problems in life, so many of our complaints, become engraved within our thought pattern, that they ensnare us. Freedom is a wonderful thing, but there is no freedom when your beliefs about people and groups have already been answered. When people no longer have the ability to surprise you, when they no longer present a mystery in their uniqueness. When that happens we are on the road towards a life filled with deep sighs and a deeper hatred.

I'll be honest. There are a few things in my belief system I don't like. I worry sometimes about how I view women. I am single and divorced, and so women have been a great source of pain to me. Sure, I have female friends who are wonderful, but in relationships, I've had a truck driven over my heart more than once. I understand that I am trying to protect myself with these attitudes, but it doesn't make it right. I also have problems with certain cultures. I grew up in a white, middle class town. I'm not comfortable around some cultures. And sometimes my behaviour, my thought patterns, reflect that. And every time I do it, every time I think about people who belong to a certain 'group' as merely a member of that group, I am guilty of something. I am guilty of turning people into product.

Churches do it too. They group Christians and non-Christians into separate groups. They build a chasm between people of different beliefs and justify it with words like "saint" and 'holiness'. Odd that I never see that in Jesus' life. You do not see this separation. What you see instead, is one who understands that all people are people, that all of us are just a little bit broken, and that all of us experience the same struggles and the same failures.

How you view people matters.

One of the great blind spots of many leaders is that they have never examined how they view people. Are they aware of their own upbringing, their own natural tendencies, and the things that make them feel uncomfortable? In the church, we use words like sin and holiness and morality. Too often however, they are an easy excuse to keep us from examining who we truly are and how we see the people around us.

It simply isn't good enough to say God loves people, if we are not willing to examine the dark things in our heart that reveal just how much we DON"T love certain people. It may be natural to classify objects and even put people in groups, that is the way our brain works, but until we're prepared to examine our blind spots, to be transparent before God and the people around us, than our love is nothing more than a teacher helping her favourite student. Jesus went out of his way to show us that the only favourite He had, was us. All of us. The least we can do is be honest about who we really are.

My prayer this week is that you will take a few moments to examine your blind spots, and ask yourself some important questions. How do you view people? How do you view women? Men? Different cultures? Do you see a huge divide between people who know Jesus and those who do not? You may not realize it, but how you view people is reflected a hundred times a day, and it is often the clearest way to see if God's love is truly at work in our lives.