Hi everyone. Rob here.
A couple of times I have lived in the less desirable parts of my city. These areas have the reputation of being poor, high in crime, drugs and gang culture. The reality was quite different. Yes, families there were poorer than average. There were criminal elements and gang elements. I had to call the police a couple of times. But the vast majority of my time in these places was lived out peacefully and without incident. I just heard a report about Aleppo; the major Syrian city that’s been under siege for years. Yes, parts of the city are like a hell on earth, but there’s another part where people are still making a life for themselves. The point is that too often the stories we tell ourselves simply aren’t true or they are not true enough!
Assumptions are very dangerous things. They prevent us from discovering the real story behind the life that we’re living and the people we relate to. It’s amazing how often we do it. We assume our pastors never struggle with doubt or prayer. We assume our political representatives don’t really care about ordinary people. We assume that having lots of money is better than having little. Closer to home we often assume that our kids are doing fine or our spouse is happy. Assumptions often happen because we don’t want our lives complicated by the messy truth that emerges when we dig a bit deeper. This also applies to ourselves. We may assume we’re healthy when that lump really is an issue. We may assume we’re managing well even though we’re a little more irritable lately. We may assume that God is on our side even though we haven’t committed ourselves to him for a really long time.
I don’t want my life filled with assumptions. It leads to racism, sexism, flippancy and arrogance. They make you feel important and knowledgeable but it’s a false pride; a house built on sand. Humility is my greatest weapon against assumptions. It is a posture that says ‘I’m not the expert here.’ It makes me willing to listen, ask questions, do the research and get a fuller picture. It also says that God is the only one who knows all and I am willing to trust him with what I don’t know. Assumptions make us feel in control. Humility means we need to have faith.
Over the years I have loved sounding like the one with the knowledge. I started dying to that a number of years ago but I still find that I make too many assumptions. Now that I know that I do that out of convenience I can challenge that narrative. It takes trust in God to embrace complexity and humility. In ourselves we challenge it and look for simple and clear answers. But the human heart is a mystery and there is also mystery at the heart of God. Love sounds simple but it is not. Love honours the mystery and honours the story behind the person. It honours our own story. We bristle when people make assumptions about us because they don’t know our story. We are asked to extend the same love and courtesy to others.
May this week be a week when you resist assumptions. May you find time and space to sit with someone’s story and have your assumptions challenged. May it be a time when lies are broken and truth embraced and may grace and peace be with you all.