Last night I had the strangest conversation. Actually, I feel like it was an attempt at a conversation that really was more like attempting to answer accusations before being bombarded by further questions that clearly demonstrated inaccurately applied preconceived ideas.
As some of you know, I take part in Project Dance (www.projectdance.com) events. Project Dance holds concerts in New York, LA, and Sydney, Australia. The concerts take place in large public forums (such as Times Square), and for most of the day (around 9 am to 7 pm in NY) we present the gospel of Christ on a stage for all to see. In April I had the joy of being part of the concert. There was one mime and myself plus a whole lot of dancers. I presented music in sign language. I love worship sign. I've taught it, interpreted for women's nights of worship, and ministered with it. It is one of my favorite things.
Last night I was asked what I used the signing for, and I was trying to explain, and in the course of explaining, I mentioned the concerts in NY and LA. The other lady asked me about the concerts for which I had been paid. I said honestly, "I wasn't paid for the concerts."
She then said, "You implied you were."
I replied, "No, I never implied I was paid. I never gave any indication of being paid for anything. You assumed I had been paid."
To which the lady said, "Well, you called it a concert."
As I tried to explain the concert, she bombarded me with more questions without actually listening to any answers. After I finally got the point that the concerts were done for ministry, and I had done it because I love it, not for money, she then said, "Well, who was deaf?" Huh? "Well, what was the purpose of your signing if no one was deaf?"
"It was worship," was all I could say. The Spirit ministers through worship.
"So, you don't really speak sign language that people can understand." That was not a question by the way. I really tried not to roll my eyes.
"Yes, I do. I use sign language to express music. If someone is deaf, they will understand, but they don't have to be deaf to understand worship any more than the audience members have to be dancers to understand the dance."
It was obvious that she felt that I had somehow misled her since my answers did not hold up to her preconceived ideas of concerts or ministry. In the end I felt like I had just been asked to justify my worship and my right to use it corporately or even consider it important. I did not respond with the frankness that floated through my mind. Rather, I tried to answer with grace, but as I lay in bed last night waiting to nod off to sleep, I wondered if that was part of the problem.
Preconceived ideas create so many problems in our lives. The whole altercation last night was due to preconceived ideas and accusations that arose when those preconceptions weren't met. Perhaps others have responded with their perceived ideas of "grace" and thus, perpetuated this woman's method of accosting people who do not meet her preconceived ideas.
I wonder what other preconceptions I have that cause problems or misunderstandings for me. For a long time I believed anyone who disagreed with me would quit speaking to me because my father was like that. If he had a disagreement with someone, he would get mad and not talk to them anymore. I wonder how many honest friendships that cost me. I wonder how much agony it caused me thinking people were mad and staying mad at me.
One of the biggest concerns I have are preconceived ideas of God. For a long time, I thought God was like my dad. I thought God was perpetually mad at me, and I kept thinking that at any time all those things I had ever done would come be thrown at me for some infraction that had never been addressed before, and the consequences would be extreme, usually including being ignored for some length of time before being told again how it was my fault. Others have ideas of God that are quite the opposite where they believe God is more like Santa Clause who just gives good things and gifts to anyone who is a pretty good person. Both of those ideas do nothing but drive a person from the truth of God.
The truth of God is that He is a loving God. He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us. He is also a just God. While the price has been paid, it is for those who choose His Son. It is not enough to believe there is a God out there. In the book of James it says the demons believe in Christ and have the sense to tremble. Satan knows the reality of Christ, but he isn't going to Heaven. What makes us think a human believing Christ is real will buy us anything else?
I think there are two significant problems here. First is simple rebellion and refusal to submit to Christ as Lord. The other is preconceived ideas based on human nature.
First we have to address the reality that Christ is called a King. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Son of God who sits at the right hand of God. If He is royalty, then our place as people ransomed by Him is that of servant. That means we must obey His Lordship. To believe Christ is the Son of the King and refuse to obey Him as Lord puts us on the level of demons who know He is the Son of God but refuse to obey Him.
Second, we project human-ness onto God and what He requires or offers. John 3:16 says simply, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that anyone who believes in Him shall have everlasting life." All that is required is belief. However, this word is not so simple. If we believe something is true, then we are required to act in accordance with that truth. If we believe a fire will burn us, we don't stick our hand in it, do we? If we believe the God of the universe gave His Son for us, we are required to respond and to act accordingly, as people forgiven of sins not as those who are given a free ticket to sin. We are required to spend time seeking His purpose for us, learning His character, hearing His heart. We do this not out of legalistic demands by God but out of our gratitude and love because we know the truth--we were dead in our sins and we were headed to hell, but the Lord God saved us by the shedding of His Son's blood. How can we not respond with gratitude and love to someone who saves us from torture and death? My opinion is the only way we are not affected by the depth and immensity of God's love is that we either have such hard hearts that we prefer our selfish way to Him or our preconceived ideas blind us to the truth. In either case, we miss Him, and that has an eternal price tag.
May all preconceptions fall at the feet of the Truth as the Truth is shone in all His glory....
14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. ---Ephesians 3