Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Headwinds or Tailwinds?

The other evening I listened to an interesting podcast on behavioral research called the Headwind/tailwind asymmetry. The study describes a human miserception that our barriers are always greater than our benefits. It seems that when we are struggling we are very aware of our struggle and wish for the time of trial to be over. But, when we are no longer struggling we can afford to ignore the situation and so we lose awareness of how we may be benefiting from a particular blessing.

This leads to some troubling problems. It leaves us with a sneaking suspicion that others have it better than we do. Other pro teams have easier schedules than our team; the opposing political faction has an easier time of raising money; and of course we all know that our siblings had it easier than we did growing up.

Wait . . . is it really possible that everyone’s sibling had it easier? The research suggests that at least the perception is real.

The other problem this “poor me” attitude promotes is the rationalization for cheating. Apparently the thin line between ethical behavior and cheating gets blurred when one is convinced the deck is stacked. I suspect we just begin to think that minor cheating simply levels the playing field, a bit. Well, it’s only fair, right?

I am thinking the corollary to “God is good. God is good; all the time.” must surely be “Sinners are sinful. Sinners are sinful; all the time.” We have even found a way to turn blessings onto sins. We simply ignore our blessings and pacify our hurt feelings into justification for creating our own blessings.

Next think we know we will be insisting that Lent is all about us. It is about our suffering and our afflictions. This must be true because we seem to be suffering all the time. Yet, Luther reminds us that “We should, therefore, always have an eye on the long list of divine benefactions, both natural and spiritual. Then we shall see that where there is a drop of evil, there is also a veritable sea of God’s benefactions.” 

If we take an accurate account we need only remind ourselves that sin earns us nothing better than constant affliction. Yet, Jesus offers constant grace.

Even when we sin, forgiveness waits for us.

Even when we imagine we suffer ill treatment, salvation has been earned for us.

Even when we find it difficult to love ourselves, God loves us:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. Psalm 103:1-5

No, Lent is not about our suffering. In spite of the fact that our suffering is deserved, our God blesses us and stands with us, providing strength and comfort. We have no reason to complain and every reason to rejoice in gratitude. Furthermore, even that gratitude is a blessing given by God.

We are blessed and loved, indeed.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the same, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-2

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