Don: We are all learning how to manage the mess, particularly as it relates to some of this extra stress that we’re dealing with lately. We’re going to be imperfect and behave inconsistently. Because real people are messy – life is messy, and life has people in it almost all the time. So if you are allergic to mess, life is going to be much more challenging. Ha!
Some years ago, we were looking at houses and went into a model home. It was flawless and fantastic — no stains on the carpet, no trash in the trashcan. The walls were painted perfectly.
I thought to myself, if I lived in a model home by myself with no kiddos or dogs, I think my house would look like this. But we live with two dogs, four kids, lots of friends and there’s stains, scrapes, and dings because it’s a real house with real people.
That’s true in our lives too. If you’re living a real-life with real people and real relationships, there’s scrapes, dings, and messes because that’s part of the price of admission.
Renee: It’s evidence of life happening, right?
Don: Real people live here! You can tell we have a real puppy because of the stains on our carpet. The stains right below our television in our living room are authentic puppy stains.
We’re talking about this idea of a specific season of life that can cue messiness. There’s a verse in 1 Peter 4 that we were going to jump off with today. He starts by saying the end of all things is near. That is an attention-grabbing beginning: the end of all things is near! Gets our attention, right? It’s also something we might hear on a news headline. During the last several weeks of our lives, it’s been suggested that the end of all things is near which has caused much panic.
Renee: There is a tension in this verse. It awakens you, right? Because when you sense that something different is going to happen or something is ending, all of a sudden, you need to make sure to [fill in the blank]. It’s interesting what pops up and pops out of us when we sense the urgency of something ending. I think that we’ve felt that urgency inside of our relationships. We don’t know if the world is ending, but there is a real panic in our current environment.
There was an article recently that talked about how people are re-evaluating previous relationships that had fallen out. They are trying to restore relationships to see if what was lost can be renewed.
I think endings have that, like a movie, you’re hoping they will be able to tie it all back together. Right now, we sense things are tense, and there’s an urgency inside of us relationally.
Don: Steven Taylor is a Canadian psychologist who’s written hundreds of articles on anxiety and stress. Interestingly, in the last few years, he’s researched the psychological impact on people who have experienced global pandemics. His latest book was published in October 2019, six weeks before the Coronavirus was identified. You can catch him on YouTube, talking about what happens when you put large numbers of people in situations where things have rapidly changed.
There’s a lot of unanswered questions. We also see an increasing need for certainty – we want to be completely certain when we are faced with so much change and unanswered questions. We want to be complete certainty and complete safety.
He uses a term called “zero risk.” Meaning, we want to be completely safe in our life. But this creates a problem because we live in the real world with real relationships in real-time. The availability or the option of being completely certain and completely safe is usually not on the menu. This “need” that we have for complete certainty and safety is elevated when we feel like the circumstances around us are unknown.
This need drives us into dangerous and unproductive behavioral patterns like hoarding or doing things that put us at risk.
Peter’s admonition, in chapter 4, was written to people who were living in a time of crisis like we are. He is saying, “therefore, be alert and of sober minds so that you may pray.” Renee, what do you think of that idea about being alert and sober-minded so that you can pray? So that you can have communion conversation with God?
Renee: When I think about being clear-minded, to me, it means that I have a vision or a foundational place that I can feel solid and be able to know how to pray during this time. I think it is a lot of work to be able to stay in a clear place because of the unknown things. I think we’re reaching for control while being thrown a ton of information. When something is coming to an end, we get flooded, and it’s hard to stay clear-minded. But it’s also important to have a clear place to go when I feel like God is calling me to pray. I have to know when I’m supposed to intercede and who it is that God wants me to pray for. Having clarity of mind is an important part. You can also see how difficult it is to have a clear mind when there’s a panicked feeling in our environment.
Don: I think it’s helpful to be aware of how appropriately attentive you are as opposed to avoiding what you’re feeling. You may want to avoid how uncomfortable you feel. But Peter also says to have a sober mind. We can look at the numbers during panics, and see that grocery stores who sell alcohol are doing really well. Sales are up in other forms of numbing like medication, recreation, pornography, and ice cream. Things that help us feel better without making us better. When we go to these things to find comfort and avoid stress, pretty quickly, these things become a source of stress. Now we’re trapped, and we aren’t able to pray freely. The glass of wine with dinner might be good for your heart, but a bottle of wine is probably not good for your marriage or prayer life. Right? So that’s having a sober-minded sense during panic.
Renee: I feel like when there’s panic – imagine mobs and fighting – you see the people who have clarity. The person who has clarity is leading the others because they can help lessen the stress. They can see what’s going on and how they can assist. They can make a difference in the situation, with the pain and hurt. You don’t want a panicked person if you go to the emergency room. You want a clear-minded, sober person to help you. Right? And so this verse makes sense to me – the Lord asks us to be clear-minded when the end of times are here. He wants us to be clear-minded because we will be people who can love others well, who can serve others well, who can be the resource to others. If you stay clear-minded, you will know what to be praying for; you won’t be caught up in the mob mentality.
Don: I think of first responders. If your house is on fire and the firemen show up, they are dialed in. They’re not reacting, they’re responding. They are showing up, prioritizing, and moving intentionally and in a specific way. If you go to the hospital, you will see that the ER team is not reacting, they’re responding. I feel like this is what Peter is saying. We are the first responders in our home. We’re the spiritual and emotional first responders in our community. When you think about how police officers arrive at a conflicted scene or the firemen at a fire or the nurses and the doctors, they are all dialed in, right?
Renee: There are protocols and ideas on how to attack the situation. What are the best resources you have available? When we’re in these kinds of panicked places, our best resource is prayer.
Don: If we are going to show up in our homes and be first responders, we need the clarity of first responders. We have to be engaged, connected, and not medicated. We cannot be distracted or reactive. We are the first responders to our kids and spouses with whatever’s going on; we need to be ready to help them.
Renee: I think prayer deescalates any situation. If something is out of control and someone prays for you, it does something supernaturally and in the spirit changes the atmosphere.
Don: Verse 8 says, “above all, love each other deeply.” Not the surfacey or hallmark, I mean love each other deeply into the depths. Love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins. Love covers a whole bunch of sins, a whole bunch of messes, and a whole bunch of violations. What does that cue up for you when you hear those two traveling together?
Renee: what immediately comes to mind is when I was living in deep sin, I knew the people who loved me, who were believers. When I think about how they approached me, they were able to stay in a place that didn’t feel like they faltered. They didn’t tolerate or accept the behavior which wasn’t serving me well. But they still choose to love me and be with me in my life.
Renee: It can get confusing when we’re in places where people are acting out in all sorts of ways. When division, accusations, and condemnation are happening, it’s really hard to find deep love. It’s difficult to do, but when you’re the recipient of it, you know when someone loves you deeply, even if you’re choosing poorly.
Don: It’s interesting because one of the pictures of sin as a disease is that it’s very infectious. If you’re around me and I’ve got a lot of active sin in my life, there’s a good chance that you will be contaminated. Right? So when he talks about this, love, this deep love, it’s almost like the personal protective equipment that our first responders and nurses have. They’ve got to cover themselves – face masks, eyeglasses, protective gear so they can help people who are contaminated. They use a lot of that PPE, personal protective equipment, because it gets contaminated from the contact, and then they need to be covered again. They need fresh covering because they’re dealing with a contaminated person.
We are going to need lots of coverage and a big pile of love because every time we’re with each other, we’re potentially exposing each other to something destructive and contaminating. It can get inside of us and hijack our best selves. And sin is probably more contagious than Corona.
Renee: That’s powerful because that whole idea of sin begets sin. It’s like if someone shames you, the first thing you typically do is participate in shame or throw shame back on them, right? Whatever thing comes at you, you can feel the pull of doing the same thing. If someone accuses you, the first thing you want to do is accuse back. If someone has love as their protective gear, they know that they’re deeply loved. They have to stay clear-minded and have self-control. They also have to be aware of what’s happening inside them to be in relationships with others who are not as aware.
Don: For the cultural health, if those first responders get sick and go down, we’re all in trouble. They’re the heroes right now. They’re risking their lives going into very contaminating situations to try and care for people that are potentially bringing something toxic into their lives. They’re digging deep into their commitments, faith, and willingness to walk into a dangerous situation, and they keep going back!
Peter is inviting us spiritually, to be first responders to each other. It says in verse 9 to offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. What do you think of offering hospitality to one another without grumbling?
Renee: It’s easy to have a grudge when you’re being asked to be hospitable to someone who is not receiving well or seeing what you’re doing for them. That’s why the grumbling comes into effect. It’s hard because there’s an idea of fairness inside of us that believes that if we’re going to do something nice for someone, then they should acknowledge what we’ve done. We tend to think, “I blessed you. You should stand up and call me blessed.”
Don: When our kids were little, and we would ask them to do things, we used to tell them, “we don’t do fairness in our home. We do love.” Fairness isn’t enough. We’re going to upgrade from fairness to love. I remember sometimes they would comply, but there’d be some of the snarky grumbling and Renee, you had a little phrase that I loved…
Renee: Happy heart. I would say, “Let me see your happy heart!”
Don: We’re not just going to serve each other, but we’re going to do it with a happy heart. Because the grumbling is a way of taking it back, the grumbling is a way of saying, “I did this for you to recognize and appreciate and reciprocate. Since you didn’t, I’m mad at you.” If we’re first responders to one another, we are acting in a way not to make ourselves or someone else happy, but because we’re responding to Christ.
Renee: We have a couple of questions for you.
Is it hard for you not to grumble?
Where is God asking you to serve, offer hospitality, or hold space for someone else without grumbling?
Where is that happening for you?
Is it difficult for you to keep love inside of you so that you can love others?
Can you stay clear-minded and have self-control?
Can you stay in a place that you can pray?
Who is God asking you to pray for right now?