At the end of the evening, I asked John “So I ‘pontificate’?”, repeating back the word he had used with our friends earlier in the evening. He described a recent conversation to them that we’d had with some folks, who had shared their opinions on vaccinations and the usual pandemic stuff. And he announced, “Karen didn’t pontificate!”, leaving out the obvious “this time.” Our friends rejoined a little too enthusiastically, “WOW!!! GOOD JOB, KAREN!!!” It was clear they all thought this remarkable.
Last I checked, Pontificate means “to speak in a pompous, authoritative or dogmatic manner.” I felt like my face had been slapped. Wait. What?
Insert record scratching noise
John replied to my question, “Yes, sometimes.”
Sometimes? How often is “sometimes”? I wondered, while saying nothing. It hurt, and “it” was my pride, which if that is all that got hurt, certainly could use that. But still…
I pride myself in my knowledge and analysis, having access to information the public doesn’t have, knowing how and where to find it. Even how to interpret it. And of course, I believe myself to be correct in my conclusions, although I am open to debate. Biased? Nah. Me? Yes, me.
Even while trying to be careful, I still joined in the seemingly endless debate that now seems to be from the pit of Hell. This debate tosses grenades of division and derision that are killing relationships. I had added an annoying voice to the already existing cacophony.
“Pontificate.” It made me wonder how much I had been a noisy gong during the past nearly 2 years when I thought I had been helpful. You, O Father God, reminded me I can ride my high horse of self-righteousness right into the fray. This is the danger of “righteous indignation.” Blind to bias. Feeling entitled to anger or frustrations.
Climbing into bed, I felt chastised. Really. Hurt. So I brought it before my Father God.
“Okay, Lord. I hear You. The shoe is fitting. Might as well wear it, as well as take the time to own this. During this Icky Time of COVID, my outrage has sometimes been louder than Your voice. My anger has sometimes been stronger than Your message of ‘Come and sit with Me.’ Forgive me. In those times I have squandered Your time and gifts. And perhaps I have drowned out Your voice. What else have I ruined? What have I done? And how do I rectify matters? Show me, O Lord. And forgive me.”
Repentance is exhausting and soon I fell asleep. Awakening in the middle of the night, I noted the sting and heaviness were gone. I felt peace in its place. And fell back asleep.
A new day
The next morning, I felt the gnaw in the pit of my stomach again. Regret will probably hang around for awhile to remind me of what I have done so very poorly and what I could do better, to remind me that my life and my words and my attitude ought to bring people together, not be condescending nor push them away.
As a child of God, the work of reconciliation is mine. It is a time for repairing. Any pang of regret is a reminder to be quick to listen and slow to speak, and slow to get angry. I don’t want to be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal with those who are dear to me, or to anyone else for that matter. Especially in this weary world that grows wearier by the moment.
In 2 Corinthians 5:16-20, Paul tells us, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”
A “worldly point of view” does none of the above. Instead, it looks at this endless debate as one to be won. A worldly mindset wants to shut down the person who I see as wrong. A worldly mindset sees others as ignorant, stupid, the source of my woes and everyone else’s. A worldly mindset blames, castigates, and criticizes. It sees myself and what I know as better than those who just don’t know. A worldly point of view is killing our relationships and tearing down our families.
The better way
Instead, a better way has already been lived in Jesus Christ and his mindset. “ Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
In your relationships with one another have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!” Philippians 2: 3-8
It’s a sacrificial mindset. Hmm, there’s a mind-blower. That kind of mindset must thread its way through my motivation and answers in all conversations, all concerns, all actions, at all times. A Christ-like mindset will keep the conversation open.
There is nothing wrong with seeking knowledge, analyses, interpreting, and sharing it. But I am trying to be extra aware of the motive. And bias. “A particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned.” None of us are without it.
Finally, a really excellent example of the mindset I want is in 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13. Familiar with verses 4-7, “Love is patient and kind, it is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
But dropping down to verse 12, the author Paul, is speaking out across the thousands of years: “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”
I hope to be better about remembering that and this: “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”
Oh and by the way. Going back to the title. A pontoon is a float used to raise up a sunken vessel or deeply laden vessel in the water. Think of one of your conversations or relationships that has been sunk with heavy negativity and ego. Love is your pontoon. It is the only way to rescue a conversation and a relationship. Love doesn’t get a vacation.