January 3, 2021
Pondering – gathering all possible information before reacting; considering the circumstances, the needs, the consequences of options, and discerning where God is calling us to be in the midst of it all.
Reactivity – acting from a place of limited information, ego-centricity, self-preservation, and total disregard for any needful discerning of God’s will.
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Mary, the mother of Jesus, treasured up angelic words regarding her invitation to be the mother of God’s Son before she said ‘yes.’
Though she was young, it seems she asked questions, then paused and silently weighed the implications of the divine invitation before saying’ yes’ to her involvement in God’s plan to save the world. (Luke 1:26-38). Her thoughtful ‘yes’ filled her with peaceful joy for what lay ahead.
Joseph, the one who was to marry Mary, was a bit different in his reaction to his fiancé’s pregnancy; he was reactive.
How could he fix this situation and make it as win/win as possible? No way was Joseph getting sucked into Mary’s drama! But then he went to sleep and received an angelic visitation in a dream; a dream which provided him with a pause to ponder and then and intentionally act beyond himself. (Matthew 1:18-25)
Sometime later, when Jesus was a toddler and the Holy Family was living in a house in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:11), the Gentile wisemen were engaged in thoughtful pondering.
They, too, experienced an angelic visitation in a dream; this pause caused them to ponder and change the direction and intent of their journey home. (Matthew 2:12).
The pondering of the wisemen deterred the nefarious plans of the only consistently reactive person in the nativity narrative: Herod.
Herod panicked at the news of the birth of the king of the Jews – that’s who he was supposed to be! In his outrage that the wisemen blew him off and went home by another way, Herod panicked over the potential loss of his power and authority. The result? Reactivity and the consequent slaughter of all children two years old and under in Bethlehem. (Matthew 2:13-18)
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Well-considered, pondered actions are life sustaining; reactivity and knee jerk reactions, not so much.
I think perhaps pondering may be one final gift for Christmas 2020, because it seems that in recent years our pondering has been overcome by our reactivity.
The consequence is dire. Life is being overcome by death and rejection at so many levels: physical, spiritual, emotional death in relation to the circumstances and needs of others (that whole love of others commandment we talk about so glibly) and rejection of God’s will for the world. Yet, as always, God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23) and we once again are given the opportunity to ponder.
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We have been confronted with COVID and its restrictions, have had the curtain dramatically pulled back on social, cultural, and economic disparities, have been faced with a whole new picture of just how many in our own nation have been silently struggling to survive for generations; we have made choices on how to respond: in carefully pondered action or in knee-jerk reactivity.
So often, reactivity has been the preferred choice.
After all, reactivity is easy, right?
It’s easier to blast an email or disseminate an ‘opponent’ on social media platforms without knowing all the facts or thinking of the consequences, as we claim personal rights, personal choice, and our perceived need to ‘take care of number one.’ It’s our way or the highway; giving over our sense of power and freedom for the general good is not an option, so look out!
The consequences of reactivity are all around us: lives and livelihoods lost to disease and mayhem, relationships are angrily destroyed, and on and on.
It is hard to put the pieces back together once reactive shattering occurs
Reactivity is quick and easy.
Pondering takes work.
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This past year, the opportunities to ponder before acting have been numerous; the circumstance of the virus in our midst has afforded us the time to ponder, should we choose to do so.
We have had the time to gather information from all sides and ponder.
We have had the time to listen to the cries of the hearts of those we have previously ignored, and to be attentive to the fear of losing control which underlies the anger of reactivity.
We have had the time to ponder our own solutions to circumstances and see how they measure up in light of God’s call for us to live sacrificially for others.
So far, it seems we haven’t been willing to ponder much – to thoughtfully see and hear each other. More often than not we have reactively refused to listen to differing points of view and have opted out of challenging conversations with others even though such conversations might bring us into closer and deeper relationship and wholeness.
Still, though pondering might challenge us and our pre-set beliefs, at the end of the day, pondering – as in the case of Mary, will allow us to say ‘yes’ to the Christ life growing within us; it will allow us, with Joseph, to live a life of self-sacrifice for the good of all, and, as with the wise men – will lead us home together by another direction – a direction that leaves open the possibilities for life beyond all human imagining.
If we truly want 2021 to be different from 2020 and all those years that have led us to the reactive place, we must choose to ponder – and move into God’s future with together. Who knows maybe there were some blessings to be had in 2020 after all – blessings that can bring us into a place of new beginnings in 2021 and all the years to come!
And to God be the glory! AMEN.