The act of reconciliation requires muscle memory

I love playing and watching both golf and baseball yet I’d be hard pressed to find any commonalities in how these two games are played. I played baseball from ages 5-13, until I realized that you really need to be able to hit the baseball to have any future success in the game. Then in my early 20’s I began picking up golf. Basically in both games you’re swinging a stick at a ball and trying to hit it as far as possible. Yet it didn’t take long to discover that the swinging motions that are skillfully, or in my case clumsily, exerted are fundamentally opposite. The difference between the two swinging motions are subtle but paramount. It’s the difference between keeping your weight forward on your front leg or keeping your weight back on your back leg. Take a look at two of the greatest hitters golf and baseball have ever seen. Tiger Woods on the left, Ken Griffey Jr. on the right. Image

As I was learning how to hit a golf ball I kept using my “baseball swing” and was missing the golf ball. As I was approaching the tee box my mind knew I was going to be swinging a stick to hit a ball, so it defaulted to the only motion it knew. This is called muscle memory. By keeping my weight on my back leg, instead of moving it forward to my front leg I was essentially pulling myself away from ball I was swinging at. This wrecked havoc on my scorecard as well as the landscape!. For me – I had to stop playing baseball, stop swinging a bat, and teach myself a new swing and create a new muscle memory so I could (more) successfully hit a golf ball. It was amazing how these two sports that I thought had very little to do with each other greatly impacted my ability to play either one well.

In Matthew 5:21-26 Jesus offers one of the most inconvenient, and I’d say overlooked, elements of worship. The element of reconciliation.

“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” (NLT)

It’s easy to give lip service to the idea that we give our whole selves to Jesus yet too often we live as though our spiritual lives and social lives have no connection. When we gather with the church for worship, we are proclaiming our gratitude or need for prior, present, and future reconciliation to God through Christ. All worship truly finds its roots here. Yet, when live our social lives without any efforts to pursue reconciliation (personally, communally, and globally) it is no different than using our best baseball swing to hit a golf ball. Right as we throw our self forward into worship we are simultaneously pulling ourselves away from Christ. Sounds like a pretty serious recipe for a stint on the disabled list…swinging forward while pulling yourself backwards.

We can’t fully move forward in our worship or relationship with Jesus if we aren’t willing to fully move forward in reconciling our relationships with the people we can see, touch, speak to, work with, and share our planet with. Why? Because the Jesus is at work and pursing reconciliation in a might way with the same person(s) I am withholding relational peace from. See, I can walk forward with Jesus as he’s reconciling all people when I’m walking away from people who I need to be reconciled with. They are two opposite motions.

Reconciliation must be at the heart of our worship. This way, the more we prioritize healing broken relationships the sooner reconciliation will become our new relational default during the other 6 1/2 days of our week. We’ll have created a new muscle memory through our relational conditioning, made possible by the Holy Spirit.

So, the time I approach the tee box (worship) and I know there’s something off on my swing (relational conflict), my best bet is to step off the tee box, take a few practice swings (go be reconciled), and step back up to the ball (come back to worship) ready keep my weight on my front leg (Christ as first in all things) all the way through my swing (my act of worship).


Broken Glass and Healing People

Nine months ago we moved to Lafayette, California, a place where we often forget to lock our doors and leave things laying out simply because of the strong reputation of safety in this community. We take walks in the evening and are startled to hear the sounds of sirens. That is of course until my wife came back from her walk this past week to find that her passenger window had been smashed in and our diaper bag had been stolen.

As I’ve been processing my frustration, annoyance, and uncomfortable realizations of vulnerability, I’ve thought that we often experience this type of break in with our relationships. Similar to cars in a parking lot, we meet many of our friends through regularly parking ourselves near others in places that we both enjoy being. Those who “park” near us get to see into our lives as though looking in from behind a piece of glass. A few things are laying out but most often we hide our valuables in inconspicuous places.

Yet we all want to be known by that which is truly valuable in our lives and desire to have the freedom to leave them out on the front seat. What a gift it is to be truly known by someone. I’ve had these relationships before. Relationships where it has been safety to leave the valuable parts of my life out for people to see. In these times there’s safety, freedom, and an inclusion that is purely life-giving. Then all of a sudden, there was a moment when by surprise someone smashed the window of my heart, helped themselves to what I felt was safely in my own possession, and all I was left with was a whole lot of broken glass.

Have you ever been there? Missing a piece of your heart with the pieces of a broken life strewn about the ground? Yeah, me too.

When my wife drove our car back home we could have easily decided never go back to the beautiful reservoir where the break-in happened. How could we ever feel safe there? If we chose not to return however, we’d miss out on the sunsets that mirror off the lake, the joy of barbecues with friends on warm days, and the intimacy of our family walks around the trails. This would be a much higher cost than the price of replacing a window.

Over this past year Christ has filled the broken places in my heart to the point where my heart has such greater capacity for love than before it was broken. The bible does not mix words about the fact that we are in for a whole lot of brokenness over the course of life. Yet healing and reconciliation is here for everyone through the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ is about the business of healing by reconciling us to himself and us with each other.

To all who are carrying broken hearts and who have felt that pieces of your life have been stolen; Christ can and will fill the broken places in your heart if you allow him. I pray too that this story of my own pain and healing is a reminder that keeping ourselves from being trusting and vulnerable with other people in the long run, is a much higher cost than the price of replacing a window.