I remember vividly a leadership event when I was in middle school. Well, I vividly remember two things about it. First – we were at Kirkwood Community College and we got to eat in their awesome cafeteria and drink Clearly Canadian sparkling water. For some reason, that was a big deal 😉 Second, there was a message that stuck with me. It was about assumptions and our leader told us that when you assume, you make an “ass” out of “u” and “me.”
The book of James has an awful lot to say about when we open our mouths and what we choose to let slip out of it. And as I have been listening this week, I have realized that assumptions do just as much damage as a hurtful word.
When we make an assumption, we have spoken without all of the facts. And that means that we have not taken the time to truly listen to another person. We have not spent the time with them and asked questions about them or the situation. We have placed ourselves in a position where we believe we have all the information we need… a position of arrogance and, likewise, judgment that the other person or situation is not worthy of investigation and time.
When we make an assumption, we have allowed our wants and desires and impulses to rule the conversation without taking the time to pray and seek God’s counsel. We react with positive or negative gut reactions, rather than looking beyond ourselves to a larger context and environment. When we make an assumption, we have not done the difficult work of weighing how a person or situation will impact not only a local climate, but also a global climate or the Kingdom of God.
I write all of this, because these past two weeks have been awash in assumptions. I confess that I have made assumptions about how others would react to news of my position that did not always place me in a position to respond pastorally. There have been assumptions made at various levels of the connection about timing, ease of transition, and the rippling impact of change. But others have also made assumptions about what I will or won’t be doing, the process of how the position came to be and how/why I was asked, and what the impact on the church will be.
Assumptions hurt. There has been damage along the way and there are misconceptions to clear up and healing that needs to happen… and it won’t be immediate. The truth is, the answers to some of those questions are still unclear. Other assumptions might have a foothold in reality, but either the assumptions don’t have the whole story or stretch something out of proportion.
Today, I begin my training for my work with Imagine No Malaria. From what I know already, the bulk of my work will be communicating the importance of the mission, training and empowering and developing lay and clergy across the state to embrace the mission and to give generously, but above all, telling the good news that lives are being saved and that we are doing God’s work. I will travel, have a lot of one-on-one meetings, and spend a good chunk of time with databases and reporting. Some of those things might themselves be assumptions. I am trying to let go of those ideas I hold in my mind so that I can be open and learn as much as possible about what my life will look like over the next nine months.
And I want to invite you, when I get back, to ask me lots of questions. Open your mind and let us explore together with God what is in store for all of us.