Jan Johnson

Wisbit - March 2015

“What About the Other Guy”

A confession: Sometimes I get distracted - OK, annoyed! - by what others are doing. Their actions seem wrong to me but others give them good feedback; or they’re not doing their part; or they’re representing Christ but treating people harshly. How can this be?! I keep wishing God would do something about them! In reality, I know I’m judging them and I really want to stop.

Recently when I was untangling myself from such thoughts, I felt like Peter talking to Jesus, saying, “Lord, what about him?” (John 21:22). In that case, Jesus was giving Peter a glimpse of what his future would look like and Peter was quick to wonder what John’s future would be: “What about him?” Peter wasn’t being judgmental as I often am, but still Peter’s words resonated with me. So did Jesus’ answer: What is that to you, girl? It was as if while Jesus said this, he stood next to me, put his arm around me, and squeezed my shoulders in jest because he knows we have gone over this before. And Jesus grins. Indeed, the other person’s behavior has nothing to do with me. It is not mine to evaluate.

There is something for me to do instead. The same simple phrase precedes and follows this interchange: “Follow me” (John 21:19, 22). Follow. Focus on what God is leading me to do in this moment. Focus on the things God and I have been talking about - growing in love, living without contempt, arranging my life for transformation. Thoughts about whether others measure up to what I think they should be distracts me from what I need to do: Trust God and do the next thing.

In 12-step circles, this idea is expressed this way: “I stay on my side of the street and let you stay on yours.” This picture has helped me so much over the years. I imagine myself standing in the middle of the street on the double yellow line, hands on hips, glaring at the person on the other side: they should not be doing what they are doing! And Jesus is behind me on my side of the street, sitting in the yard in an Adirondack chair under a weeping willow tree. He has something cool to drink. He points to the chair next to him and says to me: “Come and sit down. This is where you belong.” But I stand there in the road for a while longer.

Only slowly do I realize how silly I am. I come and sit down, choosing not to concern myself with what doesn’t concern me:

  • My heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high, I do not occupy my mind with things too great and wonderful for me. I have stilled and quieted my soul... (Ps 131:1,2)

As I was pondering this the other day, a simple thought filled my mind: Don’t give a second thought to anyone else’s faults. The rightness of this idea stunned me. It’s my second thoughts (and third and fourth and...) that get me into trouble. Others’ faults are not my business. It just means God’s got a handful dealing with that person. (It’s OK. God’s hands are big.) My “business” is to keep a right heart and turn my mind to the simple guidelines: Choose to be joyful, talk to God about every little thing, make gratitude lists all day long (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, JJ par).  That creates a much richer life.  ©Jan Johnson

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    Grace and peace,
    Jan Johnson



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