Doing the Opposite
The noise was deafening. And it began without warning. I’d been immersed in my Quiet time that day, absorbed and enthralled in the book of Exodus, when our fire alarm began clanging; loud and insistent. I rushed to the front door and tried to reset our alarm. I typed in the code twice. I was appeased when the rumpus ceased. But the peace lasted for only a few seconds. Very quickly the clanging started again. Loud.
As I looked into the hallway I guessed what must have caused it. My son had just hopped out of the shower. He’d left the bathroom door open and steam from the bathroom must have swirled around the hallway. Of course our faithful fire alarm decided to do its bit – screaming at full volume at anyone who would listen to it and to those who wouldn’t listen to it as well. I shouted to my son. He rushed out, draped in a towel, wet hair clinging to his head. Obediently he flapped a tea towel under the fire alarm. Would it work? No it didn’t.
Each time I turned off the alarm, the siren stopped. But the precious silence didn’t last for more than a minute or two. I wondered if the neighbours would think our house was on fire. Frantic, I called my husband. Shan gave me a few wise instructions. Would they work? I opened the doors, put on the exhaust fans, turned the blower to exhaust mode. My son opened the bathroom windows. He stood on a chair and tried to remove the fire alarm or to reset it but couldn’t do either. None of our ministrations did any good.
I began to feel very frustrated. Would I be spending the whole day rushing to reset the alarm? It was then that I had a brainwave. Or perhaps God whispered it in my ear. I decided to charge the alarm rather than reset it. A kind of reverse psycholgy. Would that work? I could but try. I keyed in the code, and this time, I pressed the ‘away’ button rather than the ‘off’ button as I’d usually do. And guess what! It worked. Yay!
The alarm system informed me it wasn’t ready. Perhaps the open door at the back was what it was ‘bothered’ about’. I didn’t care. I relished the silence. Ten minutes later it was still quiet. Two hours later the blessed peace continued. I was blissfully happy. Like a child being offered not one but two ice cream cones, enjoying them both at the same time, one in each hand. Life was good. Very good.
The incident reminded me that sometimes doing the opposite works best. Know what I mean? I remember George Castanza in the sitcom ‘Seinfeld’ doing that. He said or did the opposite of what he’d normally say or do. It worked to a T. He found a girl friend; got himself a new job. Out of the blues, his life turned 180 degrees into all he’d been seeking after. All by doing the opposite. That was of course just a comedy.
But you know, in real life too we are sometimes called to give the opposite of an obvious response. Some years ago, I was presented with a piece of wisdom which I found very helpful. In fact, I still do my best to follow it. (Thank you Jeff) My then Pastor Jeff asked me to consider a question as each situation warranted: “What is the really loving thing to do?” The fact is that life is rarely simple. Therefore, the seemingly obvious response may not necessarily be the best response.
A parent not giving a toddler everything he or she wants will protect the little one – from the knife she wants to play with or the hot stove he wants to touch. A teenager may need rules enforced and privileges removed – and then he’d learn quickly that his negative actions have consequences. Not reacting to bad behaviour may teach a child that he doesn’t get his parent’s attention. Ending a relationship, not prolonging it, may be best in particular circumstances – and the most loving thing to do.
Speaking the truth in love may sometimes be the wiser action instead of being overly understanding. Turning the other cheek is often the best response – but not the only one. We need wisdom of course to know how to act and when to act. And of course I find God Himself doesn’t always give me what I want because it may not be the best for me.
Jesus proved it to us. His disciples wrongly believed He’d be a political King – that He’d lead them all into a new social order. He did inaugurate His kingdom. But it was not an earthly one. Instead, the extraordinary amazing loving way Jesus chose to respond was to lay down his life for a world that had rejected Him. To bring life and peace and reconciliation to God through His death and resurrection. Not a temporary state of Kingship but a permanent Kingship for all of eternity.
So today, as I ponder my life, my relationships and all I am called to…..
What is the really loving thing do to?
Would I dare do it?
“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:22-25