Original post at http://dlollis.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/reducing-drama-days-of-our-lives/
Sometimes we describe our life situations as being just like a soap opera.
I remember a certain soap that I was exposed to in my youth. It came on at 1 PM on NBC every Monday through Friday. Anyone know the one I’m talking about? Days of our Lives.
Through it I learned such names as the Bradys and the Hortons and the evil Dimera and Kiriakis families.
You can make fun of “Days” all you want, but you might not know this, but Days of Lives is the longest running scripted television program in the world. A lot of people have tuned in to watch Days over the years. And, yes, some of you are reading this!
Why do we watch soap operas or any other types of dramas that we tune into?
We’re watching fictional accounts of people whose lives are turned upside down by drama — by plot twists and turns, by extraordinary sets of circumstances. When we’re watching it happen to someone else, we call that entertainment.
Maybe on some level it makes us feel better about our own lives.
But what about when the drama is happening to us? What about those moments when our life seems to become Days of our Lives?
At that point, most of us are repelled by drama. We don’t want to be around it. We don’t want it happening to us.
Drama. We can talk about the drama we see happening in families, school, work, even the church. We talk about how much drama is happening to us.
But what does drama really mean?
In a dictionary definition, we might find that the drama we’re talking about isn’t of the movie, TV or book variety. Instead, it sound something like this: A situation or reaction to a situation that is highly emotional and turbulent.
Drama usually takes a manageable situation and elevates it to a “level 10, apocalypse” situation. Drama is a response to change or to situations that seem out of our control. Sometimes, drama is the way we react when we don’t get what we want. Drama is friction that gets in the way of relationships.
We can find drama in just about any situation in life. We find it in friendships, in relationships, in families, at work, at school and we even find it at church.
A few weeks ago, someone was joking, I hope, about this series and asked why we would need to spend a month talking about drama at church.
In response to that, I wanted to share something with you. In preparing for this series, I put together a survey and I asked some questions about drama. And one of those questions was, “How has drama affected your faith, your relationship with God and your experience in the church?”
Here are a few of the responses:
- “It brings you down and makes you feel bad about yourself.”
- “It has made me question my faith at times, it makes me want to quit doing anything at church, it makes me want to give up.”
- “It causes me to say things I regret, feel guilty, experience doubt, be discouraged and hold on to hurt feelings. Any of those things separate us from God.”
I get the sense that just about everyone has experienced drama at some point in your relationships. Many have experienced drama in the church.
- At one point, you were involved in ministries and missions that were very important to you, but the drama you experienced was so overwhelming that you stepped away from them.
- Or the drama you experienced in church has led you to ask faith questions.
- There are folks who used to be in churches every Sunday who are sitting at home today because the drama they experienced in church led them to walk away.
And that simply isn’t the way it should be.
So for this next month, we’re going to talk about drama, conflicts and tension because, at least on some level, intentionally or unintentionally, drama can keep us from going deeper in our relationship with God and our relationship with others.
To do that, we’re going to concentrate on the book of James.
The book is more of a sermon than a letter and it concentrates on the fact that action and faith are tied together. Most scholars point to James, the brother of Jesus, as the writer of this sermon.
I’ll also go ahead and warn you up front: James can be absolutely blistering.
We begin this week with James 4 and it starts with the most important question:
1 What is the source of conflict among you? What is the source of your disputes? That’s the big question right? Where does all of this drama really come from? We might not like where James goes with it.
Don’t they come from your cravings that are at war in your own lives? Many times in drama, there’s an effort to point the finger at someone else, to place the blame on another. But, James says, drama starts here.
2 You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder. Maybe you hear that and cringe. James is doing something Jesus does — he’s using hyperbole. Hyperbole is speech used to bring a strong feeling but isn’t necessarily supposed to be taken literally. He’s saying you have desires at war within you that are so strong they can lead you to some dark places. Here’s more:
You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight. Conflicts, disputes, drama, it is rooted in our jealousy that leads us to do things we shouldn’t do. And it’s also tied to our problems with prayer.
You don’t have because you don’t ask. 3 You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings.
In other words, when we pray, we can make some mistakes. First, we don’t ask God about it. Second, when we do ask God about it, we ask with some bad intentions — we pray from our own agenda.
It paints a pretty tough picture for us when it comes to the drama in our life. But James isn’t finished yet. And for this next section, I’m going to read to you from the Message translation. I believe it says this in a way that really brings home this idea:
4-6 You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.”
7-10 So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin.
Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.
Then James ends with a reminder and a warning for those times when we might want to start pointing a finger, even at those who bring drama into our lives.
11 Brothers and sisters, don’t say evil things about each other. Whoever insults or criticizes a brother or sister insults and criticizes the Law. If you find fault with the Law, you are not a doer of the Law but a judge over it.
12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, and he is able to save and to destroy. But you who judge your neighbor, who are you?
The word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.
I always love how that is an automatic response for us. It can be a passage of scripture that absolutely slaps us around and when we hear that we’ll say, “Thanks to God!”
How do we take a tough passage such as this and sum it up in light of what we’ve been talking about in terms of drama? I believe that we can do it this way:
The key to reducing drama is the response. I invite you to say that with me: The key to reducing drama is the response.
With that in mind, let’s talk a little about drama and some of the things that point us here.
First off, everyone is capable of drama. That’s really where James goes, right? Drama, conflict, relationship problems start within us. They are issues that begin at the heart level and come out of us in those times we encounter friction and change and when we don’t get our way.
So, before we become quick to point the finger at another, maybe we have to deal with the drama caused by the one we encounter in the mirror. What is the source of drama, the source of conflicts the source of disputes? It is the cravings that are in a battle within us all.
Second, drama is often an emotional over-reaction. The response can be irrational. It can be rooted in basic human fears. It can be directed at people who threaten us. And the first place we go with this drama and conflict isn’t a place of logic and rational thought.
So, if we accept that, then what does that warn us about the ways that we respond to what we perceive as drama? Our temptation is to respond to drama in the same way, in a strong emotional over-reaction. James places that reaction in our cravings and the things that are at war within us. If we can remember that, even for just a moment, we can reduce the drama. We don’t always have to respond to drama in the moment we encounter it.
Third, there is also grace in drama. And this might be the toughest pill to swallow. When someone approaches us and creates drama in our life, we are challenged to respond with grace. It’s difficult to do, but what if there’s more to that drama than just trying to get under your skin? What if the drama is actually a mask for something else, or what if it’s a way of trying to get your attention, or what if it’s a call for a relationship? James’ words to us are to remember that the only judge is God. What if we could respond to others with the same grace that God gives to us in the midst of our own drama?
The key to reducing drama is the response.
Over the next three weeks, we’re going to go even deeper into this area of drama, conflict and tension. It’s not going to be easy — James is not an easy book.
But as we end today’s introduction to the series, I want to challenge you to do something for the next seven days.
For this next week, I want to challenge you to think about how you respond to drama, to tension and to conflict.
Do you point the finger, do you overreact emotionally, do you blame the other person? Do you find that in those cases, the drama actually increases.
Or do we respond knowing that we too are capable of drama, that our reaction can calm the situation or escalate it. And do we respond with grace?
James challenges us to go with the latter. To keep our lives from being like the Days of our Lives, our response is key.
The key to reducing drama is our response. How will you respond this week?