Who understands you the best? Who misunderstands you the worst?
Insight into such relational experiences as these can often help us see the difference between love and fear in our world. Being understood by another leads us into pathways of love. The affinity we associate with others who “get us” and know how we feel, especially, is the basis for intimacy of any kind.
Unfortunately, there are more experiences for many of us in which we instead feel misunderstood. The teacher at school, the boss at work, the neighbor next door, the sibling, the spouse, the child, the parent. Or how about the person in the opposing political party? Or the other religious group? Someone else simply doesn’t “get us” and seems to ignore our real meaning to the point of ignorance. Why can’t they understand, we may often wonder?
As we fear the failure that comes with “making them” understand, we’d sooner give up and avoid trying. Why bother?
And so the student drops out, the worker resigns, the marriage splits, or the family withdraws. The partisan divide widens. Being misunderstood takes its toll. And we fear failure enough to quit even trying to reason with others who seem unreasonable. Again, why bother?
Like hits in baseball, understanding and making ourselves understood in relationships is one of those areas where failure occurs 2-3 times more often than success. Striking out to end the game is demoralizing. The stuff of which psychological slumps are made. Yet, I’d imagine we’ve all been there. In relationships of misunderstanding, if not on any actual ball diamond. I've been there and done both.
It hurts to be misunderstood.
It’s enough to cause us to see the unknown future in terms of what I call “faith in fear and doubt in love.” When we’re more often misunderstood than accurately understood by others, fear seems to come about naturally.
I say all of this to explain why, of all things, I call myself a Christian, that is a follower of the way of Jesus Christ. And why I view the cross of Christ as central to my faith in love even amidst a world of misunderstanding.
For as long as I can remember, even back into childhood, I’ve felt a painful sense of being misunderstood. Perhaps wrongly criticized or accused. Unjustly punished for something I hadn’t done. Or otherwise unable to get across my own point in a relationship that counted a lot for me emotionally. Accordingly, I grew up with a sizable amount of anxiety ( faith in fear) and depression (doubt in love). I was hard for others to understand or figure out. And I felt like a strike out victim with the winning runs on base at the end of our game.
To make matters worse, I found this same experience of misunderstanding even within the Christian Church. Others didn’t “get” me, or so I felt. My thinking was always waaaay different from others’ in my pew or classroom. But I kept going back because of the Cross of Jesus Cross. Kept describing myself as spiritual but not religious, and identifying with others outside the church who said the same for themselves.
But what’s this thing about the Cross?
The thing is that I understand the Cross altogether differently from every other Christian I’ve ever met, whether inside or outside any church.
For me the Cross is God’s way of perfectly understanding me, and all of humanity. The Cross represents God’s faith in love, doubt in fear intersecting, crossing, our human faith in fear, doubt in love. It represents God’s perfect understanding of us and our perfect misunderstanding of God. It represents God’s love of us and our fear of God. It represents God’s way of salvation and our way of sinning.
The good news of salvation for me that comes through the Cross is that it empowers God to say, “Dan, you don’t have to fear me. No one has ever needed to fear me in any way, because fear casts out love. Yet, people do still fear me because they misunderstand me. Misunderstanding and fear work together to cause all crucifixions and human sufferings in this world. They amount to one helluva fear story for those who have their faith in fear and their doubt in love. So just know that whenever you feel the fear that comes with misunderstanding, I understand. Been there and done that myself on the Cross. It’s why I resurrected my body in the first place. So people could understand that love always wins and fear always loses in the end. And so folks could understand that I understand."
Most people still don’t understand. Most still misunderstand God. Still place their faith in fear and their doubt in love. Even many if not most Christians. So .300 is still a great batting average even in the church. Understanding takes hard work. Takes going to where others are like God did through Jesus Christ. Takes asking a lot of questions, especially of our enemies we are to lovingly understand. Takes just hanging out with them. Takes getting to know people until we really can “get” who they are and “know” where they’re coming from. Takes, in other words, picking up our own Cross and following Jesus.
So here I am. Needing to wrap up this post. Wanting you to understand what I’ve just written, or wanting to be loved. Sure. I'm only human. But first wanting to understand you for the sake of loving you. This is my own way of swinging the bat today, metaphorically speaking. If I’ve just struck out, I’ll know I went down swinging. Trying to connect. Trying to understand you in your own times of being so often misunderstood. And trying to offer you Christ. The Christ of the Cross of God’s perfect understanding that always intersects with human misunderstandings and offers us a place to turn.
May you find whatever understanding love you need today and be blessed.