People Aren’t Projects

I use to want to fix people now I just want to be with them.  ~Bob Goff

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At the risk of sounding too up on the things of culture and the rapid changes upon us just now (I’m not) I’d like to put forth a theory that goes something like this.

We are a project oriented society.

Maybe we always have been, I can’t really say as this is the only era I’ve lived in.  Maybe when the Wright’s were so busy coming up with ways to fly their grandma’s sat back and said things like, “They’re just so project oriented.”  I contend it could be true.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with projects.  I love a good session of candle making or closet cleaning or cookie baking.  Truth be told, I’ve always been a project oriented person.

As a young’un I didn’t grasp the ways of the Barbie.  I just didn’t understand what to do with her.  Hop-walk her over to her fancy car, sit her in it and then what?  Dress her and place her at a table with her friends?  Why?  For the love, why??  None of it made sense to me.

I tried to engage with my friends in their Barbie playing ways but truly I just wanted to get on my bike and go somewhere or put some tunes on and make up a dance routine or write a song or rearrange my bedroom.  Again.

I liked things that ended with an accomplishment.  A final product.  A, see what I just did with my last 3 hours, manifest.  With Barbie she was just there, nothing accomplished, nothing gained.

Now that I’m well into my adult years the world around me seems to have the same thoughts.  Rarely do you see a Pin that tells you to just sit and do nothing for awhile.  Rest your soul.  Engage with humans.  It’s all very do this and do that.  Bake that thing or compile those leaves into a mobile or make your own soap or cook this amazing dish or chop the sleeves off of that old sweater and make them into ear muffs!  (Okay, I’ve never actually seen that but I’m assuming it could be a thing?!)

At work I have goals for the day.  Certain tasks to accomplish or trajectories to meet.  At school my kids are told what pages of their math text book to complete and when the glass etching they’ve been working on needs to be in.  They’re taught to sew things and to play a tune on the piano and how to write a paper or speak another language.  It’s amazing the things they learn, really.  But they’re all projects.  They all have an end.  Something to show for all the time they put in.

The problem I’m seeing with this project-oriented thing (can we call it a thing?) and the very accomplishment seeking nature of myself is that if we view all of the things in life as something to do and something to work on and something to complete then it begins to taint how we think about people, too.

When our world view becomes finished product, mission accomplished, goal achieved, it’s very difficult to not let this spill over into how we view our relationships or treat the people around us.  It’s very easy to see that friend going through a trial as a project.  It becomes simple to view that new, perhaps needy, person in your life as your new mission.  The one you will convert, fix, change.  It becomes normal to view the people around us as something we need to take on, manage, finish, be able to say, “ta-da!  There they are,” about.

Like, if I just meet them for coffee a few more times and they hear the glorious things I have to say then they’ll get it and change and all will be well.

Or, perhaps if I just teach them the things I know about how to better manage their money then they’ll get it and their life will be better and their problems will go away and they’ll be fixed.

Or, if they would just listen to me I could help, but they don’t.  I talk and talk and talk and they don’t do any of the things I say so what more can I do?

We rub our hands together in delight of a new task, we clap them together when we accomplish said task or we brush them off when we feel like our task is unaccomplishable. (totally a word)

The problem I see with this sort of thinking is Jesus, plain and simple.

Because Jesus doesn’t treat us as projects.  We aren’t His hobby that He works on from time to time and then gets bored with.  We aren’t His painting that He finishes and then hangs on the wall and never gets close to again but just shows off for all to see.  We aren’t His finicky sauce that He tries over and over to make right and then gives up on after numerous failed attempts.

He doesn’t Pin us and then hope to get to us eventually but then sort of forgets or decides He, in fact, is eating grains now so doesn’t need us anymore.  He doesn’t post our lives all over social media as His pinterest fail.  He doesn’t spend hours on us and beam with excitement and a feeling of accomplishment which He documents on Instagram to show off His very adept skills when he’s done.

Why?  Because He’s never done. He isn’t finished with us when we fail.  He doesn’t give up on us.  He doesn’t forget about us.  He doesn’t change his mind on whether we’re worth His time.  He doesn’t use us as a means to feel important.  He doesn’t call us His mission so as to get a check on some religious score card.  He doesn’t invest in us only to the point of what’s easy and then bail when it takes a little more effort.  He doesn’t pass us over to someone else when He feels unskilled.  He doesn’t brush us off like the dust on His hands when we just. aren’t. getting it.

Jesus relationship with his disciples shows me that we aren’t just projects He’s hoping to finish up before the weather turns.  Instead, He taught them over and over and over the very same things.  They saw miraculous events and still didn’t understand and He continued to be patient.  Continued to call them to follow Him.  Continued to invest His time, His teaching and His very life into them. (see Matthew 14 for examples)

People aren’t projects to be completed.  Jesus showed us that.  Bob Goff, in his book Love Does, says,

“I learned that faith isn’t about knowing all of the right stuff or obeying a list of rules.  It’s something more, something more costly because it involves being present and making a sacrifice.  Perhaps that’s why Jesus is sometimes called Immanuel – “God with us.”  I think that’s what God had in mind, for Jesus to be present, to just be with us.  It’s also what He has in mind for us when it comes to other people…..the brand of love Jesus offers is that’s it’s more about presence than undertaking a project.”  

In our very project-minded society, our very accomplish oriented ways, it’s important to remember that people aren’t something to complete but rather, made in the very image of God, something to be close to, present with, live alongside and in relationship with.

You can pin that if you want.

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