Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On Birthdays and Schemata

Yesterday, I turned 38 and discovered birthdays just aren't as much fun as they used to be. It doesn't have to do with advancing age or an inability to blow out the multitude of candles on the cake. It has to do with the spotlight.

On birthdays, it's all about the birthday-ee. The spotlight is tuned to the one celebrating their "special day." Yesterday, that was me. Yesterday, it was all about me. As a kid, I relished that spotlight. As an adult seeking to grow into the image of Jesus Christ, not so much.

I am supposed to be dead to me. I am supposed to live a life of surrender where me is placed everyone else. But not on birthdays. On birthdays, me gets the spotlight -- a spotlight not nearly as comfy as when I was a kid.

Frankly, the birthday that means more to me now is August 1, 1984. The day I died to me by submitting to baptism at Camp Barton on the banks of Lake Greeson. Since that day, the old me and the new me have constantly butted heads. But it's that day that reminds me it's not all about me.

Thank goodness.


Are Jerry and Lynn Jones hitting it out of the park or what? The Marriage Matters Seminar that began on Sunday and continues through this evening has been outstanding. The melding of psychology, theology and personal experience has provided a rich blessing for every person who's attended.

Monday night, in the course of their discussion on "communication barriers," Jerry and Lynn spoke at length about a barrier called schemata. Schemata is simply a $10 word for those mental maps which guide our thoughts and behavior; they are the substructures of our paradigms.

Now to be honest, no one of us has a perfect paradigm -- no one among us sees reality with complete, total accuracy. Our self-centeredness jades our understanding of reality. Consequently, some of our mental maps -- even though we've held them long-term, perhaps a lifetime -- can be proven false despite our long-term investment otherwise.

How do we typically respond when a cherished mental map that has become our norm is proven to be untrue? Jerry and Lynn say, "the longer a person believes a certain way, even when outside information disproves the truth of that belief, rather than acknowledge the new truth we typically deny its reality. We've invested too much over time."

That's why we'll fight to the death of a relationship (in a marriage...and in a church family).

Funny how we see expending effort to fight for a cherished, though false, presupposition as no real effort but the effort to change for the good of the relationship as cataclysmic. Thinking back to Jesus, he didn't die to save an idea; he died to save people and their relationship with God. Today, a relationship in your life might be worth the cost of a false assumption you've lived with a long time.

But the reward so outweighs the cost!