Spiritual Director · March 14, 2017

Devote #13

How easy is it to misunderstand someone these days?

I don’t know if you ever done this, but I sure have. I got an email from someone, and as I read it, I started inflecting my own thoughts and attitudes. The way I read it wasn’t even close to the way it was written, but because of my limited perception, or bad attitude, or misgivings about the person who wrote it – I totally misunderstood what they were saying.

Or, let’s flip the coin for a moment – remember the time you sent somebody a note (email, text, instagram, snapchat) and then couldn’t figure out why that same person wouldn’t talk to you. Then you found out how they interpreted your words, only to then find out they totally misunderstood what you were saying. Then you had to back everything up and try to explain what you were really trying to say.

It’s very easy to get caught in a tangled mess when we misunderstand, or are misunderstood. Sometimes, long standing relationships are damaged, almost unrepairable, due to misunderstanding.

Here’s why that came to mind. My reading this morning was from the book of Joshua. In Joshua 22, the 2½ tribes of Israel that got land on the east side of the Jordan River, having completed their task of helping everybody else get their land, are now able to go home.

Before they left they built an altar on the west side of the Jordan River. Well everybody on the west side made the assumption that those on the east side were going off on their own and doing their own thing, which would bring God’s wrath down on the whole nation. The west side gang were ready to kill them all. But before they did they sent a delegation to find out the truth.

What they found out was totally different than what they thought. Here’s what the east siders told them…

“No, we built the altar to remind us and you and the generations to come that we will worship the LORD… It’s here to remind us and you that we belong to the LORD, just as much as you do.” —Joshua 22:27, 29

Whoa! Talk about a close call. The west siders were ready to totally annihilate the east siders because of something that wasn’t true. How many times have we done that? How close have we gotten to obliterating a relationship because of a misunderstanding?

Here’s my word of encouragement for you today

There’s no “them” and “us.” There’s only “us.” We need to stand with each other – not against each other. This is what the Bible says, “Don’t mistreat someone who has mistreated you. But try to earn the respect of others, and do your best to live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:17-18 CEV

I have been misunderstood and have misunderstood. Forgive me for jumping to conclusions that have separated me and others. Jesus in Your name I ask this, Amen.

—Rev. Dr. MM Marxhausen

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Mark was Spiritual Director for VdC from 2016 to 2019. He's written many of the devotions, especially the Devote and Affirm series, found on this website.