Monday, January 2, 2012

One Oar Faith

We’re told to love God and love others. Seems simple. But I’m going to outright confess that the second instruction can get excruciatingly tough for me sometimes.

Loving God, seeing his goodness, this isn’t what trips me up. It’s his people that trip me up. (Last I checked, I’m a person, so I include myself in this category.)

I often find myself stretched with how I love others. I’m drawn to humble hearts, folks willing to admit brokenness and imperfection. (I also happen to like people who have a keen appreciation for laughter.)

The hardest people for me to love are the pious; the prideful ones screaming about the splinters in my eye as I silently stare at the lumberyard in their eye. Even as I’m wounded by these types of people, I’ve been through enough to understand I can learn from them—their behavior. I can choose to live differently and love all the same. This is growth in the big leagues.

So what’s with the title, one oar faith? When I was thinking about the day to day struggle of loving God’s people an image formed (yeah, this tends to happen a lot…probably why I slid into my career as a writer).

A rowboat. I’m in it. And when I’m loving God, appreciating his sovereignty, his unending, grace-filled love, I’m pushing the boat forward with one oar. On one side.

Do you see it?

I’m moving in circles with that kind of faith—that one oar practice of Christianity. I’m trusting God, but not the settings he’s placed me in or the people he’s plopped in my life.

Don’t get me wrong, both oars are in the boat. I’m able to reach down and take hold of the second oar at any time, but it tends to cramp my hand when I grip it, the wood splinters against my palm, and water splashes all over me when I pick up that oar and utilize it. In other words…it hurts.

Loving others hurts. But here’s the cool thing about that. There’s a verse in the Bible that says to consider it an honor whenever we identify with Jesus in any way. It’s impossible to imagine how deeply Jesus was injured by man (and still is). Words don’t cover it so I won’t try. The point is he gets what it feels like to row with both oars.

And you know what I hear him whispering to me? Pick up both oars. Full speed ahead. It’s time to move forward.

Big league faith. Both oars. Raw, cramped and bleeding hands, drenched body, upper arm muscles pulsing and aching with exertion.

And somewhere on the break of a wave I’ll be reminded it’s in loving others that I’m demonstrating my love for God.

Can you relate with my one oar vs. two oar image? What helps you when it comes to loving difficult people?

*photos by flickr
**Stop by here later to see who All “I”s are on!


  1. I'm finding that we often have no idea what others are going through and just what might be inspiring their difficultiness. I am learning as I, myself, have smiled through difficult times, that others just might struggle to do that. We people are mighty complicated at times, aren't we?

    I love that picture!

  2. Yes, we are complicated. Not sure you read this or received this in the encouraging way it was intended to come across.

    Happy New Year, Heather.

  3. Another thought...smiling through difficulty is far different than having an attitude of superiority, demonstrating a lack of respect, or several other behaviors that tend to tick me off.

    I tend to feel great empathy for those who smile through difficulty as I’ve been there myself.

    Like I said, loving is just plain difficult sometimes.

  4. Wendy, I always come to your blog and find just what I needed to hear:) I've been rowing with one oar a lot recently. I know I need to pick up the other oar, but how difficult that is! But I have to do it and I'm going to remember this post when it seems too painful to do. Beautiful words, thank you:)

  5. Gosh Wendy, could you possibly be anymore poignant, anymore beautiful, anymore REAL, with your words? I don't think so.

    This one really hit me. Straight in the heart.

    Beautiful words. Beautiful truth.

    Love you, woman!

  6. Girl, you are able to take an ordinary element and create such beauty and wisdom with it.

    While reading devotions not even an hour ago, I read about loving your enemies. It's so super easy to love those who love you. It's so easy to be with those who want to be with you. The stretch of our grace is showing that same love toward those who hate on us or don't want to be around us.

    For me, the toughest oar to use is with family members who have become embittered by certain situations. I'm praying for God to lift the veil of resentment from my heart so I can show them love and grace as He would.

    Thank you for a poignant message this morning, friend. Beautiful.

  7. This post really touched me, I especially felt drawn to this statement"I’m moving in circles with that kind of faith—that one oar practice of Christianity. I’m trusting God, but not the settings he’s placed me in or the people he’s plopped in my life"! talk about on point with my current struggle. Happy New Year to you!

  8. Hmmm, this really struck me. In order to live life to the fullest, we must obey BOTH of God's commands, not just the ones that are "easy." And you're right, loving others helps us to love God even more. In the same way, loving God more (by getting to know him better) reminds us of our own failings and how he loved us anyway...and that encourages us to reach for that other oar and love the person who we otherwise can't stand.

  9. Have you read The Great Gatsby? Your post made me think of the last line of that book, with its references to rowing. Certainly "thoughts that move" today ...

    Happy New Year Wendy, much happiness and writing in the coming months!

  10. What an apt, striking image and a beautiful post! Wendy, I've been through a year when I've witnessed a lot of people in authority behaving publicly in ways they really, really shouldn't. This has led me to drop one of my oars, I think, without realizing it. I allowed myself to become too critical of the behaviors in my disappointment and sorrow, and the fact is, even with provocation, becoming critical in spirit doesn't solve anything. I realized this a few weeks ago, and I'm very glad to start 2012 on a different foot. It's going to be a year of big changes for me, and I will be glad to move forward with two oars. Thank you for your open and loving heart in this post.

  11. Beautiful post.

    My son is a rower. I've seen his hands bleed and him ache with sore muscles...but when it's done right - both oars perfectly lined and timed, you move forward, quickly along the surface while building strength and stamina.

    Happy New Year!

  12. Excellent analogy, Wendy. There is one person in my life right now that I struggle with and I've been praying for eyes to see her the way God sees her. Thank you for this sweet reminder.

  13. Yes, beautiful analogy. I must admit, it made me long for warm weather and summer on the lake! But that is a long way off yet. But so true that we need to have both oars in hand to be living in God's will for us 100% of the time. Sometimes I feel so uncomfortable with one of those oars, it is hard to hold on to, or my stokes are awkward. I must remember perserverance and discipline. Very thought-provoking post. Thank you.

  14. This is why I read your blog ...
    You make me think.
    Make my heart beat more truly for the things of God.

    And, yes, sometimes, sometimes, I think: Gosh, I wish I'd written that!
    (Let's be honest with each other, 'k?)
    And then I decide to just enjoy you and who you are and the gift you bring to the body of Christ.
    Not compete.

  15. I can totally relate to not having two oars in the water and when it comes to one person I know, my oar has been left on shore. I guess it's time to bring it aboard. Thanks for the reminder.

  16. I love this analogy, Wendy. I tend to go psychoanalytical and think of what the other person's story is...what makes them act the way they do. It usually takes away the sting of the hurt. As my pastor likes to say, "Hurt people hurt people."

  17. Wendy, every time I stop here I'm so blessed and encouraged. I long to see people the way God sees them. Thanks for always pointing me upward.

  18. This is extremely hard to do. I just remember I'm not perfect either and I try and let it go the best I know how!

  19. Wendy-- beautifully written-- almost poetic-- reminder of our faith and loving people. Love it.

  20. Heather, Good talk. I hear ya, sister!

    Thanks, Kara and so challenging in some circumstances. Your words got through to me.

    Love you too, Katie. I always beam after we talk. You change me life in the best of ways (and yes, I'm now Irish).

    Lisa, Pretty sure you climbed inside my life as you responded. You about brought me to tears, lady!

    KC, I really kicked around not posting this. Thanks for reminding me why I did. I trusted others could relate.

    Lindsay, You touch upon a key point. I can't do any of it without His guidance, wisdom, mercy, comfort, or grace. The Holy Spirit is the reason I can be any different at all than those I struggle with. The only way.

    Joanne, Word that comes to mind when I think of! And I'll have to go back and have a good h.s. look.

    Rosslyn, You're speaking to me and teaching me in this comment. Another reason why I love you. Your gentle & WISE spirit!

    Loree, Here's to strength & stamina. Cheers!

    Linda, Isn't that a gift--to be able to see someone in that way. A beautiful thing to pray!

    Lynn, I'm pretty sure I'm the queen of awkward strokes. :D

    Beth, Oh, I love you. Just love you! I'm so glad this post moved you. I felt somewhat scared to post it. Constantly pushed to be vulnerable. What's with that? Maybe I need to look into having that fixed b/c it sure gets me hurt. :D Thanks for what you wrote.

    Patti, Oh I get shore oar. I soooo get shore oar.

    Sarah, Yep, I love that saying. Has helped a lot in certain situations and like you, my instinct is to seek understanding. The worst is when I've done that and acted upon that and then...well, let's just say loving is hard sometimes.

    Melanie, I truly feel the same way about your blog. You have such an inviting Spirit!

    Laura, I can't tell you how many times I almost quoted your recent post, "I never did mind the small things" not long ago. :D

    Thanks for the encouragement, Erin.

    As I said before, I debated not posting this. That's always the case when I'm putting it out there. But if I pointed any one of you to God it was worth it. I hope to continue to learn to love well. It's why I'm here. It's what I'm designed for--loving. The more I think about this topic I realize the only way to pick up that oar is to trust the Holy Spirit will help.

    Thanks for your words today. They got through to me! I love being back!
    ~ Wendy

  21. Wow. I mean, wow. I was just thinking about this earlier today, how some people make it hard for me to love them. Yet, Jesus gives me grace, if I'll only pick up the oar. That's my choice, isn't it? Not how they treat me, but how I treat them.

    What helps me most is praying for the nasty, ornery ones. Keeps my heart from getting sour.

    Happy New Year and smooth paddling,

  22. Oh yes, I relate. When you teach school, you can relate instantly.

    For me, I remember that everyone has a mother that loves them. EVERYONE somewhere has SOMEONE that loves them. And I try to see the things in that person that that one someone out there loves. That helps me love them too.

  23. Beautiful post.

    What helps me to love difficult people, is to think of them as my mother, father, sister, or brother. It can be so easy to "write people off" when loving them becomes difficult. But putting them in the context of family, in my mind, helps get my heart right, and helps me to love them.

  24. Hi Wendy,

    First, I want to say I appreciate your honesty in regard to sharing your feelings on this topic. This is a constant battle " Loving others." Well, it's easy to love those that love us, no one will argue with that.

    I've been struggling with this a lot, and it's in regard to family that is repulsed by Christianity and also ones that are claiming they are Christians. I'm a target in two ways;
    (1.) Non-believers; Insults, or avoiding me etc.
    (2) With the professed Christians who straddle the fence between Christianity and the world with no conviction, I am considered an over-the -top Christian that is too serious about God.

    The thing is I've been on both sides of the fence, and straddling the fence, luke warm and I also considered people in the past to be too serious about God. I understand where there coming from, but it does not make it any easier when I'm now the target.

    I once heard it said that "The Lord will sometimes put in our path, people that do the same things we did, or still do." The point is, if it is a behavior we once had, than how can we judge them, or if it is a behavior we are struggling with ourselves than we are seeing a mirror image of ourselves and that is a rude awakening. I speak from experience :o) P.S. I know that we are not to judge anyone :o)

    I know the only way I will be able to truly love others is to continue to seek the heart of God. His Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses, but I must remember to not rely on my own ability, but pray for help, sometimes A.S.A.P

    For myself, I think loving others has been one trial after the other, but with each trial comes growth. What I'm also trying to do now when I have negative thoughts about others is instead of mulling over it,I take it to the Lord in silent prayer, and ask Him to change my heart. I'm a work in progress.

    2 Corinthians 10:5 ... and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

    God bless you,

  25. I like this image. I'm going to remember this the next time I'm struggling with loving a difficult-to-love person. I talked to my oldest daughter about this just the other day. She was convinced we were only supposed to love the people who loved us. As I was trying to explain what the Bible REALLY says about it I was convicted that I don't always live this out in front of my children. How often do I avoid that splintery oar instead of grabbing on and trusting God to do something awesome with my obedience? Man, it's hard!

    Thanks for this, Wendy!

  26. Some excellent additional thoughts here. Thanks for commenting.

    Jeanette, So true, it comes back to the choices I make, how I lean on the Spirit to love them. It's sad though. I used to watch my grandma push others away when she needed them most. It's this kind of stuff that's so difficult to witness.

    Elana, Good thing to remember. It's hard for me to picture the loving mother in the cruelty though. But I like this thought. Put a new spin on it for me.

    Inluv, Going to be's often those I'm closest to (like those you mentioned) that I fight to love.

    M.K., How about insulting Christians? Yes, I've heard that theory--the things that irritate us in others, we are battling with inside ourselves. Something to pray about for sure. Thanks for your insight and where your heart was at when you responded.

    Amy, Yep, hard. Part of the reason I debated posting this is b/c I don't need a formula. I know the way to make it less hard, but I just felt like being blantantly honest about how difficult it can be. Especially in the face of insult or as the wound is raw...

    On another note. I read an excellent book that helped me through this about ten years ago...Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. Time for me to track down who I let borrow it & I believe I'm due for a reread. ;)

    Thanks for investing in the conversation. I know it goes pretty deep for all of us. May we continually be open to learning, growing, and God help us--loving!
    ~ Wendy

  27. What a beautiful restful scene together!
    And I like laughter!
    What helps me is learning to listen. I like the two oars. One of them is His hand, so I don't go in circles with my one oar.


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