Sunday, November 21, 2010

Friends, you really should have listened to me…

"I told you so!"

These are dreaded words. Usually coming from the mouth of a mom, this phrase can make you wince no matter who utters them. To hear this remark from someone you were trying to prove wrong...ouch. It's not so bad hearing it from a friend, but to hear it from a stranger makes it worse. And to hear it from someone you respect... well that just shows you how obstinate you were.

"I told you so!"
Why is it that we have such a hard time listening to advice? Especially from those who care about us, who we know are wiser than us, who want the best for us? How many mistakes could we have avoided in life had we just listened to the words of wisdom and put them into practice? Unless, of course, you don't have any friends that are wiser than you.  In that case, you need some new friends.

"I told you so!"
This is essentially what the Apostle Paul is telling his shipmates in Acts 27. They were all seasoned sailors of the Mediterranean Sea, and they knew the dangers. The date had passed for sailing, it was time to put in to harbor. But the ship was loaded with grain for Rome, and the shipowner and captain wanted to keep sailing. They had found a small harbor for the winter which Paul approved of, but they wanted to head around the edge of the island to an even bigger and better harbor for the three month hibernation. Paul warned them that one more day of sailing might be their last day of sailing ever.

"I told you so!"
The morning started off fair and warm, the slight breeze was all the encouragement the crew needed to head out to sea for the next port. But by the afternoon a nor'easter had swept in, and everyone knew they were doomed. It must have been hard for Paul to keep his mouth shut and to make sure he wasn't catching the eye of the captain and shipowner every five minutes. Why hadn't they listened to him? Now they were caught up in a storm that could be the end of each and every one of them. Argh!

"I told you so!"
Paul finally gets his chance to speak to the crew, he gets to say: I told you so! But he also gets to give them assurance that they all will survive, if they listen to him. God had reminded Paul of his promise to him: you shall arrive in Rome. With these words printed on his heart, Paul encouraged everyone on the ship to take courage. The hitch: you gotta listen to me! At one point some of the crew try to lower a small boat for escape, but Paul is alerted to it and warns them. The captain smashes the escape vessel. He's learned his lesson.

"I told you so!"
With Paul's promise that everyone will survive, there is also words of reality: we can't avoid a shipwreck. We'll be losing our cargo, we'll be losing our ship, we'll be losing everything but our life. Had you listened to me, we'd still be on Crete sipping drinks on the beach. But now we'll be escaping with only rags on our backs. That's how life works: you fail to heed advice and wisdom, and then you must bear the unwanted consequences. If you let God intervene, he won't take away the consequences, but he'll provide a way out...if you'll listen to him. The consequences are costly, but God can help you start over again. If you'll listen to him.

"I told you so!"
Here are some words of wisdom for the storms you are in. Sometimes we have multiple storms swamping us. Being married, having kids, dealing with your parents, keeping up friendships, putting up with your classmates or fellow coworkers - every relationship is a potential storm ready to break loose. Some relationships are easier than others, some more rewarding than others, but each one of them requires you to act wisely. In order to do the next right thing, you need advice from those who are older and more mature to help you. Here you go:
Fools are headstrong and do what they like;
wise people take advice.
Proverb 12v15 (the Message)

Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail;
take good counsel and watch them succeed.
Proverb 15v22 (the Message)

Listen to good advice if you want to live well,
an honored guest among wise men and women.
Proverb 15v31 (the Message)

Never argue; repeat your assertion.
~Robert Owen

He only profits from praise who values criticism.
~Heinrich Heine

"Do-so" is more important than "say-so."
~Pete Seeger
Paul stood in the ship in the midst of the storm and reminded his crewmates: "Friends, you really should have listened to me..." May you have friends who will speak truth in love to you, in the midst of your storms. May you have friends who are willing to enter into your storm with you.

May you be the friend who is willing to enter into their storm.

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