Saturday, January 8, 2011

Blue Coat Hangers and Change

My thinking started with a “blue hanger.” I was helping my mother-in-law hang up the clothes from the dryer. She instructed me to put her trousers on a blue hanger. I have to admit, my immediate thought was “how ridiculous,” and then I thought to ask her “why?” She told me that the blue hangers were stonger. Simple! I’m glad I asked. While hanging up her trousers I shared with her my delight in hanging clothes on the clothes line in South Africa with color matched clothes pins. Not because they are stronger, but because I love coordinated colors! Simple! We had a good laugh together.

We all have reasons for our decisions and habits, reasons we may have completely forgotten until a disturbing disruption or someone’s strange question reminds us. The factors we consider in making those decisions vary – maybe color, practicality, speed, comfort, beauty, simplicity, historicity, family concerns, taboos and on and on!

I was acutely aware of how easy it was to disregard my mother-in-law’s desire to use a blue hanger. Color choice seemed rather a peculiar point, but strength made more sense! And my color choice for beauty probably seemed ridiculous when my husband was trying to help me hang up the wet clothes. The factors we each considered were different. I lean toward beauty and practicality while he leans completely towards practicality! The factors reflect our personalities and our values.

You know, I easily slid into using the blue hangers to help my mother-in-law, but I haven’t always been so quick to adapt to other’s ways of doing things. Some things just look ridiculous from my perspective because I’m looking through my very limited viewpoint of a few factors!

When we moved to Africa I was bombarded with so many other factors that I had rarely considered previously – community, unfailing politeness, and unbounded hospitality. I found my ways of doing things totally disrupted as I needed to incorporate these other factors into my decision making! I couldn’t just decide for myself, I had to consider my whole team! I couldn’t just speak what was “normal,” I had to carefully weigh every word and inflection! I chafed against many of the required changes at first, but eventually, I too considered many of these newly acquired factors when making decisions.

Seeing, hearing, and understanding another culture definitely exposed me to a broader array of factors to consider in making decisions. So when I consider making changes in my life now, I also need a shift in my decision making factors. Just talking out my reasoning for old ways can help me see why I’ve been stuck. Sometimes reading the Word can jog me out of old ways of thinking and challenge me with other factors I’ve ignored. And sometimes it just takes God’s revelation to clearly see factors I’ve never considered and I’m on my way to new behavior.

I’m really excited about blue hangers now. Not because they are color coordinated with my clothes, but because they remind me that I have so much to learn from others and from God. And blue hangers remind me that a shift in perspective is vital to change.

picture courtesy of photobucket

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