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As I write this we have just welcomed the newest member of the Monroe family to our home—a five year old cocker spaniel. While we took on a new dog for the boys, it appears that Missy is most attached to my wife. It might have something to do with the amount of time Kim spends in the kitchen. At the sound of packaging, she is up and ready for any morsel coming her way.

At heart, Missy is full of hope. No matter how unlikely she is to get human food, her stub tail wiggles in anticipation. Something good just might come her way. As I watch her, a thought crosses my mind. Do I look for the good (creation) in others or expect the worst (fall)?

Expectations shape attitudes, pessimism breeds skepticism

Friends will hurt me if I give them a chance….I’m not sure what she meant but probably she was trying to hurt me.

Thinking the best will likely breed love.

My son forgot to do his chores….again! I know that it is hard for him to remember all that he has to do in the morning and he doesn’t forget just to get under my skin. I’ll remind him without being harsh.

What do you look for? The good (creation) or the bad (fall)? If you are like me, then you have to admit that it is far too easy to see only the fall in some of our friends and family. Their weaknesses, foibles, and sins grate on our nerves. We want to scream at them, “Can’t you see that you are such a jerk right now!?” While we may be accurate in our assessment of their flaws, it is likely that we have lost sight of how they reflect God’s image and represent God’s gifts to us.

Think of someone who frustrates you. Maybe it is a spouse, a child, a parent, or a sibling. Or, maybe it is a client or a parishioner. What would happen if you became more creation focused in your relating to this person? What would you see if you focused on God’s creative and re-creative work in their life? Would you spend less time reviewing their sin patterns (in your head and out loud) and more time pointing out God’s gifts in them?

But aren’t you advocating denial?

If you struggle with the sins of others, especially those in your inner circle, it can be hard to celebrate God’s gifts in them. It feels like we are excusing sin, turning a blind eye to significant problems and planning to be a doormat in the relationship. But, these feelings usually reveal a difficulty in us. We have a hard time accepting both beauty and ashes at the same time. We prefer others to fit in one category or the other. However, when we celebrate God’s creative work in the life of a difficult person we live in reality and avoid denial. We see God’s goodness in the midst of brokenness.

Truer vision

Ezekiel 47 details the prophet’s vision of the future Kingdom of God. Standing in the temple, he sees a trickle of water coming out the space where the brass cleansing bowl had once been (no need for that now that Jesus had cleansed once for all). Within a mile, the trickle becomes a raging river bringing life to the Dead Sea. The river washes out all the salt and death from the Dead Sea. Along the banks of the river, trees of healing bear fruit. This vision illustrates a truer reality than we see most days—the ever expanding mission of God moving out from the temple to his people.

This is the picture of the kingdom of God, already here and being made more true every day. Do you see it? Taste it? Let Ezekiel's vision encourage us to take longer looks at God's image shining in the lives of difficult people (you and I) and in those around us.

Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychology and Director of the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He maintains a private practice at Diane Langberg & Associates. He blogs regularly at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/philip-monroe

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