A few weeks ago, we had a visitor to our foxhole. My faithful brother, Jerry Brockman, brought his son-in-law, Parrish, to sit in with us. Parrish and his wife Kelli (Jerry’s daughter) work in Thailand with a group called EzekielRain (http://ezekielrain.com/), which is involved in rescuing and empowering victims of human trafficking. Parrish introduced us to a crazy idea. It’s called the Negativity Fast.
Here’s the essence of it: Whenever you are tempted to complain, find something to be thankful for. Now stay with me, ‘cause this just sounds way too simple, like some kind of Jedi mind trick (“These are not the droids you’re looking for.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=532j-186xEQ). That’s kinda what we thought too, and apparently what Parrish had thought the first time he heard of it.
We live in a fault-finding culture. Things are mostly jacked up, and even a lot of the good stuff either isn’t quite right, or could use some improvement. In small situations, this plays out in some form of mild discontent (“Hey, this coffee is cold!” or “Why do I always get stuck in the longest line?”). Sometimes, the situation is more serious and close to home (“My son just wrecked my car – again!” or “I don’t know whether my wife loves me anymore.”). It affects how we view each other and makes us much more prone to conflict, always mistrusting and assuming the worst. Blow that up to communities and you get situations like the one we’ve seen play out in Charlottesville the last couple weeks – no dialogue, just unbending, entrenched hostility for reasons that many do not even understand.
The Negativity Fast flips the script. “Hey, what a blessing to live in a place where I can go get coffee anytime I want!” “Thanks for the chance to interact with this cashier and maybe brighten her day.” “We can repair the car – thank God my boy is all right!” “We’re still together, help is available, so thankful for one more try.” This isn’t PollyAnna. In most cases, there is still work to be done and discussion to be had. But the old adage of “You find what you’re looking for” starts to kick in. My expectations start to shift. They aren’t lowered, but they are different. If I do not expect you to fulfill my need for (fill in the blank), which you likely were not even aware of, then I am not offended when you don’t.
So how did this work out? The men of my foxhole took the challenge and reported back one week later. To a man, we had been convicted by the Spirit multiple times throughout the week. There was a little complaining early, then some negative thoughts that were caught before they were spoken, then a shift toward a tendency to see the good in the people and situations we encountered. Spouses, children, co-workers, and wait staff around Bentonville got the benefit of the doubt, and maybe a small measure of grace. And we had a better week! In a couple cases, the people around us actually noticed. We decided to continue. Will it change the world? I dunno, but if it turns my eyes toward the One who holds the world in His hands? Well maybe it starts to move the needle. Go ahead and try it – I dare you!