the People You are Stuck With
Max Lucado & Monica Hall
- Almost no one had expected it to work. Kate and Courtney? Sisters?! (Okay,
stepsisters.) Two years later, no one -- including Kate and Courtney -- could
explain how or why it did work.
A nationwide search would not find two
thirteen-year-olds who were less alike. Practical, down-to-earth, athletic --
and superorganized -- Kate. Flighty, fashionable, artistic -- and totally absent-minded
--Courtney. It was hard to picture them in the same universe, let alone the same
blended family. But there they were, stuck with each other -- and, amazingly,
actually seeming to enjoy it. Usually. Although there were times -- like Tuesday
morning -- when things got a little . . . hairy.
pet was a childhood 1/4Christmas Eve gift. Somewhere I have a snapshot of a brown-and-white
Chinese pug, small enough to fit in my father's hand, cute enough to steal my
eight-year-old heart. We named her Liz. I carried her all day. Her floppy ears
fascinated me, and her flat nose amused me. I even took her to bed. So what if
she smelled like a dog? I thought the odor was cute. So what if she whined and
whimpered? I thought the noise was cute. So what if she did her business on my
pillow? I can't say I thought that was cute, but I didn't mind.
pre-dog discussions, Mom and Dad had made it clear that I was to be Liz's caretaker,
and I was happy to agree. When she came home, I cleaned her little eating dish
and opened her can of puppy food. The minute she lapped up some water, I refilled
it. I kept her hair combed and her tail wagging. Within a few days, however, my
feelings changed a bit. Liz was still my dog, and I was still her friend, but
I grew tired of her barking, and she seemed hungry an awful lot. More than once
my folks had to remind me, "Take care of her. She is your dog."
like hearing those words -- your dog. I wouldn't have minded "your dog to play
with" or "your dog when you want her" or even "your dog when she is behaving."
But those weren't my parents' words. They said, "Liz is your dog." Period. In
sickness and in health. For richer, for poorer. In dryness and in wetness.
when it occurred to me: I am stuck with Liz. The courtship was over, and the honeymoon
had ended. We were mutually leashed. Liz went from an option to an obligation,
from a pet to a chore, from someone to play with to someone to care for.
familiar? That "trapped" feeling that comes with being in a situation you can't
escape? Only instead of being reminded, "She is your dog," you're told, "He is
your brother." Or, "She is your lab partner, math teacher, picky-aunt-who-means-well
. . ." or any other relationship that requires loyalty for survival.
permanence can lead to panic -- at least it did in me. I had to answer some tough
questions. Can I put up with the same flat-nosed, hairy, hungry face every morning?
Am I going to be barked at until the day I die? Will she always use the inside
of the house as a bathroom?
Such are the questions
we ask when we feel stuck with someone. There is a word for this condition. Upon
consulting the one-word medical dictionary (which I wrote the day before I did
this chapter), I discovered this is a common ailment known as stuckititis (STUK-ih-TITE-is).
Read it out loud: stuckititis. Here's what Max's Manual of Medical Terms has to
say about the condition: Attacks of stuckititis are limited to people who breathe,
and typically occur somewhere between birth and death. Stuckititis shows itself
in irritability, short fuses, and a mountain range of molehills.
Max's Manual identifies three ways to cope with stuckititis: flee, fight, or forgive.
Some choose to flee: give up on the friendship, teammate, teacher, or family member
by avoiding that person or quitting the team or changing schools. Though they
are often surprised when the condition seems to follow them there, too. Others
fight: snapping, complaining, arguing, and just generally making life miserable
A few, however, discover another treatment: forgiveness.
(Forgiveness: Part patience and understanding. Part generosity. All love.) My
manual has no model for how forgiveness occurs . . . but the Bible does.
When Kate's mom and Courtney's dad began dating a little more than two years ago,
neither girl paid much attention. By the time they realized wedding bells were
in the air, it was too late to protest. Not that either wanted to. Kate really
liked Courtney's dad, who was funny and kind -- and a real soccer nut. And Courtney
adored Kate's mom, who was sweet and understanding -- and a world-class shopper!
About each other, the jury was still out. They had absolutely nothing in
common, completely different circles of friends, and no idea what made the other
tick. On the other hand, it might be kind of . . . interesting.
it was a big house, with plenty of personal space for when the girls needed a
breather from working out their "sisterly" relationship. As it turned out, it
wasn't all that difficult-once they realized you didn't necessarily have to get
all bent out of shape about differences.
Some differences, in fact, were
funnier than they were annoying. Others surprisingly "educational." The rest you
just put up with, bearing in mind that your own quirks might be a little aggravating,
Though Kate did have to work at not cracking up every time she stepped
into Ruffle City (Courtney's ultrafeminine, stuff-everywhere room). And Courtney
had to swallow any number of comments about Kate's approach to fashion (Ignore
it and maybe it'll go away!).
On the other hand, if it hadn't been for
Courtney's passion for dance, Kate would never have known that ballet demanded
so much work and focus and . . . sweat. (Why, it was practically . . . athletic!)
And Courtney was astonished at the clever footwork, driving pace, and intricate
patterns of play when she saw her first soccer game. ("Why, it's like a . . .
Not that there wasn't some occasional teeth grinding. Getting
Courtney anywhere on time-or through the mall without a gazillion detours-was
as frustrating as trying to herd cats. And Kate's "fixation" on schedules and
deadlines sometimes got on Courtney's very last nerve.
There is, however,
more than one way around any block. So Kate learned to allow extra time when she
and Courtney went places together. And Courtney tried hard to remember to actually
read Kate's frequent reminder notes.
And so it went. Cut a little slack
here. Make an allowance there. Hang on to your sense of humor. And learn to say
-- with a smile -- "Well, that's Kate/Courtney." And it pretty much worked. Right
up until Tuesday morning when a casual comment at breakfast revealed that Kate's
soccer awards banquet and Courtney's dance recital (which everyone thought was
next week) were both scheduled for Friday -- at the same time. And each girl wanted/expected/needed
a supportive, full-family audience!
Which meant that -- unless someone
could figure out how to be two places at once -- they were definitely . . . stuck.
himself knew the feeling of being stuck with someone. For three years he ran with
the same crew. By and large, he saw the same dozen or so faces around the table,
around the campfire, around the clock. They rode in the same boats and walked
the same roads and visited the same houses, and I wonder, how did Jesus stay so
devoted to his men?
Not only did he have to put up with their visible oddities,
he had to endure their invisible quirks. Think about it. He could hear their unspoken
thoughts. He knew their private doubts. Not only that, he knew their future doubts.
What if you knew every mistake your loved ones had ever made and every mistake
they would ever make? What if you knew every thought they would have about you,
every irritation, every betrayal?
Was it hard for Jesus to love Peter,
knowing that Peter would someday curse him? Was it tough to trust Thomas, knowing
Thomas would one day question Jesus' resurrection? Just days before Jesus' death,
his disciples were arguing about which of them was the best! How did Jesus resist
the urge to recruit a new batch of followers? How was he able to love people who
were hard to like?
Few things stir panic like being trapped in a relationship.
It's one thing to be stuck with a puppy but something else entirely to be stuck
in a family or school or friendship situation. We might chuckle over goofy terms
like stuckititis, but for many, this is no laughing matter. Which is why it's
such a perfect way to begin our study of what it means to be just like Jesus --
by examining his heart of forgiveness. How was Jesus able to love his disciples?
The answer is found in the thirteenth chapter of John, when Jesus kneels before
his disciples and washes their feet.
With Towel and Basin
was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew the time had come for him to leave
this world and go to the Father. But not without one more display of love...
has been a long day. Jerusalem is packed with Passover guests. The spring sun
is warm. The streets are dusty. A splash of cool water on tired, aching feet would
The disciples enter the supper room and take their places
around the table. On the wall hangs a towel, and on the floor sit a pitcher and
a basin. Any one of the disciples could have volunteered for the job, but not
one does. After a few moments Jesus stands and removes his outer robe. He wraps
a servant's sash around his waist, takes up the basin, and kneels before one of
the disciples. He unlaces a sandal and gently lifts the foot and places it in
the basin, covers it with water, and begins to bathe it. One grimy foot after
another, Jesus works his way down the row.
In Jesus' day the washing of
feet was a task reserved not just for servants, but for the lowest of servants.
In this case the one with the towel and basin is the King of the universe.
that shaped the stars now wash away filth. Fingers that formed mountains now massage
toes. And the one before whom all nations will one day kneel now kneels before
his disciples. Hours before his own death, Jesus has one concern. He wants his
disciples to know how much he loves them. More than removing dirt, Jesus is removing
You can be sure Jesus knows the future of these feet he is washing.
These twenty-four feet will not spend the next day following their Master, defending
his cause. These feet will dash for cover at the flash of a Roman sword. One pair
won't even make it that far; Judas Iscariot will abandon him to his enemies that
I looked for a Bible translation that reads, "Jesus washed
all the disciples' feet except the feet of Judas," but I couldn't find one. Knowing
what was to come, Jesus silently lifts the feet of Judas and washes them clean
-- cleansing with kindness the one who would betray him.
Behold the gift
Jesus gives his followers! He knows what these men are about to do. By morning
they will bury their heads in shame and look down at their feet in disgust. And
when they do, he wants them to remember how he knelt before them and washed their
feet. He wants them to realize those feet are still clean. "You don't understand
now what I am doing, but you will understand later" (John 13:7 ncv).
He forgave their sin before they even committed it. He offered mercy before they
even asked for it.
Jesus still cleans his disciples' feet. Jesus still
washes away stains. Jesus still purifies his people. But that's not all he does.
Because Jesus has forgiven us, we can forgive others. Because he has a forgiving
heart, we can have a forgiving heart. We can have a heart like his.
It was really Courtney's fault . . . the mix-up about dates. I cannot believe
she did that, Kate fumed. Doesn't Miss Twinkletoes know what calendars are for?!
It was really Kate's fault . . . Courtney was convinced. Where are Miss
Organized's famous "reminders" when you really need them?!
It was really
nobody's fault. The scheduling of the awards banquet and the ballet recital was
outside their control. Of course, it would have helped if Courtney had noticed
that the twenty-third was this Friday. And it was too bad that -- for once-Kate
had neglected to "program" Courtney's memory. So things were a little strained
that week. And the usual traffic between Ruffle City and the House of Neat came
to a halt -- unlike the thoughts racing through two troubled minds.
problem was, each girl knew the other too well not to know how important both
Friday events were. Courtney knew how thrilled Kate was to be up for Most Valuable
Player. And Kate knew how hard Courtney had worked on her featured role in Friday's
Neither wanted to see the other disappointed. Neither wanted to
see herself disappointed, either! So, 'round and 'round it went. Each time one
girl thought of a reason why her event was more important, she'd think of other
things, too. For Kate, it was Courtney's patience teaching her the not-as-easy-as-they-look
ballet exercises that gave Kate the strongest/fastest soccer legs in the league.
Or Courtney's tact in pointing out really cool clothes, without ever mentioning
that there was life beyond sweats.
For Courtney, it was the trouble Kate
took to help her make sense of math. Or the way she bragged about Courtney's dancing
to her soccer teammates. Or Kate's cheerful "No problem" when Courtney showed
up late . . . again.
It was Kate -- with typical Kate logic -- who made
the decision. It was Courtney who made a plan of her own, and-with very un-typical
efficiency -- made it happen.
Courtney sank into a graceful
bow. It was her third curtain call. And well deserved! thought Kate, applauding
with soccer-match enthusiasm from her front-row seat.
Courtney smiled as
a piercing whistle cut through the applause. Leave it to Kate! An enormous bouquet
(Kate's idea) cradled in one arm, Courtney rose to her feet. But rather than leave
the stage, she simply stood there. The puzzled audience grew quiet as Courtney
opened her mouth. Leave it to Courtney, thought Kate with a grin. She's going
to make a speech! And she did. "Before this evening ends, there's one more presentation
to be made." With a sweeping gesture, Courtney cued an off-stage helper, who brought
out a gleaming . . . soccer (?!) . . . trophy.
"To be here for me this
evening, someone very special gave up her own moment in the spotlight." Then,
with a fanfare in her voice, "Ladies and gentlemen, it's my pleasure to present
Midvale Soccer League's Most Valuable Player . . . my sister, Kate!" Oh, my. Oh,
no! Oh, . . . help! Kate had no idea what to do. But -- with a push from her family
-- she found herself, somehow, on stage.
her sister, with a grin and a hug. Then Courtney whispered, "They got the inscription
wrong, though. It should read 'Most Valuable Sister.'"
just hugged her back. Then . . . "Uh . . . Courtney?"
do we do now?" Courtney laughed.
"We take a bow, Kate." And -- arms filled
with roses and soccer trophy -- they did. Together.
Mercy and a Message
Jesus washes our feet for two reasons. The first is to give us mercy;
the second is to give us a message. And that message is simply this: Jesus offers
unconditional grace; we are to offer unconditional grace. The mercy of Christ
came before our mistakes; our mercy must come before the mistakes of others. Those
in the circle of Christ had no doubts of his love; those in our circles should
have no doubts about ours.
What does it mean to have a heart like his?
It means to kneel as Jesus knelt, touching the grimy parts of the people we are
stuck with and washing away their unkindnesses with kindness. Or as Paul wrote,
"Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave
you in Christ" (Ephesians 4:32 ncv). "But, Max," you are saying, "I've done nothing
wrong. I'm not the one who cheated or lied. I'm not the one with the annoying
habits. I'm not the guilty party here." Perhaps you aren't. But neither was Jesus.
Of all the men in that room, only one was worthy of having his feet washed. And
he was the one who washed the feet. The one worthy of being served, served others.
The genius of Jesus' example is that the burden of bridge-building falls on the
strong one, not on the weak one. The one who is innocent is the one who makes
the gesture. And you know what happens? More often than not, if the one in the
right volunteers to wash the feet of the one in the wrong, both parties get on
their knees. Don't we all think we are right? Therefore, we all wash each other's
And that's the secret: Relationships don't thrive because the guilty
are punished, but because the innocent are merciful. Because the one who is hurt
is the one who has the courage and grace to say, "I forgive you. I love you. Let's
Just like Jesus.
Your Copy of Just Like Jesus for Teens
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more than 29 million books in print, 12 years atop the Christian booksellers list,
18 simultaneous bestsellers, and a New York Times best-selling titled under
his belt, Max Lucado is on of Christianity's leading voices today. This pastor-teacher-author
has spoken before government leaders, including the President of the United States,
and has comforted thousands in times of national tragedy. Many high-profile leaders
look to him for insight and wisdom; and they keep his books on their nightstands.
For this father of three daughters and minister to 3,000 at Oak Hills Church of
Christ in San Antonio, Texas, storytelling is more than a hobb -- the power of
words is his life.