The Maximizer and the Minimizer 3-2-14

Matthew 17:1-9 Six days later, Jesus took Peter, James and John up on a high mountain to be alone with them. And before their eyes, Jesus was transfigured—his face becoming as dazzling as the sun and his clothes as radiant as light.
Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said, “Rabbi, how good that we are here!  With your permission I will erect three shelters here—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah!” Peter was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them.  Out of the cloud came a voice which said, “This is my Own, my Beloved, on whom my favor rests.  Listen to him!” When they heard this, the disciples fell forward on the ground, overcome with fear. Jesus came toward them and touched them, saying, “Get up!  Don’t be afraid.”  When they looked up, they did not see anyone but Jesus. As they were coming down the mountainside, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone about this until the Chosen One has risen from the dead.

March 2, 2014

The Maximizer and the Minimizer

“This is not a big deal,” I heard myself thinking. “Children running around the altar making noise – not a major problem.” Sometimes I would say it out loud – directly to the person who brought the problem to me. I’m thinking of someone in a former congregation who would come to me with seemingly endless complaints.  This winter seems pretty long? This woman’s complaints at times were less tolerable than these endless storms.
“You have to sing more songs that I know and love or I’m going to leave!” she’d say, (and in my weaker moments, I’d think, “I wish.”) The hymnals are in the pews wrong! You’re not paying enough attention to poor, sick Albert laying at home in his bed while we enjoy ourselves at church. Why are you keeping that door closed? We always keep it open!”
These were not petty problems to her. And I hate to think of the hurt look on her face when I said, “This is not a big deal. Easy. These are little problems.”
I was minimizing. She was maximizing. Minimizing or maximizing, according to Dr. Harville Hendrix, a relationship counselor, who wrote several books about relationships, describes the way we express our energy when danger threatens. We either diminish or we exaggerate our emotions. [Hendrix, p. 70] In different situations we can play different roles.  The maximizer is the active one, often expressive and explosive, high energy, fighting to get what they need. The minimizer tends to withdraw, fleeing inward to avoid the danger of being emotionally or physically abandoned or attacked.
Maybe you can identify yourself as a minimizer or a maximizer.  A minimizer holds feelings inward, underplays emotions, will rarely let themselves be dependent on others – in fact encourages other people’s dependency, and may try to dominate others.  A maximizer explodes feelings outward, exaggerates feelings, tends to depend on others, tends toward clinging and excessive generosity, focuses on others instead of self, and may be submissive or manipulative.
These are exaggerated pictures of the two poles to get you an idea of the concept.  Hendrix says that men tend to be minimizers and women tend to be maximizers.  It’s not necessarily true.  But Hendrix uses the concept to talk about how to get men and women to understand each other.
This maximizing/minimizing dynamic is one of the dynamics we will consider in the 6 week study series I will be leading on Tuesday evenings during Lent and into Eastertide. We’re basing the series on Adam Hamilton’s book Love to Stay which tends to be a little more basic and less complicated that Harville Hendrix. We’ll use Hamilton’s book as a starting place each week, but we won’t hesitate to talk about more complicated dynamics in relationships.
Please let me know on the sign-up sheet in the back if you are interested in this series and if you need the book, which is discounted from $18 to $12 for those of you who would like to join me.  Also, please pass out the flyers to friends who might be interested. Hamilton’s book is explicitly Christian, and middle American, maybe even a little naive. But it’s a workable starting point for talking about important relationship and personal issues.

As we move into Lent, starting with our Ash Wednesday service this week, we may be tempted to protect ourselves against the sorrow we know is coming. We may want to minimize our pain by withdrawing, building walls, a fortress of protection around our feelings as Peter seems to want to do in our passage this morning. Sorrow and pain in relationships often moves us toward minimizing and withdrawing.
So we might want to pull back from our relationship with God when we bring the cross up this week and place it among us, reminding us of the pain and sorrow that happens even in our relationship with the divine.
It is no wonder that the disciples, who had begun to figure out what is coming in relation to Jesus, wish that they could stop time, stay on the mountaintop with him and not have to face the pain that is coming. They are desperate for second opinions, a way to keep Jesus with them forever. But they can’t stop time and neither can we.
We may glimpse that moment in a hospital room as we sit with two people who love each other who have received the worst news of their lives. We see the patient reach out to assure the companion, the healthy one, that all will be well.
Today, in the Transfiguration, we experience God’s reassurance that all will be well; we know God will be present in every encounter of our lives.  God is present in the suffering and the sacrifice as much as in the promise and the potential of our lives.
This vision of Transfiguration is a vision of the magnificence of God in Christ, a vision that we can hardly fathom. In the grandness of this vision, some say that God cannot be contained within the walls of the church. And of course, they are correct. Some say that God is so glorious that neither the heavens above nor the earth below can hold God. And we have to agree.
Certainly, God is so great that God could not be in contained in something so small as a crumb of bread and a sip of juice. And we know even that is true, and yet as we take this bread and drink from this cup this morning, we know God’s presence. We know God’s love for us. God is so great that comes to each of us in this small bit of bread, in this tiny cup of juice, just as much of God as a hand can hold. (and that’s a big deal.)
Communion hymn  2076 O Blessed Spring