Posted by: Brad Stanford | November 12, 2009

Popping Out Of The Bubble

It’s so easy to get caught up in one’s own bubble of reality. Moving here has exposed a lot of “bubble” thinking from living in the suburbs. The rush of life in the city really does cause one to make a different set of decisions than one would otherwise make.

One of the reality bubbles that burst was that of instant communication. In the city, a lot of church-wide communication could be disseminated via email. But here in the country, many are not connected 24/7. Dial-up is still the way of the majority. So you might think, “Oh, well I’ll call them.” So you call and leave a message. But for some, if they know they will see you at church in two days, they’ll just wait and talk to you then.

Wait? What do you mean wait? I’m trying to plan an event a month in advance (as would be the lead time required in the ‘burbs), so I need to know now! That’s the protocol I’m used to! I’m doing this out of respect for your time! Why would you make me wait to respect you?!?

Bubble = burst.

The respect comes from being a servant to the people around me, blending our realities, and being unified in helping each other live life to the fullest. You can have a bubble, as long as it is quite flexible. Otherwise, it will be popped over, and over, and over.

There are times to ignore threatening or contrary realities to accomplish a task. As a business owner, I have people depending on me to get things done. Some of those things require me to ignore the reality of failure for the moment, so I can accomplish the task at hand. Sometimes we ignore the risk of death or injury to take a worthy risk. Like everything else, this should be all in the right time and place.

But sometimes we ignore things that we really should be paying attention to. Health comes to mind, and that hurts for me to say because I am certainly not a model of health. “Going green” might be a despised phrase in your vocabulary, but the reality is that many of the methodologies of going green are wise, whether you think the world is going to blow up without them or not. We should not ignore doing things in a better way simply because we’ve never done it that way before. (And the opposite is true, as well – we don’t just do new things because we’ve never done them before. I’ve never gone over Niagara Falls riding a couch. Enough said.)

Our realities are usually off by some measure, and the only way to keep them in check is by having people around us that we have given permission to whack us over the head every now and then. Proverbs 27:6 says, “The wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Why would my friend wound me? Well, that’s the person which is outside my family that I have allowed to get that close. I’m not going to let my enemy get close enough to wound me, but this friend is cleared to come that close to me.

Second, that is the person who knows me well enough to know where my blind spots are. We get wounded in the places that are either tender already (Achillies heel), or in places that are not guarded. Think of two people sword fighting. A person gets struck because their opponent’s sword found an unguarded place, if even just for a moment.

Think of Naaman. His pride is high because God gave him military victory for his country. Yet, he had some sort of skin disease. Some translations call it leprosy, but I’m not sure about that, given the fact that he was still performing his duties, and that he was around other people. Plus, later on in the story, he talks about the man of God waving his hand over the “spot”. So who knows. The issue is, he has an incurable something on his skin, and the outcome is not expected to be good.

You can read the account in 2 Kings 5 for all the details. What caught my eye was the part where Elisha sends out his servant to tell Naaman what to do. Not only is it “only” the servant telling Naaman what to do, but the instructions are to go dip in the dirty waters of the Jordan seven times to get rid of the disease. Naaman, of course, balks. This is outside his reality bubble:

  • Broken protocol: sending a servant to talk to a general is offensive.
  • Broken solution: cleansing can’t possibly come from the Jordan, because it’s nasty.
  • Broken position: I’m the general! I get to command how things are to be done.

Everything about this man’s reality bubble got popped in one moment. He was positioning himself for the treatment he had always received and expected – nay! – deserved. The offer on the table was healing at the price of humility.

I think this is the cure for most of what ails us. But notice what it took for the pill to be swallowed:

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

Naaman had a trusted friend who had permission to wound him. And notice how the servant wounded him: like a surgeon wounds a patient. Anyone that has ever had an incision can tell you it is most definitely a wound! But it’s the healing kind. It hurts a lot less than the long-term pain of not being healed. This trusted friend lived outside of – and most likely, put up with – Naaman’s bubble. When mere friends and family could not speak sense to Naaman, the servant could. And he could speak without reservation. And still, the servant did it within the protocol of their friendship, speaking gently, and my guess is that it was out of earshot of the other servants, though it doesn’t say that.

My bubble needed to be burst. There are just some wacky ways I thought life had to be, and they were killing me. By exposing my thoughts willingly in this blog and in conversations with the community, and deciding in advance that it’s ok to be wrong (some of my old friends just fainted), I’m starting to sense some healing.

It’s also a two-way street. Not everything I was thinking was invalid. I’m bringing things to the table that have been much appreciated. But it’s the same equation: humility breeds receptiveness, and receptiveness breeds unity.

Not to say that this whole way of thinking is natural. Which is what brings me back to the wounding from trusted friends. Are you open to being wounded? Do you have someone outside of your family that can see right through you and tell you about it? Do you allow them access to your broken life so you can get healing in that area? If not, you have set yourself up to be radically disappointed on multiple fronts all in one day, week, month, or year.

Yes, the incision hurts. But it is from a trusted friend. Let them finish the surgery before you put your defenses up and say, “No!”. For it is better to have the temporary pain of a burst bubble than the long term pain of being dishonest with yourself about who you are.

Paul simply put it this way: “Don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought.”




  1. (Plop) that was me fainting. Not from your decision to be open to a different thought process but for the fact in which this affected me personally. I really couldn’t have read this at a better time buddy. I very recently had my bubble popped and haven’t really figured out how to fix or deal with it but after reading this I think I have a better understanding of what needs to be done. Thank you for opening my eyes a little bit to new ideas. Your one of the few people I really trust enough to do something like that.

  2. Wow. I mean, POP! Thanks so much for those words of wisdom. I really needed this today. I love you, brother!

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