Relationships: Scattering or Gathering

Bringing down the attic.

My friend chose gathering instead of scattering when her kids came home. She went up to her attic one day and retrieved boxes of photographs, school reports, art projects, and other paraphernalia from her kids’ childhoods.

Scattered in various states and countries, they arrived home to deal with an urgent issue at hand. Each brought his own frustrations at the situation. Some brought unpleasant memories of past childhood and family instances. She wondered how she was going to get her adult children on the same page so they could come together to make decisions necessary for the critical situation in her family. That’s why she went to the attic. There were boxes that needed sorting and they were the ones who needed to do the sorting. She knew there would be gathering or scattering, and she chose gathering.

Gathering or Scattering

No matter if it’s family, friend, co-worker, or neighbor, we are tempted to withhold our love and support when we feel left out or when we disapprove. While it’s the most natural thing in the world to do, and something that comes easily and readily to us, it’s not biblical.

I’m not talking about condoning what is wrong. I’m talking about condemning when we disagree.


Jesus gave us example after example. He met the woman at the well in her world, where she went daily. Jesus agreed to meet with Nicodemus at night under cover of darkness to protect the man’s privacy. He invited Himself to the home of a wealthy, thieving tax collector. His Presence with these people did not condone their sin or their actions. Rather, He challenged them to do better – and many of them did. He spoke truth without stomping on their hearts.

Jesus was not afraid of confrontation; when the people desecrated God’s temple by turning it into a flea market in one instance, His anger was evident, even though we know He did not sin. He called sects names like brood of vipers, deceived, and lost. They didn’t like it, of course, but He spoke truth.

The part that drew people to Jesus was not only the miracles He performed, but His character that loved the person while hating the sin. This love drew people who were seeking to Him. Jesus gathered people to Himself instead of ridiculing, condemning, and scolding them in such a way that they scattered. He could choose gathering or scattering for the Kingdom.

That should be our goal. We’re not perfect, so we’re not going to do it like Jesus did. Yet, we can attempt to emulate His care and compassion. We must do this if we want to become like Him.

gathering or scatteringScattering

Family get togethers can be rife with discord because we polarize against each other. Instead of looking at what we can celebrate, we look at what divides and enjoy being cohorts with those in our cluster.

Rather than gathering us all home, we scatter and shoo each other away. We misread and misunderstand each other and cower in our corners, afraid to come out and work toward harmony.

It’s also the most natural thing in the world to revert back to the status we had as kids when we get together. It’s a shame we can’t grow up enough to allow each other successes without pointing out failures. It’s a shame we refuse to bless and affirm, rather than pointing out weaknesses or bringing up past embarrassments. We get to choose gathering or scattering, for sure.

It’s the most natural thing in the world to not want someone else to get praise, credit, or accolades. We deny accomplishments achieved, because perhaps we’re jealous or just a tad bit resentful of things they possess that we don’t.

When we do that, we’re not gathering. We’re scattering.

Instead of pulling us closer together and remembering things that were good, we invest our energy in dissecting each other. When we do that, we’re scattering.

gathering or scatteringChoosing

While our humanness makes us want to hide behind what others said or did, we do well to consider what part we play in discord. Wisdom calls forth seeking for truth instead of drumming up support for hurts caused by failures of others.

When we want harmony in our homes, our families, our workplaces, and our churches, we begin by embracing the things that bring us together. That’s how gathering begins. Instead of looking at issues that divide us, we need to hold dear the things that make us one with each other. If we could choose to grab hold of the things we share in common, we would know the joy of finding ourselves being gathered, rather than scattered.

Healing from the attic

That’s why my friend went to the attic. She plopped the boxes on the dining room table and told her kids, “Have at it.”

Their puzzled looks told her this project made no sense to them. There were important issues at hand, and sorting through attic boxes was not one of them! Her grown kids knew there was no point in arguing, so they opened boxes and began. Grandkids gathered around and watched their parents bring out memorabilia from their childhood.

That’s when the memories started flowing.

“Will you look at this?” one gal exclaimed.

“Do you remember doing that?!” another regaled as she pulled out treasures from her box.

In minutes, her grown kids were transported to their childhood where fun and happy times abounded. The memories pulled them in, and soon they had all “gathered” around.

By the time she called them together to make decisions about the matter at hand, they had lost their discord. Frustration with the family circumstances had lessened, and alienation from each other dissipated.

The conclusion of the matter

We kid ourselves if we think no one else struggles with these issues. When a situation is rife with anger, frustration, and hurt, here’s what I think you can do.

  1. Focus on what brings you together and what you have in common.
  2. Put the conflicts (for the moment) on the back burner. It doesn’t mean they are not there, but there are not important in the moment.
  3. Do not condone wrong. Confront with kindness in the right place and at the right time.
  4. Use honey instead of vinegar. (Gentle persuasion vs. hostility).
  5. Compliment truth; don’t correct insignificant things.
  6. Celebrate who you are and what you can do together.
  7. Ask God for wisdom. He always gives it when we ask, then do what He tells you to do.

gathering or scattering

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