Last weekend I behaved poorly in response to people I love – and it caused us all avoidable pain and sorrow. There was a small issue I needed to deal with, but I didn’t pray first or take care to be kind and loving in my discussions and delivery (even though that would have best reflected my true emotions).
“Be gentle with one another, sensitive.” (Eph. 4:31) God’s gentleness was within me to tap into, but I forged ahead in my impatient flesh and came across more harshly than I felt.
I was sick and tired, and just wanted to relay the information as quickly as possible – to minimize my own discomfort and responsibility. To selfishly unload the pain of the situation to another, even someone I love dearly, so I could be free of it. That’s how sinful and childish I can be on my own. And it didn’t work very well.
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17) How differently things might have gone had I stopped for a moment of humble prayer. I should have remembered Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
My explanations for behaving poorly are plentiful: I have been sick for 3 weeks. I am exhausted from seemingly necessary travel and sandwich generation activities. Work has held many changes and long hours. There have been conflicts out of my control, where I’ve felt helpless and carried burdens with others. Many have demands on my time and resources, and I feel depleted. I’ve been away from home too much and just plain crazy busy. Is it all really necessary? Within His will? Do I need more planned neglect?
My excuses mean little to nothing to the ones I have hurt. To the ones I love. They also mean little to God – who says to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) But I didn’t seek him first, and my flesh was exposed instead of His fruit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-26)
That same day, I also witnessed someone I love being treated unreasonably and hatefully. I was greatly upset with the one in the wrong, and my heart broke for the one hurt. This all occurred just before my own poor behavior. Even as an outsider very close to a situation, I saw everything more clearly and felt compassion and love. God has used the comparison to drive me to repentance.
I behaved with much more grace when I was a step removed; trusting God’s wisdom I didn’t enter an argument that was not mine. Solomon’s wisdom prevailed: “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.” (Proverbs 26:17)
2 Timothy 2:24-26 says, “Run away from infantile indulgence. Run after mature righteousness—faith, love, peace—joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God. Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil’s trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands.”
I have been hearing God calling me to just love others. The word just here isn’t used to minimize “love,” but to eliminate all the other things I could do… rebuke, preach, teach, guide, judge, etc. This is especially true with my adult children. I want to give them the freedom to be themselves and discover who that is –- and feel love, acceptance and support from me. That’s what I feel, but not always what they feel from me. I’m not contradicting the Biblical wisdom to speak the truth in love, when someone is clearly out of God’s will. I am emphasizing love.
I like the translation of Micah 6:8 in The Message, “But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously, take God seriously.” (bold mine) This verse alone could have saved my family a lot of misery. Take God seriously, and be loyal (not selfish) in love.
The Bible has many words of wisdom I believe I need to live out in all my relationships with my family – siblings, adult children, and parents. And everyone else in my life, if I’m taking God seriously! A few verses that jumped off the page this morning.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)
“ Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!” (Phillipians 4:5)
When I let my emotions, fatigue and circumstances lead the charge, I’m like a bull in a china shop, despite my best efforts. I don’t even realize how I sound, but communication is the message received, not the one intended. A pause for prayerful acknowledgment of Who is in charge and ultimately in control and responsible is always the right response. Then I can walk in who He says I am in Him — rather than my sinful, selfish flesh. My prayer is for more consistency in seeking Him first.
“Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.” (James 3:17)
In summary God says, “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” (Colossians 3:12-17)
The easy part now is asking forgiveness from those I have hurt.
The hard part is forgiving myself. It’s easy for me to listen to the “soundtrack of shame” Steven Furtick describes in his book, The Chatterbox. I could berate and tear down myself, saying “you always screw things up. Why are you so weak? You know better! You will never change!” But I know that is self destructive, and not the whole story.
It’s true I behaved outside of who I am in Christ, which always ends poorly. I don’t need to ignore or justify my sin. But I also need to allow the Holy Spirit to take away my guilt and restore me to redemption.
Thank you God, for grace and truth. And repentance… You have reminded me there is another way to live –with You — and it always leads from darkness to light.
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