Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Crisis of Character

We are back!  What a wonderful trip to the Make-A-Wish, Give Kids the World Village in Orlando.  We packed our 6 days totally full with trips to the park and activity at the resort afterwards.  We had so much fun.  It was a trip never to be forgotten and Sophia articulated several times why she and the other kids were there - they had gone through cancer and now get a wish.  And that was her wish - such a sweet statement and reminded me every time she said it how thoughtful she is, even at 5.

And now back to the real world.  It is a tough transition.  With all the fun we had, then Christmas 2 days in a row when we got back - it is time for a rest.  But in that rest time, there are reminders that last week was a blessing and not everything in real life goes that smoothly.  Upon reflection of all of that, my devotional for Monday morning included this verse:
Trust in the Lord and do what is right!  Settle in the land and maintain your integrity!  Then you will take delight in the Lord, and he will answer your prayers.  Commit your future to the Lord!  Trust in him, and he will act on your behalf.  He will vindicate you in broad daylight, and publicly defend your just cause. Wait patiently for the Lord! Wait confidently for him!  Do not fret over the apparent success of a sinner, a man who carries out wicked schemes! Do not be angry and frustrated!  Do not fret! That only leads to trouble! (Psalm 37:3-8 NET)
So, this post is part confessional, part devotional.   

Here's the confessional part:

There are areas of my life that greatly frustrate me.  One in particular is when people who have made bad choices in their lives seem to have more favor in the eyes of others than I because comparatively, I am a saint.  I have walked through my life, more or less trying to do the best with what I've been given and tried to hold onto my integrity & faith in the midst of dark, troubled times.
But more than just keeping out of trouble, I think and I care for others.  So, when I am faced with the expectation that others will reciprocate, it frustrates me to no end when they don't.  It makes me so angry I could scream & cry, which I do.  I am not perfect but I'm a lot closer than some people I know.
When I go back and read those words, I see the embarrassing duality in them.  The truth & the lies. It's true I've tried to live a good life but my life is no better than anyone else's.  And the very pride of that statement, even the whole thought process, is abhorrent to God.  Thinking of myself as better than others - my stuff doesn't stink as much - puts up walls, barriers and boundaries that are not easily brought down.
But I do think it.  It reflects the character of my heart.  As much as I want to be like Christ, I have an incredibly far way to go.  Miles, miles & miles. 
It's a crisis of character, a fork in the road.  One side leads to fostering this pride, this attitude.  (Festering is really more like it.)  I want to be right and treated right.  I feel I am owed that.
The other way leads me back to the Cross.  It's where Jesus asks me (again) to nail my selfish pride up there, to lay down what I think I am entitled to, and remember I was not built to please myself.  By doing this, He shows me (again) what it feels like to be freed from the weight of selfish behavior so He can live me life in, through and for me. 
The crisis decision always come back to this question: more of me or more of Him?
If I choose me, I'll become more & more what the world says I should be: always looking out for #1.  If I choose Him, it will require a lot of submission, which isn't fun.  It will require sacrificing my self-interest for the interests of God: to forgive and become free of the emotion tied to heartache, free from the weight of me.  Freedom from frustration is hard in the short term but abounds in blessings in the long.
It's like getting out of to go run.  I never want to do it, I always have a reason to get more sleep.  But the benefits of doing it far outweigh the release of more sleep: weight loss, stress management, increased strength, clarity of mind.  Plus the endorphins aren't too shabby a side effect either!
I am not perfect but my God is.  He will take care of all the details when life slaps me in the face.  He will show me how to handle sticky situations when they arise.  He will develop His character in me and my responses will glorify Him and not myself.  But that doesn't mean I have to give up what I want, it just means He changes what I want to match what He knows I need.  And I get even more than I can imagine.  I can navigate the tricky waters of life with less damage than if I thought of only myself.
Trusting in God turns this sinner into the best kind of saint - one who is being continually sanctified; one who doesn't worry but demonstrates love and concern for others; one who doesn't lash out but expresses the truth in love, even if it's hard, and trusts God to prepare other hearts to receive. 
Now here's the devotional part:

Dear Lord, give me the desire to trust & choose Your way instead of my own.  Let me hear Your wisdom in my heart showing me how to handle frustrating situations in my relationships with gentleness, kindness & in spirit with the truth.  Help me to show the grace I have been given and forgive me when I have not.  In Jesus' Name-Amen & Amen.

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