Have you ever had a moment when you are sort of daydreaming or the committee in your head is just softly droning in the background and then God just throws something right in your face? All of the sudden He is there with you and it is intense and real and you are seeing things in His light instead of your own dim wattage. Yes? No? Hmmm… well let me tell you about my “moment”.
I was just sitting here at the computer, kind of messing around, and listening to “Shiny Happy People” by REM. Somewhere in the background I had a little scenario playing out: “well if she says this then I will say that”. For some reason the noise in my head all of the sudden got a little bit louder: “why is your life about reacting, Carolyn?” What? Who said that? Where did that come from? Seemingly out of nowhere thoughts just started bombarding me. I’ll try to make sense of it, but I’m still somewhat in the moment and He is still very much here, so pardon me if it gets a little jumbled.
I have to admit that my Bible-reading life has been pretty much non-existent for a long time. I have not been living in the Word and I’m sure my life reflects that in many ways. However, I have a rich history of Sunday School, Wednesday Night Bible Class, youth devotionals, and church camp in my past, so I do have a small working knowledge of the Scriptures.
And in this moment that I am having with God, I heard Him pointing out to me how there is so much in His Word about how to worship, love, and glorify Him. There is so much about being a loving person and growth that produces the fruit of the Spirit. There is instruction on how to stand against the wiles of the devil. And yes, there is certainly scripture that talks about how to react when others hurt you. But if my memory serves (Hubby says my memory never serves. Hmph. What does he know?), learning to react as opposed to how to act is just a small portion of the Bible. Learning to live purposefully rather than just bouncing off of those around us is a where He is leading me.
Then the dogs needed to go outside and all of my thoughts got jumbled. Where were we? Ah, yes, living with purpose. Acting rather than reacting.
As the days go by, it is getting a little less uncomfortable to make these confessions that God has asked of me, but I cannot say that I enjoy or look forward to it. My ego is just getting pummeled. That is probably a good thing, isn’t it? So what am I going to confess this time…
Well, most of my life I have had a very contractual relationship with God. Not by His choice obviously, but by mine. It was all about, “if You will do this, then I will maybe do this…” God, give me something, and then maybe I’ll show You some love. Protect me from mean people (which was just about anybody who looked at me). Don’t make me have to deal with this. Get me out of the trouble I just caused because you know I didn’t mean it, God. Smite this person who hurt me. Yes, smite them. Hard. Don’t hold me accountable for being flighty and just bouncing around life like a ping pong ball. Make this person understand why it was absolutely necessary for me to bulldoze through their life. And then I will worship you and be a good person.
There was no grateful response to salvation in me. No humility in the face of the grace that had been shown to me in all of my unworthiness. I thought that if I was really a child of God then people had better start treating me like the royalty that I obviously was. All of this was going on in the head of a girl who was often shy, scared, insecure, and depressed. I was an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. I’m often surprised that I have lived this long because you would think that with all of that stuff going on inside of me that my head would have exploded right off my shoulders years ago. Who knew that it could take such a beating?
Another thing I must confess is that I was not a loving daughter in any way. Well, maybe I was a little bit loving. But I had some demands. Serious demands that had to be met before I would conform to what I thought a good daughter should be. I’m mentioning this because of all the scriptures that God could have used this early morning to point out my propensity for reacting, He picked Ephesians 6:1-4.
This scripture says:
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (NIV)
I heard this over and over growing up. It would be a good guess on your part to think that I concentrated very heavily on the “do not exasperate your children” part. One version (King James, maybe?) says, “Fathers, provoke not thy children to wrath”. I was in love with that verse. I could wield it like a baseball bat better than anyone in a twelve-county radius.
So in my contractual thinking, I decided that God needed to make sure that my father didn’t exasperate or provoke me. I deserved this protection from God. Doesn’t He know who I am? Surely He does. He made me. Therefore it is His responsibility to make sure that I am protected from any fatherly upset. And He needs to make very sure that the “it may go well with you” part plays out. Oh yeah, He also needs to make sure that my parents are honorable (by my standards) before I honor them. What was my definition of honorable? Um… something along the lines of “don’t lie, cheat, or steal; don’t tease me or hurt my feelings; give me what I want; don’t make me eat tofu; and be nice to little old ladies”. If all of this happened, I was sure that I would magically become some wonderful woman that all others looked to as a spiritual leader. Then I would worship God (in full view of others). I would pass go, collect my two hundred dollars, and live happily ever after.
For the sake of not writing a book on this subject, let’s skip 40+ years of hard lessons and get to the point of what God has been telling me this morning. Somewhere along the line, I finally picked up on the fact that I cannot control the people around me. And then I also caught onto the fact that God had given them all free will, so He was not going to move them around like puppets for my benefit. So at that point, do I just react to the choices everyone around me is making or do I get a plan for living? Do I start to live intentionally? Hmm… that sounds good – for you. But I shouldn’t have to put in any effort, should I? Um, no. Doesn’t work like that.
I am pretty sure that I always thought that when God asked me to be nice or loving to other people, it was for their benefit only. Why would I want to benefit somebody else when I’m not getting my way? It just never occurred to me that He wanted me to act a certain way for my benefit. It never occurred to me that He was teaching me that I could be a woman of integrity and character no matter what the people around me are doing.
He was telling me that by honoring my parents – whether or not they were honorable (which is not what we are here to comment on) – was for my benefit. It would build character in me to act with this intent. I could just leave my parents to Him and He would work in their lives according to His plan for them. Somebody once lovingly (although I thought it was harsh) pointed out to me, “They aren’t any of your business anyway, Carolyn. They belong to God.”
Yes, I am sure all three of you who will read this already knew that God’s instructions were for your own benefit and spiritual growth. You knew, didn’t you, that acting with intent regardless of the actions of others would help you be the person God intended you to be. You knew that if I honored my parents first, it would go well with me in the end and why wasn’t I just getting with the program? You’ve just been waiting and watching for me to “get it”.
And where did I get these crazy ideas anyway? I can’t say for sure that I know. Nobody in my family thinks quite like I do, so I’m not sure where I got my idea of a contractual relationship with God. Maybe there is a touch of irony in the fact that my current occupation is managing contracts. Yes, I took to that quite well and quickly. Ha ha, God.
So here I am. I get it. Sort of. I need to act according to God’s will rather than react to the will of others. That is almost too simple for my complicated mind. I’m working on it. Hopefully things will “go well with me”. Oh, and don’t tell my siblings I wrote this post. I’ll never hear the end of it.
Now I think the dogs might need to go outside again…