[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] I [/dropcap]’ve been trying to write this post for two days, so bear with me as I work it out . . .
I’m the very reluctant owner of an iphone; mainly because apple products never work for me. Maybe I’m too old or maybe I just get faulty hardware; I’m not sure? But I have this iphone, and I wish I spent less time on it as I feel like I rely on it too much. I have my recipes, my alarm clock, my reminders, my calendar, my weather forecast, my phone numbers, and much more stored on it. I would truthfully love a vacation from it. BUT, it does have some wonderful features one of which is a devotional app where I can wake up in the morning and immediately get into the Word, and track my progress. It’s fantastic for that. So yesterday, I started my day here:
Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.
Wowzers. I had already been thinking on offense – being offended and offending others – as I get so tired of hearing how so and so is offended by this or by that. I just want to shout at people to knock it off with being so stinkin’ sensitive!! Anyway, so later in the day, I stumble upon a facebook post where this blogger is responding to all the criticism he’s receiving:
I hope you — whoever is reading this — continue to be strong, confident and uplifting. It’ll put a target on your back, and the trolls and browbeaters will try to cut you down. They are cannibals. They eat their own for sport. But it’s only because they’re empty inside, while you are full of spirit and life.
Pray for them. But never give them an inch. They want to take your joy; never surrender even the tiniest portion of it. They don’t deserve to win.
Don’t let them.
When I read the part that says that they’re “empty inside,” a bunch of puzzle pieces all clicked together for me and thoughts just started to be downloaded into my heart. And then to top it off, I pulled up a podcast (another benefit of the iphone) that my husband had downloaded for me, and lo and behold, what is the topic? Love, life not being about us, not getting offended, not being discouraged, but receiving love from the Father and living a life of outpouring that love. Hello?! God is obviously working to teach me some things.
So here it is:
When you grow up in a pastor’s home and when you are already a firstborn perfectionist, you have a lot of expectation (half of which is self-imposed) to be your best. That gotta do more, gotta be more pressure is always there. You had better not show up late to church (if you know me, you know that my little family of 5 is always late to church and it stresses me out every week), you had better not wear anything immodest (and I never do), you had better not be unkind, unfriendly, or say or do anything that anyone could be offended by (and they are offended by EVERYTHING). Growing up, I was a very shy, quiet, awkward, unable to process any emotion that I felt so that it showed on the outside. I was this person who just naturally did not smile; I did not wear my heart on my sleeve. And I offended everyone I met for that reason alone. I couldn’t win. Everyone took it personally; I was called a snob more times than I could count. It broke my heart, because that was not me. Yet I didn’t know how to move what was on the inside of me to the outside. I still struggle with this, but much less now. Yet I see my firstborn now struggling with this same issue, and it breaks my heart even more as I know how people are going to react to him.
As I look back, I realize that I did not know who I was in Christ; I did not know that God loved me no matter what I did. I just knew that I loved Him and never wanted to do anything wrong. Yet I did everything wrong according to society’s expectations; it made me feel uptight and unable to expose anything that might be wrong or not taken well. Fear of failure as a huge driving force in my life, and my teens and twenties were very hard for this reason alone. And thank the Lord, He freed me up so much in my late 20s. He grew me up, kept loving on me, kept teaching me. And now, in my 30s, I can smile freely and laugh and cry. I never hear anyone refer to me as shy or snobby. I still have quiet moments, but I’m an introvert who needs quiet. So if that offends people, that is their problem. Yet I still get bothered when I meet rude people or when I get criticized for something I’ve done. And I seem to draw these types of people to me, which is beyond frustrating! There have been so many days when I have given up my joy and gotten discouraged because of running into these people, yet I didn’t know what to do or how to respond.
And it dawned on me yesterday . . . I always pray and ask God to let me love the unlovely, the unwanted, the broken. Then I keep meeting these horrible people that are just ugh. Um, hello? They are who I’m asking for. All along, God has been putting these people in my life, and I’ve blown every opportunity. I think I had some idea that the broken would be physically broken; yet here, in the States, they can be the outwardly perfect looking, yet inwardly messy, average Joe or Jane. And I never saw them! I just saw their messy outward behavior, not the person under the behavior, and because of that, I missed my chance to just smile and love on them.
It’s taken me a long time to really know that when God looks at me, Micah, He sees me through a filter. He sees me, the girl He created me to be, and He sees me, the person that Jesus remade me into. He does not see a sin flawed, critical, negative, sometimes proud and stubborn, difficult female. He doesn’t focus on the sin nature. He focuses on His love for me; He sees all of that replaced with who Jesus is and what Jesus’ blood washed away. We focus so much on sin, discouragement, short-comings, failures, lack, etc. that we forget that it’s not God’s focus!! My sister and I were talking yesterday about how Christian music radio bugs us, because it is so negative. All the radio commentary is on sad stories; it’s depressing. There’s no focus on that Jesus came to bring us LIFE, JOY, PEACE, FULLNESS, REDEMPTION, and LOVE!!
Why would anyone want to be a Christian if all they are told is that they have to meet all these standards and do that and that in order to fit into the church?! That’s why so many pastor’s kids rebel, because that’s all they are told as they’re growing up. It’s heartbreaking.
Jesus paid it ALL to gives us all that comes into a life with Him. Read the Word to find out and to verify what I’m saying. Yes, trouble, hardship, and suffering come, but He always provides hope. Always. He always makes all things new. He always makes all things good. He is GOOD. Always, but we have to believe that. We have to hold on to His goodness in order to make it through this life. We have to keep our eyes on Him, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Always.
So my prayer has now changed. I’m now asking God to help me love the unlovely. Help me recognize the opportunities to do so and to act. Help me to walk in tighter fellowship, more closely with Jesus, so that His love oozes out of me. And then I will attract more of the uglies, but they will be my ones that I’ve been praying for. They will come to get love, and I want to be ready. I need to be ready, because that is why Jesus came – for us and for them. He simply loves people, and so should we.
And in my long, rambling, processing way, what I’m really saying is that we’ve all been hurt, all have been broken, all have failed and all far short. Yet God provided a way to change all of that – Jesus. Once we have Jesus and know and walk in what He has done, why would we not have a heart for those who don’t know Him? Why would we not offer them love, hope, and mercy? They’re desperate for Him. Yet we have to bring Him to them. We have to tell them what we used to be, how we were an ugly too, yet God changed us! He remade us into the likeness of His own beautiful Son. That is the Good News! Why would we not share that freely, all the time?