Joe came home from a bible study the other night. I asked him what it was about. He said, “Being a Christian.” I asked him what that meant. He replied “Well, it was about how to be a Christian.” I asked him what that meant he replied, “You give your life to Him.” I asked him, “How do you do that?” Before he could decide to never talk to me again or ever answer another question again I explained to him my questioning through an analogy.
“Joe, do you know how you can do everything at jiu jitsu? Every sweep, every grip, every submission, every guard? Yet, when you go live (compete against someone at full speed) it all goes out the window and things don’t go very well? That’s because the switch in your brain hasn’t gone on yet to apply what you know in your head to come out through your body. I’m trying to do the same thing with what you learn at bible study. I don’t want you to just pass a bible test, I want you to really follow Christ.”
I then told him that the key to the above questions, for him right now, is when what he wants and what God wants don’t match, that God wins. I used the example of a girl that picks on him and what he would like to say and do to her and what God would have him do. I then reaffirmed that he is doing a great job of that and that I was super proud of him.
But how to hear Him or know what He wants? Yes, the bible is a great place for that. Turning to those in faith that know far more than us is another good source. However, in a moment, there is another way. We’ve been talking a lot lately of how each of us in our family are cramming ourselves with a constant stream of everything (info, tv, computer, cell phones (not the kids…yet), busyness, doing, etc.) and that we need to slow down. It’s in that slow time where we are most likely to hear from God. Scarily though, it’s also the time where we feel, we remember. However, it is also…also the time when we, through God and His Holy Spirit, can be moved to think of others and at worst not do something to them and at best love and bless them.
The same is true for all of us. I preached on Sunday that the early church was of one heart and in one accord (make a Honda joke here). The only way that was possible was that they were focused on the Holy Spirit…on God, and not themselves. The church (all churches/Christianity) is certainly not like that today and you don’t really find that in any one church either for that matter.
So, of course, you don’t get to preach on something like that and not be tested before, during and after that. Here’s what I’ve noticed/learned/had reaffirmed. We not only tend to overfocus on ourselves but given the opportunity we assume the worst possible motive/or intention of others thoughts, words, and actions. Granted, we know that everyone has a story but it might not even be a story. It might just not be that people are intentional about hurting us or even neglecting us. If we feel that they are or if it turns out that they are, there is a good chance that they have a reason. If we go slow, we may just ask a question, express a hurt, show some grace and love, instead of internalizing, getting madder and madder, creating terrible things in our brain at what we believe to have been done to us.
Secondly, I was reminded that focusing on the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to rest in the grace that He will provide. Yes, we are very much to do our best to get things done and do it with excellence. However, we simply cannot control everything or prepare for every possible variable, hiccup, or roadblock. It is in that knowledge that we should be able to rest knowing that things will be ok, even when they just don’t seem like they will be. That does not give us the right to do nothing or go half way. That grace is a safety net, not a crutch or surrogate. We should work as if that grace does not exist but then rest knowing that it does.
I would be remiss if I did not apply this to grieving as well. Walking the Memorial Day Parade I wondered what would happen when we passed “our spot” where we watched the parade every other year with Trey. He loved going to the parade, yet, hated the noise of the parade and always made me take him home early. As I walked up to our spot not only were we not there (for obvious reasons) NO ONE was there. It was horrifically, bluntly, symbolic. I had to take a moment by myself and just stop and tear. Thirty feet further there they were, my family (mom, sisters, nieces). God knew, He provided, He comforted. It was wonderful to see them there.
We cannot fear the pain, we cannot avoid the feelings, we cannot drown out the memories. If one is to survive though we must realize that God above knows our pain and is constantly comforting us through others and through His Holy Spirit within our very hearts, if we were to just…slow down.