The holidays. You prepare, anticipate, agonize the details and hope all will go smoothly on the day all come together to celebrate. Often we see people we may not see all year, but through family or friendship we find ourselves in their company once, may be twice a year. Although we love our family, there may be one or two people who just challenge us. Like nails on a chalkboard, they offer us the opportunity us to smile and not cringe, despite the level of discomfort they bring us. Well, this is a story about one of these. Bear with me if you will, and I will share a bit of holiday pain, which may turn out to provide a lesson for you as it did me. Unless of course you are already so pious. If so, move along, move along. I am here to be authentic, and those of you who know me already know, sometimes it just ain’t pretty. But God can work with the mess of me. And you too… if you will allow Him.
As we drove home from visiting family this Christmas, the words I wanted to speak about a certain person were swirling around my mind just waiting for the opportunity to emerge. I knew these words would not have passed the Ephesians (4:29) or Philippians (4:8) litmus test for proper conversation, so I tried to keep my tongue. You know that thing behind the lips that speaks murderously and betrays the heart. Our words reveal our heart AND furthermore, if it is in the mind, it is as good as said aloud. However, this is one of those things that if it’s not said you can confess and deal with it discreetly with God before you damage and poison those around you. Unfortunately, I was not wise with my tongue and I went ahead and gushed forth my complaints about the person before my family. I was stopped when my daughter called me out. I knew she was spot on, too, especially after my defensive response was spoken. The fact was, even if what I said had some validity, it was not loving. It was not kind. It certainly was not gracious, to the person spoken of nor to my family, who had to hear it. Oh, I was guilty as charged and I did not like it…I knew I had chosen poorly and sinned. My tongue had turned against me and now I was tangling with my own child over it!
God has called me to a life of prayer, not complaining about the un – lovliness of others. He has called me to kindness, not criticism. Even, if at first glance it appears justifiable. Jesus spoke the truth, in love.The truth should not be spoken, when it is not laced with grace, but instead accusing attitude and critical spirit.
One of the ways I glorify God is by sacrificing my preferences for His, through yielding my will concerning others. There is no greater challenge to the core of my Christian faith than when I say not my will but Yours, Lord. This is the first and final battle in the walk of faith. It does not come easy, but it has already been won, for we who believe.
What is God’s will for me concerning this person? First, to recognize that despite my annoyance with the person, that Jesus loves them completely and is pleading for them before the Father. He wills that they should not perish but have everlasting life. Jesus calls me his friend. Friendship requires humility, grace and submission. I must consider that my “friend” Jesus, laid down His life that I might not only gain eternity but learn to live life with a holy order, rising above petty annoyances which distract me from His divine purposes and plans. Secondly, I need to pray for this particular family member and ask God to change my heart attitude, which is wrong, and let God deal with it through the intimate time we share in holy conversation. When I do this He may lead me to pray more specifically, once I get beyond the superficial, raw prayers like:
“I confess I can’t even stand this person, Lord…but you tell me to pray for others and because I love and esteem your will more than my own – or at least desire to- I confess my lack of love and likeness to you and ask you to allow me to pray with your heart and mind for this person, teach me your ways, Lord.”