“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (Matt 25: 37-40 NIV).
My first writer’s conference! I was so nervous!! I had my first headshot on my business cards, my first book proposal in my carry-on, and in my suitcase was my first “pant-suit”. They told us to dress “business casual” and that “pants would be great.” Being the rule follower I am, I went out and bought two new pairs of pants and an honest-to-goodness blazer from Target for this trip. Normally I wear skirts and dresses – I dread “jeans season” and rarely wear “pants”. Such is the life of a homeschool mom. Maybe it’s just me, but I think that jeans season is worse than bathing suit season!
And I do realize that suggestions are not rules, yet I usually feel compelled to follow them, or at least consider them. That’s probably another post altogether. Still, recently I realized that I need to be open to thinking about things differently – open to saying “yes” more often, and “no” less often. For this trip, I decided to take all the advice I could get. My husband might say that this was another first for me! So, as you see, this was a bunch of firsts, all at once. It was like a Seinfeld moment: the one where George Constanza tried to do everything the opposite from what he would normally do (I know I am dating myself here)…sometimes though, it is good to step out and embrace change.
God is a God of change. He does not change (Heb 13:8; Mal 3:6; Jam 1:17); but He wants us to change, for the better. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Rom 12:2 NLT). I always struggled with how to do this. How can a leopard change its spots? How can a worrier have peace? How can a type A trust the Lord to get the job done? How can a selfish woman learn to serve others joyfully? Well, it comes in 2 steps, and this happens to be the premise of the aforementioned book proposal…
First, we must listen to God’s voice – He speaks to us through His Word. God’s Word is a change agent: For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12 ESV). You can read more about the power of the Word here, in a post I wrote earlier. Second, you have to do things God’s way (which you learn from His Word): be doers of the word, and not hearers only (Jam 1:22 ESV). It is in the hearing and the doing of God’s Word that He changes our hearts; as we obey His Word, we are conformed to His image.
I am sure that, at some time, you must have heard someone say, “Don’t pray for patience!” The best way to learn something is to experience it. To be patient, you must endure frustration in peace. So asking for patience is like asking for frustration. But in the end, God is more concerned with our spiritual health than our earthly happiness. He will allow us to endure much more than frustration in order to grow us into the people He made us to be. There is a lesson in everything – God was the first conservationist – He does not waste anything. I saw this on my trip to North Carolina over the weekend.
On the first leg of my journey to the Proverbs 31 Ministries SheSpeaks Conference, I was seated by a large man in his late 50′s. Picture an older Troy Aikman. This mountain of a man engulfed the seat next to me on the tiny commuter plane and we sat across the aisle from his wife. His wife was next to a frail, elderly woman who was looking out the window. His wife was hunched over, arm around her mother, her face animated as she pointed out the window and quietly narrated the activity she saw on the tarmac. “We are on our way to a family reunion,” he confided. “Her mother isn’t ‘right’ anymore, and can’t remember much from day to day. It frustrates her so much. But she remembers the ‘old days’ like they were yesterday. Next week, she won’t even remember us taking her to the reunion. But when we get there, she will see all the people who live in her memories. For a few days, she will be very happy because everything will feel right again.”
I was uncharacteristically speechless for a bit, while the lump in my throat dissolved. What unconditional love. What sacrifice. The tenderness shown by a daughter to her mother…the support shown by a husband to his wife… He went on to detail the difficulties of their life: trying to get his father-in-law to quit driving, trying to get them to let a housekeeper into their lives… But he was not complaining. That was the miraculous part. He was just describing his journey.
I see God everyday in my life. I see Him in His Word and in His creation and in His blessings. But what I have realized is that to see God in His people, sometimes it takes the hard things. God is wise. He knows us so well. He knows the best path to growth is often the most difficult. When we care for others – whether they are babies or old people or sick spouses or neighbors – we must set aside our own comfort and do what is best for someone else. In fact this is what is best for us too; it helps us to be more like Jesus, who did the same thing. Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4 NLT). When we encounter difficulties, we may need to reframe them so that we see the exercise in them, the opportunity in them. The journey toward a Christlike life can be painfully slow and full of hurdles…but the hurdles are the journey, rather than the inconvenience they seem to be. The man on the plane and his wife were a display of Christlike service, not in spite of the circumstances, but because of them.
justAgirl…just like you.