Friday, January 24, 2014

For They Shall See God

I had a long talk with Jeff earlier this week.  I sat down and cried to him for a very long time- basically just unloading my heart to him about a lot of things I had going on inside of me.  About how sick I have been, about my emotions in all of this, fears about my role in his life, my relationship with God- just a whole bunch of things that had been burdening my heart lately and been building up to the point that I have actually been having a hard time bringing these things before God.  But Jeff just talked and ministered to me for a long time.  He listened to my fears and let me cry.  He let me be honest and did not judge me or laugh at me or condemn me.  And then he pastored me- he led me in the Bible and taught me how to bring these things before the Lord and how to repent where needed and how to lay the rest at God's feet.  He showed me where I was being corrected and where I need to reconnect with God.  Jeff acts as my compass when I don't know where north is- and it was a beautiful time where he just helped put my feet back where they needed to go so i could keep walking.  I am so grateful to him.

I think sometimes we all just need those times of redirection.  Those times where things in our lives just build and build until we no longer know where our feet are standing anymore.  No, maybe you do not have the same struggles that I do.  Maybe you do not have the physical pain and limitations and constant trauma that I do- but I don't think you have to in order to understand what I am saying.  We all experience things that drive us to our breaking point.  And when that happens, the greater fear should be not that you are breaking but that you don't seek help for it.  I kept avoiding help because I was too afraid to confront the fact that I wasn't right inside- I was scared of what that meant; of what would happen when I confronted myself and where I was really at.  But when I did I realized it was a whole lot scarier to keep going separated from God and from myself.  Because when all was said and done I wasn't immediately fixed no…but I released a great burden and I was well on my way to reconnecting with the things that matter.  It was far worse to carry the stress of it all on my shoulders and to let that pull me from God then to admit my shortcomings and face them and begin the journey back to Him.  

Because life is a constant journey of finding our way ever closer to Him over and over again, deeper and deeper still.

You know, it was brought to my attention this week (and many times before, honestly) that I am a very intense person- at least when it comes to myself.  I have never really thought about it but I could see the point.  It is always on my mind constantly- the things I have done, the things I have not done, the things I should be doing, the things I need to do better.  I don't feel trapped in it, and I would't say it's an issue of self punishment.  So I decided to think about the matter- case-in-point I suppose, haha.  Why am I so intense?  I mean, I know the answer is that I want to be the best possible version of myself that I can be.  I know I want to serve the Lord to the best of my abilities and I know I want to end this life knowing I gave it all I had.  But I knew there was this other reason that I couldn't put my finger on- so I ended up going to the Bible with my thoughts.  I did not intend to, but I did.  And I would like to share with you the thoughts i came up with as I believe they come down to the heart of Jesus' message to us.  

Jeff gave me a book this week and told me to read two of the chapters because he thought I would be interested in them.  Something you should know: I LOVE to read.  I always have a book in my hands, on my nook, or on my iPhone just waiting for whenever I have a free second to pick it up and read.  However, Jeff's reading interests and my reading interests are vastly different so when he says he wants me to read something I cringe inside because I am afraid it will be something dreadfully boring- like some history of genealogies or a book filled with the longest sermons ever from really old preachers.  But this actually looked interesting and the chapters were really short- they were chapters on the spiritual gift of discernment.

This was a topic I happen to be very interested in, so I dove right into it and found myself in the book of Matthew, chapter 7 verses 1-3,5.  They are verses that talk about judging people- in fact, regardless of your beliefs I am willing to bet that you have probably heard these verses before, or at least heard this principle.  They read “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

Pretty harsh verses there.  These verses are basically telling us to be very, very careful about judging someone else.  Jesus is saying that the manner in which you judge another will be the manner in which God judges you and further more, before you go around trying to right the sins of another you might want to take care of the glaring sins in your own life first.  They are very hard, very direct words.  And I love them.  

There are a lot of ways to take these verses.  Well, I should't say that- there are a lot of ways people like to USE these verses.  In fact I would wager to say that some of you who may be reading this right now are probably fist-pumping while telling us "see! Jesus said to leave me alone and worry about your own sins first!"  Well, not quite, but I understand your hesitancy so I will leave it at that for now. :)  You see, when it talks about removing the "plank" out of our own eye- it means the process of true repentance.  Of checking ourselves at the end of the day.  Of searching our own hearts- our actions, our motives, our words.  And if we see a pattern of behavior, the goal is to repent of that behavior and try and change it; to truly turn away from it so that it no longer is a part of who we are.  To remove the plank from our eyes so that it doesn't obscure and taint the way we see people any more…it is the process of beginning to see clearly.

I am intense because I want to be the best version of myself, yes.  I want to please God, yes.  But the more I examined my heart and these verses the more I realized that the other part of it- the other Biblical part of it is that I want to truly be able to love others.  I want to be a plank remover, not a speck finder.  I truly want to help others- and I mean that.  I love people and I want to help them see Jesus and come to know Him but I can only do that if I have PURE motives which means worrying about myself and my own heart and not focusing on theirs.  We can only help others by truly seeing clearly and we can only see clearly if our own planks are removed.

That is why I spend so much time on myself.  I repent not just of "sins"…but of behaviors and of matters of the heart.  It is not about a right set of rules.  It is about a way of walking and a way of living that urges oneself upward not for myself- but for those around me.  So that when the time comes for me to bring up the speck in their eyes I can do so out of sincere love and without the tainted vision of my own plank being in the way.  That my desire would not be to simply point out the wrongs of another, but that my sole purpose would mirror Jesus' in that I would be used to lead that person to their true needs.  

The ultimate goal is always to be used as an instrument of Jesus.  That all men would see and know Him better because of my life.  That His light would shine unobstructed through me.  It is not enough to just be a good version of myself and to live for Him- but that even my very motives would be challenged so that those I come in contact with would feel and sense the purity of my love for them, and thus His love for them.  So yes, I am intense I guess.  At the end of most days I have thought about my actions and my heart and the things I have said and done.  But so much is at stake.  The minute I profess to be a Christian is the minute I adopt a whole bunch of labels so graciously given to me: hypocrite. conservative. right-wing. intolerant. judgmental.  That instinctively makes me angry because I feel do not deserve these labels that are so freely given to me.  

And so it seems there is quite a process to go through within if we are going to truly love people- and that takes a LOT of deep and continual repentance on our part because, at least for me, I know I do not always think kind thoughts about people.  I know I can take out my anger and hurt easily by judging people- and that is the very opposite of love.  
And so that is why we need to work out the planks we have right out in the open in front of our very eyes, and then some way down deep in our very hearts.  That is why daily we need to uproot our attitudes and our mindsets that keep us from properly helping and loving others- because the main goal of loving others is not to judge them, but to help bring them to restoration.  

Please don't ever forget that.  Jesus came to save, not condemn.  We are NOT here to condemn.  We are here to love…to love in such a way that our love shines light into a person's life and that light not only casts out darkness, but provides a beacon on which feet may follow steadily on a new and straight path.  

I clean up my own act so that I can better love others.  So that my own eyes can see clearly and without tainted vision.  So that my love will be pure and steady.  This world- they can spot a fake from a mile away.  And I don't want to be a fake…I want my love to be all the things that Jesus' love is because the real goal is simply be a reflection of Him.  This world has enough unsteady ground to stand on.  I want to show them something solid...and they will only be able to see it if they will be able to see past me to see God in me.  

Truth be told when it all comes down to it...I want to see God.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."  Matthew 5:8

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