Ah, Christians. To know Christ is to have it all together. To be a Christian is to be perfect; blameless; selfless; righteous, and upstanding. To be a follower of Jesus means to know just what to say, just what to do, in all circumstances. To show people a “better way”; pointing the way—through the shining example of our own lives—to the Lord through our righteous living, generous giving, and outward, unremitting attention to others. Always. In every situation. At all times.
And to think, I almost got through typing all of that without cracking up.
The only thing I know for sure that a Christian truly is . . . is convicted.
I don’t mean a beat-yourself-up-at-all-times-because-you’re-such-a-screw-up type of conviction. I see it as we all have a base level of morality instilled within us; an internal knowing or instinct of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, regardless of the choices we ultimately make. Once you cross the line of faith, this instinct begins a process of refining, of being sharpened; the desire to “do what is right” is strengthened as the indifference or ambivalence over “doing what is wrong” begins to fade. You begin to pause a little longer, more carefully considering the negative ramifications–for yourself and others–before making what could be considered a ‘poor’ choice. The conviction to do what is right. The conviction not to do what is wrong. The conviction to correct or make amends for wrongs already committed. The conviction to put others before yourself. The conviction that your own shortcomings are quite enough and there is no need to point up or dwell on the shortcomings in others.
Proverbs 19:11 A person’s wisdom yields patience;
it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.
Personally, I was pummeled with the conviction sledgehammer all last weekend. Actually, more like being on the runaway conviction train. At full throttle. With no brakes. Wheeeeeee!!
You see, I spent Easter weekend with some extended family at an impromptu family reunion of sorts, mostly from my wife’s mother’s side. It was a great weekend overall; meeting many family members I’d only heard of by name, or hadn’t heard of at all. Rekindling lost, or distant, familial relationships.
. . . and inadvertently straining others.
My wife and I knew going down that this had the potential of being an “eggshell” kind of weekend: As in, walking on. But, we truly decided beforehand that we were going to give this weekend over to God; to let the conversations go where He wanted them to go; to bring up only the topics and subjects that He wanted brought up; and, above all, to be the very model of Christ’s example of grace and patience.
Yeah, that went well.
Remember the old adage, “Don’t ask God to grant you _________, as what He will give you is the opportunity to practice _________.”
The only trouble is I’m lousy at practice. I’m also lousy at being an “example”, most especially when I’ve promised myself that I’m going to be one. I walked away not feeling in the least like I’d been able to accomplish any kind of work for Christ. It felt way more like there was still a boatload of work that Christ had left to do in me.
In other words . . . convicted.
Romans 14: 22 You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. 23 But if you have doubts…..you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.
I was made painfully aware of my lack of patience and grace. Of my acute self-centeredness. Of my still somehow towering pride and ego.
I was too easily annoyed. I was too easily tongue-tied in conversations concerning faith and religion. I was deeply tuned in to my own wants, needs and desires, but blissfully unaware of anyone else’s.
I was painfully human. I was uncomfortably aware of God telling me, “Don’t worry about the spiritual paths, growth and maturity levels of these people. I’m not done with you yet!” And, most surprisingly, I was stunned that this wasn’t something I wanted to hear. I’ve been growing for the better part of a year and a half now, dammit; it’s someone else’s turn!
And God laughs.
Then gives me a reassuring smile.
And in the process, by what He has done and continues to do for (and in) me, shows me what grace and patience is all about.
1 Timothy 1: 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Colossians 1: 9b We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.