A fellow Christian friend recently exhorted me to take to heart Philippians 4:8.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things.”
I took it a bit like a slap in the face. I don’t know her very well and she certainly doesn’t know me. As one who takes exhortation seriously, I started to question my life. Well, not my life, really. But politics. Politics may be true, not very often noble, rarely pure, definitely not lovely, of good report? please!, virtuous... a few politicians might be, praiseworthy - well, I’ll lump that in with those few virtuous politicians.
So, am I wrong to walk this path I just spent a good deal of time just last week confirming that God actually does have me on? Am I bipolar? Is God? Does He or doesn’t He want me talking politics and exposing truth? Am I to be the watchman or not? Because, seriously, I really don’t want anyone’s blood on my head. (See previous post.) And how did prophets of old settle this? Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah?
Wait, it doesn’t say “think about this stuff only and never think of anything else”, it says “...MEDITATE on these things.” (emphasis mine.)
Oh! Well, that I can do!
It did cause me to rethink this thing that can often take over my life. I get so wrapped up in the drama and injustices of this world that it quickly evolves into meditating. Well, my exhorter would be right. I ought not to dwell on the ugly, but instead the true, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, praiseworthy things. Which is probably why every once in a while I have to seriously detox from politics. I haven’t quite figured out how to not begin to drown in the horrid stuff.
One particular day in the not-so-distant-past, I had been especially vocal about the woes of American politics (I mean, really, have you ever seen so much darn corruption in this nation? Ever?!) and I was just wiped out. I felt like I had been assaulting all of Facebook. And the Lord just quieted my heart and said, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” Ok. yes. Time to pause. Then, I click over to Sally Clarkson’s blog which basically cut my heart out. (http://www.itakejoy.com/standard-of-christian-conduct-for-facebook/)
After getting these not-so-gentle little messages, I spent a day in silence. Here’s something about me. When I am criticized (and please don’t take this as an invitation to do so), I actually take it to heart. I grieve over it. Whether it is a correct or incorrect criticism. I go through some serious introspection...because more than anything in life, I want to be in the very center of God’s will. Am I that way? Is it right to be that way? How come I’m that way? Everybody hates me and I want everyone to love me. I’m a failure and I suck! O Lord, I give up. It’s just too hard. Ok, I don’t give up because I can’t. But God I love people and I want them to love me. Why can’t everyone just love me and I can live that fluffy life everyone prefers? Oh, that’s right. I’m to please you and not men. I want to please you and not men. Help me to please you and not men. And why am I such a freak? (Really, you so don’t want to be me!! There’s something wrong in the head here.)
About the same day as I was wondering why in the world I’m commanded to think only of fluffy things and yet am clearly called to expose the yuck (and the occasional, very rare happy story), I spoke with a precious sister who genuinely knows my heart. She said, “Oh you just have to read the May 25th entry of Jesus Calling.” So, on my ponderous, silent day, I did.
I’m quiet. I’m reflective. I’m sad that I can’t figure out how to pursue this calling correctly...it seems. So, I pull out Jesus Calling, turn to May 25, and read:
“The world is too much with you, My child. Your mind leaps from problem to problem to problem, tangling your thoughts in anxious knots. When you think like that, you leave Me out of your worldview and your mind becomes darkened. Though, I yearn to help, I will not violate your freedom. I stand silently in the background of your mind, waiting for you to remember that I am with you.
When you turn from your problems to My Presence, your load is immediately lighter. Circumstances may not have changed, but we carry your burdens together. Your compulsion to ‘fix’ everything gives way to deep, satisfying connection with Me. Together we can handle whatever this day brings.”
And for good measure, since this was on June 5th, I went ahead an peeked at that entry of Jesus Calling also:
“Remember that you live in a fallen world: an abnormal world tainted by sin. Much frustrations and failure result from your seeking perfection in this life. There is nothing perfect in this world except Me...
I have planted longing for perfection in every human heart. This is a good desire which I alone can fulfill...”
I quickly texted my friend:
“Just read May 25 of Jesus Calling like you recommended. Soooo good! Exactly how I feel... And today’s - about the longing for perfection in our hearts. So apt. I want God’s perfect kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Such a drive of my heart. Just wanted to thank you for sharing, for praying, for being gentle with me. Love you!”
So, here I’m noticing that there’s a theme, right?
I went back through Facebook posts and I don’t see any overt harshness or unloving-ness. I am driven by love --- in obedience to my Savior and for my precious children who have a very grim future ahead of them.
But, I realize (as if this were some new revelation) that whether or not it sounds loving, I need it to actually BE loving...to a lost and hopelessly deceived world. In reality, deep in my heart...90% of the time - I’m just frustrated with willful ignorance, irritated that people just keep on with the status quo, ticked off that we are being so audaciously abused by our own government, and fed up that so many just want someone else to do something about it while they sit on their patooties assuming everything is going to come up roses without lifting a finger to ensure it. As true as all these things may be, the approach is everything and the heart behind it is what God is concerned with.
“By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks a bone.” (Pr. 25:16)
“The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly.” (Pr. 15:2a)
And, not coincidentally, my Bible study happened to be in 1 Samuel 25 about the patient forbearance, wisdom, tact and couth of Abigail.
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, an without hypocrisy.” (Jas. 3:17)
I want to and will apply this, and change, and do this right...even if it’s noticed only within my own heart’s attitude. I want to use knowledge rightly. I want to have patient forbearance and a gentle tongue...even when the truth is not in any way gentle. I think unpleasantness is no reason to shy away from truth, but I hope to deliver it in a way that pleases the Lord.
(Pr. 15:1; Gal. 1:10)