God, what are you teaching me?
You are showing me that you don’t work according to an agenda like mine. My agenda is to fix things. My agenda is to find solutions to every problem.
Your agenda is to allow the heart to be revealed so people can deal with impurities of character, those things that are holding them back and making them dysfunctional, keeping them from fulfilling their purpose. Your agenda is carrying out a process. My agenda is short term tangible results.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:2)
You are teaching me the importance of unity, and the things that lead to it — humility, gentleness and patience. I get frustrated by people sometimes. Does my desire for control and order extend to others? Do I want for the ministry to be under control, with each person having all conflict, whether inner or interpersonal, resolved?
Yes, I want the ministry to be orderly. But that is an unrealistic expectation. I was talking to my son, Max, yesterday about a situation he was involved in, and I wanted to encourage him to have a good attitude about it. (Not that he had a bad attitude.) I told him, “Max, as long as you have people, it is going to be messy, that’s just the way it is.” I need to take my own advice!
Am I making every effort to be unified, or am I seeking my own agenda, trying to satisfy my own desire for order? Making every effort to be unified means being more active in the lives of others — really listening and trying to understand where people are coming from. It means working hard on being patient and gentle, because I care about their agenda, and not my own.
The goal is to be like minded: “having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Being unified means that I first get rid of self. Then, I can focus on resonating with others and their pain, their wants and needs.
I can be more patient. I read an excerpt from a book by Lisa TerKeust a couple of days ago. She stressed that progress is imperfect, but it is still progress. “It’s okay to have setbacks and do overs,” she wrote. “Take baby steps, but at least steps that will keep you from being stuck.”
“Imperfect changes are slow steps of progress wrapped in grace,” TerKeust reminded us.
I want big actions. I want solutions. But God is interested in the process, in imperfect changes, in us taking slow steps of progress wrapped in grace.
Little things are important. It doesn’t have to be so big and orderly. Small steps matter.
Just a mustard seed of faith gets God’s attention. When Jesus was moving through the crowd in Luke 8, a bleeding woman touches the hem of his garment and is healed. Jesus is jostled by the many people around him, yet he notices that someone has reached out to him with the touch of faith. He stops what he is doing and looks for that woman. May I have more mustard-seed-of-faith moments where I reach out to God.
One small act of service can change a life. Bobby Lee Bobbitt posted a great blog about this. He talked about a couple of things that changed his life forever. A woman had faith enough to give him a Bible. Someone cared enough to ask him to church and to dinner afterwards. Because of these things, he started seeking and following God.
When I am wrapped up in my agenda, I can forget the importance of the small things. And I can also forget the beauty of not being ruled by my agenda. “Living a life fully engaged and full of whimsy and the things that love does is something that people plan to do, but along the way they just kind of forget.”
This quote is from a book by Bob Goff called, “Love Does.” In this book Goff talks about one of his favorite places at Disney World: Tom Sawyer Island. He says the island is a place people always want to go, but never break out of their ride routine to get on the ferry. So they miss out on the spontaneous experience that characterizes the island, which is a place to explore and use your imagination, not to see from a conveyor belt.
I get stuck on the conveyor belt of my agenda. I have to get rid of my need for control. I watched part of a documentary about people in Oregon who obtain a prescription for medication to end their own lives. The number one reason they name for wanting this medication is to have control over their own death. They want it to happen at a time of their choosing, and not be subjected to unbearable pain and the other horrific things that accompany the process of dying a slow death.
I haven’t experienced what these people are experiencing, and it would seem so unkind to speak against what they were doing in the misery of their last days. But I did wonder about the difference between people who want control over their own death, and people who have the mindset that they are going to submit to God throughout the ordeal. I hope I can be one of the latter. I pray that I can walk with grace until the end.
It is so hard to shed the mantle of my expectations. It is so hard for my happiness and self worth not to be tied to results. May I trust the process. May I embrace the difficulties of others and have peace with the imperfect timetable for their resolution. You, oh God, are working. It is a journey and there are many beautiful things to be discovered along the way.