Sometimes I hate my parents.
They taught me to be self-analytical, self-critical, and brutally self-honest. And being that way when I’ve just taught a two sermon series on anger is painful. Something at work doesn’t go quite right and I’ll let everyone know that I’m not exactly happy about it. Then I’ll remember “A fool's vexation is presently known; But a prudent man conceals shame.” (Prov. 12:16); and I’ll think to myself “Well, fool, everyone has seen your shameful vexation now, haven’t they?”
The lesson I taught on love isn’t any kinder to me. The old phrase ‘He doesn’t suffer fools gladly’ could probably apply to me. There are a few of my co-workers who could be lumped into the category of fools. Know-it-all teens who don’t know anything and can’t even recognize a logical argument because they don’t know what clear reasoning is. I’ll get so frustrated that I’ll stop trying to help them and let them fall on their faces. Then I’ll think “Love suffers long and is kind. . . is not provoked. . . bears all things. . . endures all things.” When those thoughts run through my head I shout back at myself, “Yeah, but I don’t love this person, I don’t even like this person. He’s never done anything for me and usually is against me.” Then I sigh as I remember “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:43)
It’s really easy to “Amen” the preacher on Sunday mornings or nod my head as I read the Bible. Maybe I even think “That’s something I can work on and get better at.” But recognizing the moments in my life when there's a chance to do better is harder. Actually living the Christian life as taught in the Bible on a day-to-day basis is hardest yet. Changing from a hot-headed fool whose vexation is known into a wise man who conceals his shame isn’t something that’s going to happen just because I read those passages or even taught them at Church. It takes daily effort and awareness. It may become more natural in a few years, but I doubt it will ever be easy. The same is true of showing love (as taught in 1 Cor. 13) to people I don’t like. Sometimes acting that way towards people I claim to love isn’t easy! I have to make a decision and then follow-through, with constant self-analysis.
Amen-ing the preacher on Sunday morning is easy. Living the Christian life day-to-day is hard. It requires me to change who I am, to grow into a new (and better) person. It takes a lot of effort. Luckily, God has promised to give me all the strength I need.
Eph. 1:19-20 “and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places”
So, God has promised to help with the same power He used to raise the Lord. Which is good because the more I read the Bible, the more things I find that I need to change. Self-analysis can be painful. Yeah, thanks Mom and Dad.
No, really, thanks.