Saturday, February 25, 2017

Planning Ahead

Several years ago I was leaving very early in the morning to go to the gym.  It was terribly dark and out of the quiet came this tiny, quiet meow that scared me half to death.  In my line of vision was a black cat.  A few things worth mentioning: cats are unpredictable, cats have claws, I have been terrified of cats my entire life.

After I got home from the gym, I told my husband about this cat.  Immediately the kids wanted to keep it (they were almost 6 and just turning 4).  I was opposed from the beginning and so a quest to find him a home began.  He'd clearly been abandoned (he had been declawed and neutered) and he was not chipped.  Needless to say after a series of unsuccessful attempts to find him a forever home that was not ours, he has been my napping/sleeping partner for almost 8 years.

My Oreo likes to cuddle.  He follows me around crying and waits for me to get on the couch to lie down so he can (a) curl up right into me, (b) wait for me to lift the blanket so he can hide under it, or (c) get on top of my hip to sleep on me.  And as much as I enjoy our little routine, I don't enjoy the way he generally wakes me up with what amounts to a series of throat punches.

As he was sleeping on the couch and I walked by him, it was incredibly tempting to do to him what he does to me to see how he likes it.  Now, I am an adult and can avoid such petty behavior (most of the time) but the thought did cross my mind and linger for a moment longer than it probably should have.  Don't judge.....I am human.

As I sat down at the table to enjoy my victory in avoiding juevenile behavior, I turned and saw his treat bag up on the window sill.  He eats hairball control treats every morning because he likes them and hairballs were a significant problem before them.  While I have been buying them for years, I've done it so much on autopilot that I never paid attention to the name on the bag.  "Temptations"

There aren't a lot of verses that specifically use the word temptation.  The concept is certainly addressed telling us to be aware of the enemy's schemes, to be careful not to fall into it, and to remind us that the way to overcome them is readily available if we'll just look for it.  But, unlike Oreo's treat bag, our temptations are not labeled.  And while I think it would be slightly impractical to go around with a sharpie marker and post-it notes labeling everything that is a temptation for us, maybe at least making a private list somewhere isn't such a bad idea.

I think the issue most of us face with our temptations is that we know we know we have them and we know there is supposed to be a way out from under them, but we aren't prepared for them.  And when we aren't prepared, we might as well be pushed down a flight of stairs because chances are we are going to fall head first into them.  But if we would just acknowledge them and decide ahead of time how we are going to deal with them, or if possible, avoid them, our victory stats would drastically increase.

The only practical example I can give you involves talking because it's the only one I've worked to specifically address.  There is a question I can be asked that can be answered one of two ways:  either a verbal word vomit of everything I feel needs to be said explaining the entire situation or a generic, general, prepared response that shuts off the line of questioning and avoids me saying things I shouldn't.  Now it took me way longer than it should have to realize this was an option and heaven knows I was tumbling down those steps a lot before this occurred to me, but I have improved significantly.  It didn't come easily, but I knew it was important enough to deal with as effectively and scripturally as I could.  Perseverance (and a ton of convcition) has truly paid off.

So what if we were to make that list of temptations and thoughtfully, intentionally, and prayerfully come up with appropriate responses before they were necessary?  It would likely take time to implement them with a higher success than failure rate, but progress would still be happening.  And when new temptations arise, we could add them to the list and repeat the process.  It would be easy to assume we can just do this without preparing ourselves, but if you make a budget, print a map before traveling, or call ahead before you just show up somewhere, chances are this type of preparation will be beneficial, too.  The hardest part of this probably won't be discovering viable options, it will likely be admitting where we are weakest.  But the last time I checked, we were supposed to boast about our weaknesses so that Christ's power can rest on us.  And as long as that's still true, maybe we can all attain a winning record yet.

Father, You want us to be overcomers, conquerors, and strong in You.  But in order to be or do those things, we have to face what is difficult for us.  Give us the revelations to know where we are weakest, the strength to admit it, and the desire to deal with it.  Refine us in the areas we least reflect You and give us a testimony of the miracles You have done in our hearts.  It's in the victorious name of Jesus we pray, amen.

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