Sunday, July 2, 2017

Word Exchange

Yesterday I had the honor of reading from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians at my cousin's wedding. While it's always been easy to gloss over the familiar words that describe what love is and love isn't, and what love does and doesn't do, around Valentine's Day the passage was given new life when I read it with fresh eyes.

At that time, I read a devotional that reminded me that God is love. While that was something that I knew, the close proximity to that truth and the reading of these words caused a lightbulb to suddenly get very bright. I then reread the words I'd heard several times before, and exchanged the word love -for God.

God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud.
God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily 
angered, God keeps no record of wrongs.  God does not delight in
evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always
trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
God never fails.

Then, I wondered if my name could be substituted in, and if those same declarations could be made of me. Sadly, the answer is either no, not always, or not as often as should be true.

For the past six months, with July being the seventh, I have completed a tending sheet of goals I work towards monthly, weekly, and daily. This precious page is found in the Make It Happen workbook I ordered through Lara Casey last December. This priceless gem has done much to keep me on track, accountable, and honest about where I am consistent, and sadly where I am not. At the top of each monthly sheet is a section for encouraging words. For July, I wrote out a quote found in Play With Fire that Bianca Olthoff wrote about her mother.

"Her words were a fountain, never a drain, and they overflowed into everyone she met."

Quite a compliment and something worth striving for. I mean, how many times have I prayed that the words of my mouth would be pleasing to the Lord and that the conversations I would have would be edifying to the Lord and those who might overhear them?

But then I also read about Ann Voskamp's admission regarding her struggle with a sharp tongue and her description of the tongue being the hearts tail. I think of Luke's famous declaration that the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. And I recall my man-child's painful response when I rather sarcastically answered a question he asked about the towel he would take for stretching after cross country training. His words were something like this.....You don't have to tell me like I'm stupid or that I should have known. Or even better, the response email I got from my daughter during the school year about an AR test score that went something like Is this good enough for you? Neither of these things I am proud of, but that doesn't make them less true.

A couple days ago, I sent a message to a friend with an admission that I was struggling with judgement over something I had seen, and she graciously and lovingly pointed out that my perception was based on my own experience, as well as assumed facts, that may or may not be true. I was so thankful for her willingness to speak that truth and set me straight. I knew I was having a hard time and I didn't want to let this ugliness to get any more collateral of my heart and mind than it had already attempted to obtain. 

So, why am I sharing all of this with you? Accountability. Because the reality is, unless we are willing to admit where we are coming up short, clue others in on the struggle, and ask them to remind us of what we know to be true and most reflective of God (aka love), we will continue to try and do it on our own, make excuses to ourselves when we come up short, and repeatedly fail our way forward at a much slower pace. So please, if you are in my life personally, consider this your invitation to tilt your head sideways, look at me with compassion, and just say the word LOVE and I will know what you mean.

We only have a short period of time to influence the generation that God deemed best for us to occupy. I want us to make the most of every opportunity to reflect him in such a positive light that others can't help but turn towards him. But we simply can't do that alone; it must be done in community, with increasing vulnerability about our weakest areas. And while your struggle may not be with the things that exit your lips, or the tongue full of restless evil and deadly poison you can't control, I pray that you would be honest with yourself about where your difficulty resides, ask others to hold you accountable, and to focus on what you would want said of you by those who know you best. Then find a Scripture to claim or pray over yourself and beg the God of love to be strength in your weakness.

No comments: