Thursday, May 27, 2010

Blessed Are The Resilient!

"So, friends, take a firm stand, feet on the ground and head high. Keep a tight grip on what you were taught, whether in personal conversation or by our letter. May Jesus himself and God our Father, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech." (2 Thessalonians 2:15-17, MSG)

On a recent Friday, my husband forgot my birthday. I knew first thing in the morning because our family custom is to bring each family member breakfast in bed with gifts and much fanfare on their special day. I asked my eldest daughter, "Is Dad doing anything in the kitchen?", when she entered my room to kiss me goodbye before school. When I began crying after she replied, "No", she instantly remembered what was going on. She felt terrible. I would like to say my behavior improved and reflected godly reaction to the hurt I felt, but alas, it did not. I had unkind words for my husband as the adrenaline of anger rushed. I rebuffed him for the remainder of the day, rejecting the weak attempts he made at recognizing the occasion.

Saturday, I felt awful for the deplorable way I behaved, not only because it hurt Steve, but because it was less than what pleases God. I had to remind myself that our Creator loves my husband just as much as he loves me, sinful mistakes and all. That man I demeaned has immense value to our Lord. I am commanded to forgive as I have been forgiven. And of course we know, two wrongs don't make a right. Thus, I softened on Saturday, being more decent and granting him the luxury of acting as if nothing had ever happened.

By Sunday morning, I made sure that my children heard me apologize to him for my unkind words and behavior on Friday. He admitted his wrong to me, and we moved on with life. Did the hurt remain? Absolutely. But I was more at peace with the way life squared in light of THE One I love most. I was able to experience joy on Saturday and Sunday. Life moved forward with recreation and laughter.

The point of sharing this anecdote with you is not to shame my husband. And it's certainly not to brag on myself in any way!

Day after the incident, I said to one of my dearest friends, "You know, so often as Christians in this world, we get frustrated with life in the Church. We wonder, what really IS the difference between being a Christian and being a non-believer in this world. And I think this situation showed me what the difference really is. This is what I think I need to share with people..."

The difference in the Christian life isn't that we never face troubles any more. It certainly isn't that we never sin again. It's that we get up faster when we've fallen. There's a resiliency in being a true follower of Jesus that can't be acquired any other way. We distinguish right from wrong more readily. As a result, we are able to recognize our shortcomings and respond in kind. We bounce back faster from the wounds of human life, if we are willing.

This resiliency certainly isn't of our own doing. It's the indwelling of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus left us as our "Helper" when he died and rose again. (see John 14:16, 26) That power that lives inside of us is ours for the taking. If we believe that Jesus is who He claimed He is, and we surrender our lives fully to Him, the power that resides inside our own hearts is the same power that raised a 33 year old dead carpenter from a stone-sealed grave. All we need to do is use that amazing gift we are given.

Let me give it to you straight. On my own, I can't forgive my husband or humble myself to apologize to him. I can't handle parenting 2 children with various special needs. I can't exert even an ounce of self-control or self-denial. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit and my cooperation with Him that my life is transformed. I spent too many years spinning my wheels, feeling sorry for myself, searching for joy that eluded me. Christ fills me with the joy and peace I could never possibly attain on my own.
It would be utterly foolish to become a Jesus-follower just for what He can give me. God isn't some genie in a bottle, there to grant my every wish. But as I follow hard after Him, this ability to bounce back and experience contentment in the midst of life's storms is an extra benefit. I am able to affirm the words of the psalmist proclaiming, "...Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5, NIV)

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