Thursday, October 26, 2017

Maybe If You Weren't Such a Jerk...

Copyright: sifotography / 123RF Stock Photo
Bless those who persecute you [who cause you harm or hardship]; bless and do not curse [them]. Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty [conceited, self-important, exclusive], but associate with humble people [those with a realistic self-view]. Do not overestimate yourself. Never repay anyone evil for evil. Take thought for what is right and gracious and proper in the sight of everyone. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for God’s wrath [and His judicial righteousness]; for it is written [in Scripture], “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for by doing this you will heap  burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome and conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good.
 ~ Romans 12:14-21, AMP ~

Seventeen years ago, when I was first trying to figure out this tenuous journey of parenting a child with a severe bleeding disorder, I had a good idea of what I DIDN'T want to look like.

Only one month after our son's birth we were thrown into the overwhelming social mix of parents on the same journey at a secular conference. What I saw in their midst wasn't pretty. Parents seemed to fall into the category of either being an angry, "I'm going to tell you how it is," type of person or being a very nice, pleasant person who was out to squeeze every freebie out of others that they could. It didn't mesh well at all with my worldview.

Instead, I was hungry to connect with others who had their eyes fixed on Jesus and who wanted to reflect His glory through every trial.

Unfortunately, since that first conference, I have run into far too many mothers and fathers who have a chip on their shoulder because they are parenting a child with less-thank-perfect circumstances. And in serving and leading teams to serve those same parents, I have found the same pervasive attitude in many, MANY people facing trials of every kind. The common, worldly attitude pukes out, "I can do what I want and act however I want because I am facing difficulty." Or, "I have been through hell, so the world owes me."

Not only is this attitude of entitlement toxic, it is unbiblical. For starters, THIS AIN'T HEAVEN! (Check out the archives for my 2009 post, "This Ain't Heaven.") Our culture creates the false narrative that pain or difficulty is bad and to be avoided at all costs. It sets up the false expectation that we can have heaven here on earth. Yet, Jesus irrefutably told us right before he walked into his own sacrificial torture and death, "...In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33b, NIV)

Furthermore, when we act like a jerk, who in the WORLD would want to help us? (See my 2009 post in the archives, "You Catch More Bees With Honey.") Do YOU want to help someone who 1) is so all-consumed by their own life that they never bother to ask how you are doing; 2) never answers your texts, phone calls, or e-mails in a timely manner; 3) is irritable and sarcastic every time you're around them; 4) is demanding, self-righteous, and judgmental in their speech; 5) lacks humility; 6) doesn't follow through on their commitments with total disregard to everyone around them? In his 2003 book, EVERYBODY'S NORMAL TIL YOU GET TO KNOW THEM, John Ortberg discusses "The dance of the porcupines," explaining that we can only have positive interaction with others when we become vulnerable as porcupines do when the expose their un-quilled bellies to one another when mating. It is when we set aside our crankiness for the humility of admitting our weakness that we create tender relationship with others. And it's in THOSE relationships that others want to become invested in us and walk through life's trials with us.

Finally, at every turn of His word, God calls us to live differently from the world. The world sits up and takes notice when we have every reason to be nasty, but instead sees us, "...joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." (Romans 12:12, NIV) They want what we have when they see us behave this way! It opens the door for God to use us in the midst of our trials as ambassadors of His Good News. That is why Peter instructed the early, persecuted church,

"But even if you suffer for doing right, you are blessed.
'Don’t be afraid of what they fear;
    do not dread those things.' Isaiah 8:12–13
But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, but answer in a gentle way and with respect. Keep a clear conscience so that those who speak evil of your good life in Christ will be made ashamed."
(1 Peter 3:14-16, NCV, emphasis mine)

So check your attitude today. Everyone has bad days, but if you find you have a prickly attitude because of your circumstances on a regular basis, pull aside for some quite time in prayer and God's word, asking the Holy Spirit to readjust your demeanor to reflect His glory no matter what is going on in your life. Stop being such a jerk and see people respond to you in much more positive ways.

Pray with me...

Merciful God, it is way too easy to take it out on the world around me when life isn't going as I think it should. Keep my eyes fixed on you rather than on my circumstances. Work in and through me so that I can be useful to You even in my brokenness. I want to reflect Your glory rather than spill my own toxicity on everyone around me.

~ Barb Dittrich