By Ginny Reding
The wall behind my computer monitor is filled with clippings, photos, quotes; things I have deliberately placed there to remind me of good memories or of truths I want to be realities in my life. Some of these treasures have been there over ten years, yet at times it seems as if I am seeing them for the first time. A pencil drawing of Jesus is tacked to the bulletin board. His face is buried into the wooly head of a lamb, His arms tightly wrapped around its neck. I see myself as that lamb. I picture the Shepherd holding me, nestling my head into His shoulders, whispering to me, “I found you. You’re safe. I will not let go.” I feel protected. I feel cherished. But sometimes I just feel longing….please hold me, Immanuel.
A worn Oswald Chambers quote, leaning catawampus from its pushpin, emphasizes the importance of being deliberate about “being interested only in that in which God is interested.” Preaches easy….lives hard. A Scripture on card stock tucked into place above other gems admonishes me to let the Holy Spirit guide my life so that I won’t do what my sinful nature craves (Galatians 5:16). Tacked to a bulletin board are reminders of what the Lord requires of me; a listing of the fruit of the Spirit, a C.S. Lewis quote about pain being God’s megaphone. So much of the Truth I know, but too often forsake. I feel convicted. I feel unworthy. Yet, somehow, I feel loved, realizing that He has made this way for me to know Him.
One quote that I must have read a thousand times is by Jane Merchant: “I would not say there were no misunderstandings, discontents, and hurts. I would it had been so. But these we learned to live above. I do not say there were no hurts. I say they mattered less than love.” Hurts that disrupt our days are not rare. People misunderstand me; loved ones cause me pain; circumstances jolt my life like an electric current that won’t let me go. A dear friend of mine says often, “You can let it make you bitter or you can let it make you better.” When Oswald Chambers encourages us Christians to be interested in only that in which Jesus Christ is interested, I think Merchant’s emphasis on the “greatest thing” (the love defined in 1 Corinthians 13) is what he is talking about. Do I focus on my hurt or do I focus on a healthy relationship? Personal pain or restorative pleasure? Misunderstanding or intentionality toward meaningful communication? I can choose to remove the hurt and pain from first place in my life and recognize, instead, the eternal value of sacrificial love. I feel challenged. I feel selfish. But deep within my heart, I feel confident that the One who is love is also able and is with me.
Taking the high road is not easy, but isn’t that what Jesus is asking of us when He says to turn the other cheek, not return evil for evil but overcome evil with good, love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us? Why does being obedient have to be so hard? I wonder if Abraham felt that struggle when God told him to leave his home for some unknown land. Or what about Moses being asked by God to go back to those Egyptians who had raised him up and demand of them to let his people go? What of Isaiah, being called to speak God’s truth, knowing his lips were unclean, or Hosea, told by God to love a prostitute, knowing she would probably not be faithful? I think of Jonah, struggling with giving the message of repentance and forgiveness to his enemies in Nineveh or the disciples leaving their vocations to follow an unknown from Nazareth. What about Paul, suffering through violent rejection, to love both Jew and Gentile as he preached of God’s love through Jesus? On and on we are encouraged by examples in the Word, of believers who determined to be interested only in that in which God is interested. When confronted with the truth of Scripture, I feel challenged and inadequate, yet paradoxically hopeful and grateful. I can’t, but He can. Christ in me, the hope of glory.
Truth be told, what I feel isn’t worth nearly as much as……well….the Truth.
“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead pay them .” I Peter 3:8-9