April 04, 2012

Spurs and Jonah

You know that verse that says, "and let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24)?

I've realized that there are usually two types of people.

Those that truly spur you on; they're encouraging, loving, infectious, authentic.

And those who take their spurs and stab them into your clavicle and drag you to "love" and "good deeds" if they have to kill you to do it. Think Inquisition, screamy preachers, self-righteousy people.

Thankfully I've only ever been in the first group.

(Ahh, I'm laughing so hard right now I can hardly type.)

(Actually, I'm not laughing at all, I'm only really sad that that's so not true.)

Matt and I did a marriage study several years ago and one of the things the guy said is that many of us are motivated by "inner vows" and we don't even know it. For example...

I'll never turn down my kids' request to play a game with them the way my dad did with me.

I'll never trust anybody again, I've been wronged too many times.

I'll never let my spouse see how much they hurt me, the way so-and-so did.

I'll never be weak and let somebody use me, like who-and-who.

See? Anything ranging from the silly to the serious.

But here's what hit me today. Inner vows never work because they're spurred on by anger. And anger only lasts for so long before it blows up like the Atomic Bomb over Peoplelandia, leaving wreckage and debris on everyone within a 75-mile radius.

When we're spurred on by love, the result is good deeds.

Even when our triggers are trigged.

Even when so-and-so and who-and-who do me wrong again and are simply unloveable. Or don't react the way I thought they should.

If our motivation is to show them what's what, then it's gonna come to a screeching halt the moment that secondary trigger is set. See?

No good.

I don't want to play a game with my son because I'm gonna show him. I want to play a game with my son because I love him and want to love what he loves and spend time with him.

I don't want to always be strong so I can "fool" other people. (Nobody's fooled except the fool). I want to be strong in Christ's strength so I can be a refreshing glass of cold water to somebody who desperately needs a helping hand. Even if I end up wronged or hurt or betrayed.

Because Love always protects. Always trusts. Always hopes. Always perseveres.

It's just sometimes I'm so far from what I want to be true about me that it's debilitating. I'm reading an amazing book right now called Glorious Mess, and Mike Howerton, the author, talks about this very thing. It's when we sbumit to God and return to him in the middle of our mess that he is ultimately glorified, kind of like Jonah.

Jonah's response and ultimate return to God was not pretty and it did not have a pretty spiritual bow attached to the top. It was painful and messy and all of us on the outside are yelling, What's your problem, you idiot, we all know how the story ends, just do what God told you to do!

Um, yeah. Except here's the thing. Jonah wasn't on the outside reading through the book of Jonah while he sipped his coffee reading how the story ended. Jonah was living his life when God invaded, if you will, and told him to do something that he absolutely did not want to do.

Yes, I can so relate.

So, Jonah runs and fights and checks out (hello, sleeping below deck while a storm is about to kill everyone on board!). All par for the course for the average Joe-slash-Julia.

Mike makes a great point. Oftentimes when we consider God's call on our lives we think vocationally. Missionary, nurse, pastor, stay-at-home mom, etc. But God's call more often involves us becoming more like him than what we do for him. So we're also running from God's call when we are proud rather than humble. Rude rather than kind. Impatient rather than forbearing. Deceitful rather than forthright.

I also heard recently in a sermon that scripturally, God's call is 95% who you are and only 5% what you actually do.

(Please don't attack me over the actual percentages, I'm just paraphrasing and I hate math.)

I'm in a season of wanting to check out. I want to sleep below deck while everybody else fights for the faith.

When we are not right with God, storms are everywhere. When we run from God, relationships stop working, friendships are shallow, family life is sticky, the future seems unclear and stormy. Your personal attitude is in a shaky place, so you have to try and distract yourself and find false substitutes to make yourself feel better. You are running from God's best. You don't have peace, but you're lulling your soul to sleep, medicating your soul with any number of distractions.
-excerpt from Glorious Mess

Get out of my head, already! Jerk.

God, in his kindness, always in his kindness, is not letting me sleep. I cannot turn any direction without confronting his interventions. Do you know why it's so hard to turn back sometimes?

Because oftentimes it means I have to tell somebody I'm sorry. I've been proud. I've been arrogant. I've had one hand clasped around the Sequoia tree in my eye, whilst I've manhandled the tweezers for the splinter in yours. I'm sorry, I've been wrong.

Easy to say in your head, not so easy to say to somebody who's hurt you. Know what I mean? But God's way is always best. And he relentlessly pursues us to save us from our sin as much as to save us from ourselves.

Let us turn back and spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

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