tough testimony

Have you ever messed up?  I’m talking majorly here.  Did you ever really blow it?  Was it followed by intense guilt and embarrassment?  A feeling of self-loathing, perhaps?  If so,  you can grasp at what my week has been like. 

Total inner chaos.

Not last sunday (yesterday), but the week before, I was to give an announcement at our church.  It was for a “Family Night” a church in our area was putting on.  I was excited about it, but I also know the attitudes of my (and many other people’s) church members.  If you want their participation in anything, you have to drag them in by the ear!

It’s been an interesting summer.  A total roller coaster of emotions.  I’ve worked at our church’s bible camp three years in a row now, and their participation in their own ministries is horrendous . . . how could I get them excited about somebody else’s?

I should have just let go and let God.  I didn’t. 

I’m apalled to say that I preached!  I got up there, gave the logistics (time, place, etc.)  then went off on a tangent about how we, as Christians, tend to become “churchy” and sit around complaining about the world going to pot, but then when people try to do good things, encouraging services, such as the one I was referring to, the complainers just sit around watching TV anyway.  It was something I might have vented on in here, my blog.  My outlet.  My safety.  But, no.  I had to open my big mouth where it wasn’t my place.

I looked around and very few faces were smiling.  I was trying to throw in humor as I went along, but no one was really laughing. 

I sat down in shame.

All week I’ve tried to ignore it.  Confessed it, repented.  Quoted forgiveness Bible verses at myself.  And because life goes on, I had a pretty good week.  I stayed busy enough. 

Then, Saturday night came.  My dad is gone in the truck, but when we talked on the phone, he reminded me that if I gave the announcement again in church, not to preach, “Even if they are deader than a log . . . they can work that out.”

He was very nice about, that’s all he said.  But it reminded me of everything all over again.  Guilt came back, like a tidal wave, pouring over me.  After saying good-bye to him, I went and laid down, fully clothed, in my bed. 

I was scared to go back to church.   I figured they all must hate me.  I tried to ignore the vision of the past week, all those old Baptists cutting me to pieces over the dinner table.  How could I possibly face them again?  I tried to bring up worse things that I’ve done, thinking it would make me feel better.  Nope.  Only worse.  I read my Bible.  Deciding that I could use some wisdom, I pulled out proverbs and ended  up reading an entire chapter on how shameful it is to be a fool and all the things you should never trust a fool to do.  That also made me feel worse.  I felt like Ruthie Camden on 7th Heaven, searching the Bible after she’s done something bad, saying, “There’s got to be something in here that covers this!” 

I went to bed mentally exhausted and extremely depressed.  I asked God to comfort me, help me, prepare me for church the next day.  I prayed “without ceasing” all evening. . . and, actually, felt guilty about that, too.  I worried that I was making too big a deal out of this.  There are people going through much harder trials than little old me. 

But my tongue has done stuff like this so many times, and I’m sick of it.  God says in James to “bridle your tongue” and I JUST CAN’T.  It all boils down to the pride I can’t let go of.  I want to yell and preach at people;  to get up on my soapbox and scream at them.  After all, I must know better than they and SOMEBODY should tell them the truth, right? 

Lately God and I have been working on humility.  It’s a HUGE burden of mine.  He’s told me that He can’t use my pride.  To lead, a person HAS TO BE humble.  Prideful leaders will always fall.  Prideful leaders . . . that’s like an oxymoron!  It just doesn’t work. 

God’s also been impressing how, “pure and undefiled religion is this:  to visit widows and orphans”.  God doesn’t need me to preach at people, to judge them.  He needs me to act behind-the-scenes, in the little things.  Close my mouth and start using my hands!

Yet, what I did that Sunday, with the announcement, was so typical of Emily-the-human.  It’s just not how I wanted Emily-the-Christian to act.  Yes, I know I will make mistakes.  I’m just tired of making the same ones!

But then, after falling into an exhausted sleep . . . something happened.  I had a beautiful dream. 

I dreamt of baby socks, actually.  (Probably because I have a new baby cousin and have been seeing them around a lot!)  But it was an adult lady, taking these baby socks and she made a “flower” out of them.  She held them in a circle, pinching the cuffs together as the “base” of the flower, while the rest flowed out.  Then she added layer after layer to make a “rose” of socks.  As she did so, she explained to a young girl next to her how this “rose” was a metaphor to life.  Every time something happens to us, another layer is added, making us into the person that we are and growing us so that, eventually, we can bloom.

When I woke up, I knew that I was the little girl, and God was the woman with the socks. 

But I still felt guilty.

I needed to hear from God’s Word . . . but the whole Proverbs thing of the night before kind of scared me off.  Despite that, on the way to church, I opened to the book of James.  Why James?  Because it’s my favorite book; because I always find comfort there; because it talks about bridling the tongue!

“But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be complete, lacking nothing. . . Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away.  For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes.  So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits. . . but each one [human] is tempted when he is drawn away by HIS OWN DESIRES and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.  
                                                                                         James 1: 4, 9-11, 14-15

I will wait patiently for God to do His perfect work in me.  Because, although I have never considered myself monetarily rich . . . I am.  Sure, some have more, some have less.  But after seeing pictures of starving children in third-world countries, how can I deny my monetary fortune?  I can live comfortably and I’m not starving. That makes me rich.  I am also rich in friends, in love, in family, in life, in faith . . . I have SO much to be grateful for, and need to make some definite changes in my life.  Because now that I have been given my flower, I don’t want it to wither and die!  It’s way too precious.  And I am also realizing that it was MY desire for the church-people to attend this “family night” . . . that doesn’t make it God’s.  When did I consult God in this matter?  Never.  And my own desire will also lead to my flower’s death. 

Sitting through church was painful, yes.  But people were kind, nice.  No one seemed to hate me.  I didn’t make the announcement, but I had a poster about it which I hung on our bulletin board.  People even asked me about it . . . but, honestly, every time they did I only felt guilty.  I didn’t want to be reminded!

Sometimes God has to work inspite of us.  There was one family from my church who attended the event.  And their missionary-daughter was home from Africa and got to attend, as well.   

So, what is this story about?  Well, partly because the reason my blog’s title is “Footsteps of Life” is to capture just how my life is shaping.  That includes the bad.  But it’s also about giving the one or two people who might read this whole post (sorry, I know I got long again! I’ve got to stop doing that!) the chance to think before they act.  The chance to crucify your pride. 

Jesus is the Rose of Sharon. . . His rose was trampled at the cross so ours didn’t have to be.  Do not throw that sacrifice in His face by insisting on your way.  Let it bloom and grow forever.  But if you do mess up, remember that you’re still growing. 

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3 Responses

  1. A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won’t cross the street to vote in a national election.BillVaughanBill Vaughan

  2. Emily, don’t sweat it. Look at Psalms 118:6. This is the verse I have to remind myself of everytime I feel like I have offended someone or feel like someone is mad or upset with me. Should we bridle our tongues, yes, should we also be uplifting and supportive of the whole body of Christ (i.e. other churches), yes. I am of the firm belief that if you are offended than you are probably the one that needed to hear it the most.

  3. Jalack: thanks. My favorite verse is Hebrews 13:6, which is basically just quoting Ps. 118:6. I really needed that reminder!

    Blessings,
    Em

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