Sunday, January 11, 2009

When the Fight Becomes Natural

I had an awareness come upon me this Christmas that humbled me. As I share this story, it is my hope that you will read it knowing that I do not say it to brag. In fact, none of the thoughts and stories I write and share with you are meant to brag and they are definitely not the things I innately want to write. If you want to read things that I want to write about, you should read my book Desco. No, this isn't a shameless plug to boost sales for I will gladly let you read Desco for free but I do that cringing since I don't think anyone who read it walked away feeling like a better person for it. But I suppose that is my point, the things that I write because I want to write them are essentially crap. The other things that I write, like this... I write because the Spirit tells me to. So, my bragging rights belong to God... He is the one who does the hard work. He just tells me what to share and when.

Whenever I am getting ready to head to the East coast, I always get a little anxious.
I think it is mostly because the old places tend to remind me of old behavior (in my case that is super selfishness along with drunkenness). As I prepared to travel home to Virginia for Christmas this year, I was reminded of one of my favorite verses from the Bible, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor” (Matthew 13:57). Jesus himself experienced what it was like to not be able to overcome what the people who think they know you will allow you to become. I am in no way comparing myself to Jesus or saying I am any type of prophet. I am just saying, it is comforting to know that Jesus knew what it felt like to go back home after miraculous things had begun within him. I can't say I blame my old friends or my family members for perhaps being annoyed by my “new life.” They have seen me at my worst so... how could I change so drastically? How could it possibly be real? Only God knows and thankfully, His opinion is the only one that matters! I rejoice in that.

There is some petty ugliness to this story, its called human nature.
But there is also some triumph... and that part is called God's nature. But let’s get on with it. We went to my parents’ church on Christmas Eve. I've been there a few times before but it isn't my church so it's not in my comfort zone. Here is a little known fact about me that might shock you who know me fairly well... I actually have a touch of social anxiety disorder so when I am out of my comfort zone I tend to get sweaty and uncomfortable. We got to church early but there were already a lot of people there. We picked a row and sat down. Because of my anxiety, I like to sit on the end of the row, that way there is a reduced chance of having to sit next to a stranger. There were 5 of us so we spread out and took up the whole row. In my head I sighed (phew... I don't have to sit with anyone I don't know and I can just spread out and be comfortable – ahhhh.” As the church filled up my conscience began to pick at me telling me that I was selfish for taking up the whole row when we could have easily slid down and made room for more people. My brain dismissed the thought quickly, determined to stay exactly where I was; fat, comfortable and selfish.

The next thing I knew I was standing up telling my parent to slide down.
I was picking up all our coats off the pew and placing them in a better place to make more room. That made room for one or two more people in the row, open right next to me. In my head I really didn't want to sit next to a stranger but I had made the change anyway. I don't know why or how it happened – my body just did it as if on autopilot.

On Christmas day, after all the presents were opened and it was time to get the food going, I had the thought of how nice it would be to just sit back and enjoy my new “stuff” while awaiting the grand feast.
I could sit back in a comfy cloud of laziness awaiting dinner to be served. That sounded way more fun than helping (also known as working) in the kitchen. My sister and mom were starting to get to work as this thought came to me, “they don't need me, they can do it themselves. I'll just be in the way.” The next thing I knew, again with the autopilot thing, I found myself standing in the kitchen asking my mom what I could do to help. I remember thinking, “What are you doing Wendy... you're going to ruin your own lazy fun.” I ended up helping/working a lot to get the Christmas meal on the table yet I still had time to play with my new stuff later.

Later in the evening, long after the food coma had passed, the kids were playing whiffle-ball in the backyard with my husband.
They were having a great time but I didn't join in, it was too cold for me! I remember thinking, they better clean up after themselves because I'm sure not gonna go out there and pick up all those balls, bats and plates. After my sister's family headed home for the night, I peaked outside. Guess what... the kids (I include my husband in that group) had not picked up their toys. All of it was strewn about the yard beginning to collect frost in the 31 degree night. I grinned internally with an evil laugh going, “he he he... I'm so glad I don't have to clean that up... it's cold out there!” A little while later I took my dog outside to “do her thing.” The next thing I knew... autopilot had taken over again and I was out there picking up after those darn kiddos. I had a smile on my face too.

It wasn't until the day after Christmas that these three things piled up together in my head and I realized I was actually making progress with my selfishness.
I have to be honest with you. Now that I am aware of my ability to fight selfishness and find success and now that I am aware that it is becoming more natural for me... there is this part of me that says, “Darn it!” Why you ask? Well, it's because now I know... I have no choice but to be more responsible for my own actions. It is my job, if you will, to try to continue to defeat my selfishness with even more intention. I must not rest on my laurels for a moment! I shall not stop to pat myself on the back (at least not for too long). You know what they say, if you're not moving forward you are moving backwards. Now that I know I can successfully fight my petty selfishness, I have a responsibility to keep it up. I reiterate “Darn it!” I have no excuse for laziness! Of course I know I will never be perfect and I will never defeat all my selfishness because I am human. But since the whole point of the Christian journey is to become more Christ like, I recognize that I can't just sit back and be satisfied with the progress I currently have made. I need always aspire to be more like Christ. I am overcome with a feeling of responsibility. At one point as I thought about this it actually felt like a burden. Quickly I was reminded of another one of my favorite verses. Jesus said, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). I have confirmation! My feelings are justified the burden is real... but if I let Jesus lead, if I stop kicking like a stubborn mule (I really wanted to use the word 'ass' here because that’s what I am a lot of the time), the burden becomes light. When I think of it that way and realize that Jesus is ready, able and willing to guide me through it, that burden miraculously becomes an honor. Today it is my honor to share this with you. I thank you Spirit for changing this 'donkey's behind' into a useful tool.

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