The fundamental question I always return to is, why. Why do I do what I do? This is the question that helps expose what is really in my heart, if I am willing to take an honest look inside and answer truthfully. When I look at Jesus and ask why he did things, I conclude that if I could be like this man I would love who I am and in turn I would love others around me better.
Asking why exposes my motives. What do I really want for myself, others, and the relationships in my life? It exposes when my goals and actions don’t align. Jesus asked why.
John 1:38 “What are you seeking?”
Pv 16:2 “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD”
I always underestimate the effect the holidays have on me, and the depth of loneliness I can feel during these times. During this season in particular it is easy for me to get busy instead of getting real. It is also easy for me to make self-centered decisions, seek more attention or validation from the wrong things and people without asking why.
Jonah 2:8 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.”
When I don’t feel God’s love it’s not because He is withholding, it is I that have turned away from Him. When I turn from God’s love my why changes. For example, I don’t want to be alone. I want to feel loved. When I look at others with their families around the holidays, I want the feelings of shame, rejection or loss of what I did not have as a child to go away. I lose sight of who God always is and what he has redeemed me from, how he has healed, all he has given graciously and how he has protected me. Instead I focus on what I want in a given moment.
I want to lie to myself, and others, and simply say, “ I overcame, I’m fine. I have people who love me now and that is all that matters.” However, both sets of statements are true: What I have and what I did not have growing up produce different sets of emotions in me and I have the opportunity to address and embrace them all, including those emotions I would rather numb out. These emotions do not give me an excuse to make selfish choices.
Is30:20-23 “Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. Then you will destroy all your silver idols and your preciouses gold images. You will throw them out like filthy rags, […] Then the Lord will bless you with rain at planting times.”
When I feel pain or shame it is a lot easier for me to compromise my integrity. I start becoming more self-reliant and make choices in a vacuum. I don’t think about how my decisions may affect other people because the focus is set on me, me not feeling what I feel. I stop asking for input from trusted friends and mentors, people who can question my why. I lose sight of gratitude. My actions expose my rebellion against God. I’m not getting what I want so instead of leaning into Him and trusting who I know Him to always be, I start fighting him for control. I allow my emotions to guide me and my pride to blind me.
Pv19:3 “People ruin their lives with the foolish things they do, and then they blame the Lord for it.”
Pv23:4 “Do not wear yourselves out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.”
When I return to the heart of Christ, in each interaction he has in the New Testament, I can see why he does what he does. He calls me to search my heart but he also provides me with His example to follow. I can shift my trust from myself back to Him. I can ask, “How did his actions affect the person or people he interacted with?” “Why did he do what he did?” I stop and ask how I want to be like him because if I could be like this man I would love who I am. My actions become rooted in His love for me again and He heals me from my shame and pain. His decisions leave no regret, no shame, they are not always comfortable or easy but what they produce is always so worth it.
2017 was a year of grace. Learning to truly understand and accept God’s loving grace for me, and the much harder lesson, of not hoarding this grace for myself but extending it to others. 2018 is the year of private integrity. What choices will I make when no one is watching? Will I choose humility and pause long enough to ask, Why, so I can chose His way and his Why over my own more often? My roommate gave me a wonderful Christmas present that summed it up perfectly. It simply sates: God is greater than the highs and lows. When I choose to believe that, I choose to let my why’s align with Christ’s.
Zeph3:17 “The Lord your God is with you. He is like a powerful soldier. He will save you. He will show how much he loves you …”
1Peter 1:18-19 “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the preciouses blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”