Monday, August 24, 2009

Newsflash: Real Christian Living Is Not for Wimps

I don't know about anyone else, but for me, the practical, daily, working out of living a Christian life that is God-honoring, looks absolutely nothing like the lovely, serene graphic you might see on the cover of one the best-selling Christian books at your local Christian bookstore. No, for me it looks a lot more like a child's black crayon scribbles all over a page, with a bright yellow sun in the top corner, smiling at you. Extremely messy, often rather hard to define... with a daily dose of comforting Light.

Every day (and often several times a day) I have to mentally stop and pray "Lord, please shut my mouth and turn my thoughts the right way. Lord, please don't let me feel so eager to verbally rip this person into a million pieces, and please help me to remember to act in grace and mercy even when my flesh feels like slapping someone across the face". Maybe the prayers don't sound exactly like that, but they are close. Very close.

Each and every day something comes up that is a challenge for me to respond to in a Christlike way. Maybe someone said something extremely rude or insulting to me - in that case the prayer is for me not to respond in kind, but to respond with grace. Maybe the kids are feeling rebellious and don't do as they're told - in that case the prayer is to speak calmly and firmly to them without losing my temper. Maybe I see a news story on tv about another heinous crime against a child that stirs up genuine rage in me. In that case I have to check my emotional reaction and temper it with as much grace and wisdom on my thoughts and words, as possible. All through the day, there are challenges and opportunities for me to grow in my sanctification. Some days are better than others, and on the days that in my own mind a complete and dismal failure, there are definitely more prayers.

In my case, I didn't come to know the Lord and His grace until well into my adult life. I'd already well-developed a pattern of worldly living, which includes worldly thinking, worldly language, worldly reactions, and every other kind of worldly thing you can think of. No, I wasn't a serial killer or a bank robber or drug addict, but I was sinner living in sin and there was much to unlearn, once the Lord got ahold of my heart. It's only been 15 years but the unlearning and the growing in grace is still just as critical today as it was on day one of my conversion.

One of the biggest challenges for me personally, is to let go of the verbal slamfests I used to be so good at. I do not say this to boast, but the truth of the matter is, I was quite the smart-mouth and quite capable of some pretty cutting, underhanded cruel comebacks, if I felt the situation required it. I clearly remember the first time I was in a situation like this after conversion to Christ and thinking to myself "wow, I can't do that anymore". I literally had to learn a new language, a new way of thinking and a new way of reacting. Let me tell you, it's NOT easy to undo 30 years of verbal blasting, and suddenly and calmly respond with grace and compassion. No, it is not easy at all and I cannot do it without God's grace. Sometimes still to this day I don't even want to do it (that's the flesh talking) and have to literally pray "Lord please shut me up, kill me now, or cause an explosion or some other awesome distraction so I don't say the worst thing I can think of right now". Thankfully, He is gracious to generally just shut me up.

Part of the reason I wanted to write about this today is because very recently I had the opportunity to be tested again in this way. All that day and evening I mulled over what I really wanted to say, how I really wanted to say it, and the honest motivations I had for wanting to say these things. I don't believe in candy-coating the truth, but I do believe that measuring out our words with grace and truth is what we are called to do. Truth I can do pretty good, but it's the grace part that I need monumental help with, most of the time.

See, it's not grace when you say "stop being such an arrogant, self-important, intellectual snob and listen to what I'm really saying". It is however grace and truth to say "I'm frustrated because I don't think you're hearing me, let's try this again and I'll try better to clarify what I mean". It's easier to say it the first way, but it's Christlike to say it the second way. This is the area I absolutely and completely must depend on God's grace for, because without it I will say things the easy way, every time. It takes far more work and effort to stop myself and depend on God's grace, to do things the right way.

The other part of the reason I wanted to write about this, is because if this blog ever does anything good in anyone's life, I hope it's to serve to be honest and upfront about what living a Christian life really looks like. Some Christian bloggers never get personal or share anything about their own personal struggles with the flesh, and thats fine. We're all called to serve in lots of different ways and what other bloggers do is very beneficial in other ways. As for me, I want people to know that living for the Lord is REAL work. You don't wake up one day a believer and skip through fields of daisies for the rest of your life. No, you wake up after conversion and you realize you are a rotten sinner saved by grace and you have multiple opportunities all day long in front of you to react and speak and think in ways that will bring glory to God. Some days you will fail. Some days you will fail a lot. Some days you will be lifted up with His mercy and you WILL weep at that great mercy He's showing you and continues to show you every single moment of every single day - knowing full well you do not deserve it.

Living the Christian life is not for wimps. Thankfully, for those times when we do wimp out and take the easy road, He's still right there to convict us of it, and continue to turn us back to the straight and narrow path. We are His workmanship, and He will continue the work in us He started. There is great comfort in those truths, especially on the days you mess up a lot.

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