Courage Required!

I struggle all the time with my actions — or lack thereof. I don’t act because I want to do things right the first time. I don’t like do-overs. I don’t like failure. I don’t like missteps or re-directions. Straight lines. Absolutes. Definitive yes’s. Resolute no’s. Black. White. Those make me happy. (When they’re in my favor.)

But life isn’t lived that way. We are fallible beings incapable of doing anything worth doing or tackling any challenge worth the effort with the assurance of doing it right the first time. The only way we can assuredly do anything right from the beginning is if we’ve previously completed the equivalent task so that the decisions required aren’t decisions any more but reactions. The only way we are assured success is if nothing new is thrown before us. No fast balls. No jabs. No stumbling blocks thrown our way which essentially means that all variations have been removed. No room for color.

How dull.

Therefore, perfection without challenge, life without mistakes, attempts without failure cannot be the attributes of a life well-lived. Rather, they are the tell-tale signs of a life merely existing. Yikes.  So my paradigm needs to shift. My failures must be embraced as my teachers. My misdirection as gifts. My failed attempts simply guideposts to myself and others – markers more clearly defining the path when we try again.

As a child of God I am called to live, take chances, demonstrate courage, and FAIL. For it is in the failure where I am teachable. It is in the missteps where I must rely on Him. It is in the  do-overs where my heart and head are more able to accept the redirection He requires in my life. I am ordered to speak truth, to love deeply, and to stand resolute in His promises. The promises He has granted both by His mercy and through my obedience. My obedience is my job. Honesty is my job. Planting my feet in His will by daily reading His word, the Bible.  Those are my responsibilities.

Therefore, it only stands to reason that my success or failure is not measured by how I perform any other task but those. It is not in how my words are received. It is not in how my actions are interpreted. My failure and success is measured by my obedience to God. It is in Him that I find success. It is in Him where my reward lies. From Him is where I should be seeking my “atta-girls” and “well dones”. Not this world. Not from the jaded and one-sided perspective I’m allowed  to see. I don’t know what He is using (or not using) in the lives of others. I don’t know what actions and words of mine intimately touch others. I don’t know what the Holy Spirit will use to convict or bless others because what has meaning to me may be noise to others. So it is in Him alone where I must seek assurance and turn for direction. And because of that, I am free to live a courageous life. My calling is sure. My tasks simple. Obey, Love, Read Daily, Live out-loud.

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Cobwebs and Dust Bunnies

Proverbs 13:10. Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.

Pride. Why is it always pride? I rest assured that I am not alone in this struggle or there wouldn’t be so many warnings, calls, and heeds to stand on guard against it. But it can be such an elusive and sneaky problem, can’t it?

Case in point, not too terribly long ago I found myself in the grips of its nasty hold. I didn’t realize it in the heat of the argument. I just wanted to be heard. Isn’t that what we all want? I wanted my heart to be understood.What’s wrong with that?  (The series of “I’s” in all these statements would have been a great clue, in retrospect.) I wanted my reasoned and correct point heard for what I had convinced myself would be “just once!”. Truth be known, I’m probably heard more often than I deserve. What’s even more alarming is what is heard — the wellspring of my heart — is probably the exact thing that is retained, which is far from a good thing. My well-springing heart is full of dirty water. Dirty because of that pride problem I have failed to address.

Which brings me to my illustration. As I was cleaning the house that following morning — really cleaning — corners, under beds, dust bunny removal, dead bug extractions, I sighed in exasperation. “How can this be? I keep a clean home. I clean my house every week and I manage clutter all week. How can two people and one small dog create such ick?” That’s when the Holy Spirit pricked me again. Oh. Just like the corners in my house that are so easy to overlook on a daily, weekly, even monthly basis, so are the corners of my heart. The corners where those little demons hide building, toiling, and gathering all the dead bugs, pieces of lint, and dust weaving them into a trap until finally they rear their ugliness –right in the middle of what could have been a productive and fruitful conversation. While wisdom would have taken the bits of truth and used them for good, pride reared its ugly head making a mockery of my carefully guarded thoughts and a sham of any self-respect I might have retained. And even worse, I ironed a wrinkle into a beautiful friendship.

My friend. My God-given voice of reason. My beautiful friend whom I have a tendency to compare myself to a little too much. While she and I are similar in many ways such as our desire to love the Lord and lead a life that glorifies Him, love our families and rear them to His making, conquer the world and be “successful”, we are very different in other ways. Our drive is similar, but our personalities are not. I envy her ability to persuade people, move mountains, and accomplish so much. I envy my perception that everyone listens to her and wants to be with her. That’s when that demon called jealousy enters and digs its foot into my heart. “You could be heard. Your ideas are good. Say them louder.” Or sometimes, it’s just the opposite. I don’t say them louder. Like Spiegel in The Lord of the Rings, I slink off to myself and give in to that recording in my head that tells me to simply withdraw, disengage, and become indifferent. I am useless when I am indifferent. I am a foul odor that invades every corner when I am indifferent. Shame on me.

Lord, as I vacuumed out the corners in my home today, please vacuum out the corners of my heart where these sinful demons lurk and lay wait for my times of weakness. Guard my thoughts, censor those that do not edify and bring glory to you. Speak wisdom through my actions and my speech, and create in me a clean heart that brings glory to you.