Paul gets pretty down and dirty with his letters to the churches…. Honesty and truth can be difficult to hear.
“(3b) Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. (16) Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! (19) Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD.” ” – Romans 12:3b,16,19 NLT
I’ve studied these verses before, but they are never easy to read when I consider how I have lived most of my life. Being the third child, I struggled with following a “perfect” older sister who did everything right (my perception – sorry, Lu!), and an older brother. Instead of being obedient and compliant, he rebelled, leaving me in a limbo of achievement (to gain approval) and rebellion, because I wanted to be accepted by him, too. It’s a weird place to be. Now, I realize that my sister had more expectations to live with as the oldest sibling than we did, but we couldn’t see it while growing up. Then to that, add the perceptions and expectations that were added on to us since we were the “pk’s” (preacher’s kids). A lot of those pressures came from outside the family, both in the church and the community.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not making excuses or placing blame. My parents did the best they could, and we always knew we were loved. Despite their best efforts, I – as well as several of my siblings – responded very differently than was expected. Rebellion became a big part of my life once I left home for college. A good Christian girl goes off to a respected Christian college (hmm, could be the title for a book!) and was immersed in a society that this small town, naive girl had never really imagined. Something like going in the deep end before you learn to swim! It didn’t take long for the seduction and temptations of the the enemy swept me into the rapids of life where I was rather quickly caught up, spun out of control, and unable to escape.
It’s human nature to try to control our situations and surroundings. When our lives spin out of control, oftentimes we react by focusing, almost with tunnel vision, on the things we do have power over. I couldn’t be honest with myself or my family, because to do so would shed light on things in my life that I couldn’t stand to see. My self worth had already been beaten up pretty well by my brother. According to him, I was ugly and stupid…. and regardless of how many times I was told the opposite by others, his comments hit me the hardest. How did I cope? Attitude, baby, pretentious attitude! I quickly discovered that men wanted me. Not only any permanent basis, but they could make me feel beautiful and desirable for a few minutes. I took advantage of this, and married the first one that asked… and egotistical, completely self-absorbed misogynist. I lost the little bit of myself that was left under his “reign.” After years of his abuse, I managed to get away, where I took on the attitudes he taught me. My hard protective shell was one of being better than others. I discovered that if I acted as though I knew the answers, people believed me. I was a snob, a know-it-all, and quick to plot revenge on anyone who did me wrong – real or perceived.
In short, I was miserable, so I maintained a near constant “party” so I didn’t have to feel. I married my best friend, a good man who actually treated me well, and lost him because of my attitudes and inability to believe he could truly love me. It was messed up. Sadly, after that I spiraled deeper. I was mad at God for allowing all of the abuse and garbage into my life, and determined to lay ALL the blame on Him. To prove it, I looked for another man to save me. I found another one who loved me and married me, and we continued to party together. Long story…..
Eventually, after losing him to drug addiction and death, I set out to rescue lost souls, because you know I was so healthy myself. It took two more abusive husbands to get it. Humility can be a harsh lesson to learn. As I slowly began to learn it (progress, not perfection), I also realized that over all those years of searching for Mr. Right, He was standing right next to me! Jesus provides me with all that I need. He doesn’t denigrate me or abuse me. He loves me as I am, uncompromising and unconditionally. That’s AMAZING!! Not only did Paul point out the attitudes we don’t need to carry as Christians, but John says it perfectly for me:
“Such Love has no fear, because Perfect Love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His Perfect Love.” – 1 John 4:18 NLT
I spent years in fear, hiding behind ego and perfectionism and plotting revenge. I hurt others, and I especially hurt myself. We create these prisons in our hearts for other people, but the truth is that we are locking ourselves up instead. As Peter says “You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.” – 1 Peter 4:3 NLT
Jesus made sure that we will never be alone if we accept His gift of eternal life. He has sent the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be with us as a constant. We are never alone. Jesus said: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, Who will NEVER leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it isn’t looking for Him and doesn’t recognize Him. But you know Him, because He lives with you now and later will be in you.” – John 14:16-17 NLT
The Advocate lives with me. Thank You, Jesus!
(All scriptures quoted from http://bible.com )