Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Painful Truth

We had the privilege of eating at a Brazilian steakhouse with family this week.  As nearly twenty of us spread out around the table, my husband and I found ourselves in the midst of children.  To my right and across the table sat at least four ten-year-oldish children.  Rounds and rounds of meat on a skewer travelled past our table.  Responding to hunger, curiosity, and physical appeal, the wait staff stopped and cut off generous portions of each new offering.
After a generous dessert, we realized our nephew was now reclining on his mother's lap, stomach distended, tears in his eyes.  She gently massaged his discomforted belly and whispered quietly in his ear.
"Why is everyone laughing?"  he asked. 
"Because we've all done exactly the same thing," she answered.
The next morning my parents and I were discussing spiritual matters and I was reminded of the book, "The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness," and Timothy Keller's comparison of our sensitive egos to an extended organ.  The more immediate and painful our reaction to criticism or assistance, the more over-extended our ego.  If my opinion of myself is too high, I will respond with anger and defensiveness.  If my opinion of myself is accurate, I will respond with humility and gratitude for another's investment in my life.
Even as I read from the book of Isaiah this morning, I was reminded of the importance of truth and honesty and the fact that it must start here, with myself.  Until I can openly and honestly own up to my own mistakes, shortcomings and failures, I am in no condition to regard the world around me.  This is why the Word of God is so important.  Apart from the anchor of God's unchangeable, timeless, life-giving Word and way, I will wander and swagger through life, lost.  But as I take time to listen, to reconsider, to submit myself to His Person and Way, my compass is reset and my feet fall on solid ground.

"Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,

And princes will rule with justice...
The foolish person will no longer be called generous,
Nor the miser said to be bountiful;
For the foolish person will speak foolishness,
And his heart will work iniquity:
To practice ungodliness,
To utter error against the Lord,
To keep the hungry unsatisfied,
And he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail.
Also the schemes of the schemer are evil;
He devises wicked plans
To destroy the poor with lying words,
Even when the needy speaks justice.

But a generous man devises generous things,
And by generosity he shall stand.
Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
And righteousness remain in the fruitful field....
The work of righteousness will be peace,
And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.
My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation,
In secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places,
Though hail comes down on the forest,
And the city is brought low in humiliation....

Blessed are you who sow beside all waters,
Who send out freely the feet of the ox and the donkey." (excerpts from Isaiah 32)

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