Friday, November 1, 2013

Who's in Charge, Anyway?

This year's apple harvest is outrageous! Branches--big ones, high ones--have broken and fallen. Across our state trees have crashed from the outside in. This fall, I set up scaffolding to reach what I couldn't otherwise and on a damp, foggy morning, tendrils of hair curled and fell, making it difficult to keep my balance in upper branches. After brushing them back multiple times, smearing dirt across my face, I realized 1) I could get frustrated with my stylist for cutting (or not cutting) my hair properly, factories that make insufficient hair tie-backs, etc. or 2) I could simply accept the fact that my hair doesn't stay put when wet and stop complaining. Who, after all, was standing on top of a scaffold picking apples in the rain? Get down already. Problem solved.

It's a benign example, but the issue arises every day: I can blame others or I can accept all things as coming from the hand of God. Our Sunday school class is reading the book of Job and what stood out to me this week are the things Job did not say and do. Job did not blame, curse or mount a posse to go after the Sabeans who took his oxen or the Chaldeans who took the camels. He did not issue a lawsuit against the contractors who built his son's house or file multiple insurance claims. He did not fire his cook, personal trainer or house servants who may have precipitated his failing health.

The very fact that Job "fell on the ground and worshiped," is strange to our man-centered ears. How could Job fall at the feet of God when there was so much to do, to regain, to reckon, and restore? When difficulty arises and my health or wealth is attacked, how quickly do I place the blame on someone I can see, hear and touch? Unlike Job, we are slow to turn to God, let alone worship, in the face of disaster.

I am learning to listen and compare my head's thoughts with the Word of God. To be man-centered is to views others as the problem, as creating the problem, as an obstacle or irritation. To be God-centered is to view God as the sovereign designer of the problem, His love as the motive moving me toward sanctification and Godliness (James 1:2-4). If I have a man-centered view, I must fix the problem. If I have a God-centered view, I must seek to change my heart (James 4:1-3). A man-centered view focuses on a solution. A God-centered view hones in on my desires, trusting God with the outcome (Psalm 37). A man-centered view is critical and judgmental of others. A God-centered view is loving and kind, patient and joyful (Galatians 5:22-23).

When I choose to think about situations as coming from God instead of others, I find great joy and peace. I also find that poor choices result in bad results and certain behaviors need to stop (like picking apples on slippery metal in the rain). Some things are what they are: my body type, the neighbors next door, the job that got away, the line at the checkout counter. It is not my job to fix or change or solve what God has placed in my path. It is my job to ask God for help to  see the situation or person or problem the way He does, repent if I need a change of heart, deal with my end of it and move on. When that is the case I am free from bitterness, anger, malice, slander, clamor, unforgiveness (Ephesians 4:31). Doesn't that describe the life of Job? When God took all that was good and left Job's wife--even that proved a trial--he kept his heart and mind at the feet of God.

May we learn and be blessed as we make Christ the center of our lives.

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

"Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." (Ephesians 6:10-20)

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