This is a big day for Jack and me. Most Thursdays are big for us because we host a Bible study in our home on Thursday evenings. I have the privilege of actually teaching God’s Word and the exhilaration of crafting and combining the words and gestures that will help someone see what God has been teaching me. Jack, the Bible study dog, especially enjoys the fellowship time and the opportunity to play with the people and untie their shoe laces. He also has culinary interests: last week he stole my pizza. Sometimes Jack will sleep in someone’s lap while we are studying our text.
On a day like this, I am determined to spend the day in joy and praise and in preparation for tonight. Right now I’m listening to the new Jesus Culture album, “Unstoppable Love”, to help me keep going and finish this post. Jack has dragged one of his beds into my office so that he can lay down nearby me whenever he can’t tempt me to play with him. Except that right now he is barking his big, deep, deafening bark. He has other vocalizations: the howl for social misery, the whine for impatience, the normal bark for an alert. But this bark means: “There are Vikings coming up the walkway carrying spears and swords”. I just went to look out the door. Nothing, nada, zero, zippo. Maybe Jack has a screw loose and is responding to his own ‘issues’.
I pray to God every morning that I may believe, understand and obey his Word, especially as he speaks to me through the Bible, but also through the books, magazines, music and people in my life. Then I pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to be a blessing to everyone that I meet. I try to speak the names of people I am likely to meet this day. I pray also that God will cause me to understand better who he is and to understand better who he is calling me to be and what he is calling me to do. Finally, I pray that he will make me winsome and attractive for the sake of his Kingdom. This last prayer means that I will not worry about how I appear to people today because I assume that God has answered this prayer. Therefore, I know that, at least today, I’m awesome and people are seeing Jesus through me. There’s no reason to be overly self-conscious. Am I ready now to start the day? Check.
Nonetheless, like Jack, I have a screw loose and have issues. Sometimes in the evening, in fact the last three evenings, some word or action by another is the occasion for me to feel hurt over something that I even know at the time is ridiculously small, unimportant. Somehow, I feel undervalued or that decisions about my life are being taken out of my hands (hey, these are my issues!). Full disclosure: sometimes I weep or almost weep. However, I try to avoid what C.S. Lewis often called “the tyranny of the sensitive” (he had many opportunities to observe this in his domestic arrangements). The tyranny of the sensitive is seen when someone has cultivated a reputation for being “sensitive” so that everyone around must ‘walk on eggshells’ for fear of causing pain. The ‘sensitive’ one can then shut down any discussion or activity that is not welcome. Now everyone knows what the ‘sensitive’ one is doing, but they have grown weary of dealing with the drama or “martyr complex”, and so the ‘sensitive’ one repeatedly, and unfairly it is felt, gets her or his own way. Hence, the tyranny. Like I said, I try to avoid doing this and I think I have succeeded mostly. But the last few nights, I got darn close to it. Did I tell you I have a screw loose?
I remember Kim Walker-Smith (Jesus Culture) talking about living with an unoffended (my spell check doesn’t like this, but it should be a word) heart toward God. She is saying one can focus on the ‘why’ questions or the “Why me?” question or one can focus on pressing in to God’s presence. And I would add that God’s presence really is the answer to the why questions (see the Book of Job). I aim, at my best, to live with an unoffended heart toward God and an unoffended heart toward people. My Dad would express this, thinking of 1 John (which, by the way, we are studying tonight), as “roof off and walls down”. In 2003, during a protracted illness I learned something like this. See my older post: “Thick Skin and Tender Hearts”. Maybe you should do it now, before you forget. I’ll still be here when you get back.
We live amidst huge spiritual realities and God’s promises to enable us to live whole and holy lives are true and effective. I know frequent joy and sometimes ecstasy and a sense that Jesus is still teaching me how to live. His “burden” is still “light” and his “yoke” is still “easy”. There is no better way to live. And the abundant life that Jesus promised is a reality that we live in. And yet, the smallest things can trip us up. I used to say to a friend something like this: “Yes, they are out to get you and they feel threatened by your vision and energy and I will continue to speak to them about their wrong attitudes. However, you know you have a screw loose! You need to lean against over-sensitivity.” And then we would laugh because everyone has a screw loose. Wait! I hear a rattle. Is that you or me?