The Gift of Humiliation?

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“I have prayed for years for one good humiliation a day, and then I must watch my reaction to it.”  Father Richard Rohr

That line bites!  Asking God?  for humiliation?  daily?  How is that wise or even safe?

But what if….

  • my justification for how I act/think needs correcting?
  • I think too highly of myself in some area(s)?
  • the only way God can get my attention is if someone I HAVE to heed points out a mistake, a failing, some negligence in duty, a SIN, a way I’ve hurt him?

The recent painful conversation with my boss three weeks ago certainly has given me much about which to think, pray and discuss with a few friends and family.  And I’ve sought God’s counsel through what He daily reveals in reading and chewing on His Word.

Last Monday, a parent of a former student dropped off some French newspapers she had collected for me in July on her and her daughter’s inaugural trip to Paris.  She had ‘re-discovered them in a corner’ and was just now, in December, bringing them by my classroom.  She included a long, handwritten letter where she detailed all the ways I had supported and counseled and guided her daughter during the 3 years I had her as an advisee and French student.  The timing could not have been better.  I saw that in this very school where I’ve encountered so much painful indirect criticism and chastisement (parent to principal to me)  I AM making a difference in some lives.  Maybe not with the particular student whose parent said I wasn’t supporting to her daughter’s satisfaction, but with others.  Thank you, Father!

Furthermore, my desire to improve how I teach French lives on.

So this morning I thought – What if…this BIG and PAINFUL thing is NOT meant by God as an indication that I should leave my current school but is actually just one of His good gifts of correction, designed to make me more like one of Jesus’ little sisters whom He is molding through many trials?

I’m not the only one suffering through a hardship.  Many brothers and sisters currently or soon will face the challenge of discerning God’s will.  These weighty decisions feel like a foggy business, with no clear step-by-step process to follow.  Some of you are grappling with decisions about business direction, moving house, changing jobs, whether to say something important to a loved one, what to do about aging parents, health treatments or any number of other issues.

I heard or read, and it resonates as so true that:  MORE important than knowing the right decision IS knowing the right person – the One, True God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Christ and giver of His divine Spirit.  This triune God IS the One who continuously shows steadfast love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness because that is who HE is!

So, do I dare pray Richard Rohr’s outrageous request and look for the humiliation vitamin to heal and strengthen me? (and you and I thought to pray for patience was a dangerous business!)  Well, if we believe God’s Word that the more we grow in holiness, the more we see Him and the more joyful we become, then why not?

Let’s look to God for a reassuring word from Deuteronomy 31:8:

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

How do Christians make decisions?

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Do Christians make decisions differently than non-Christians?

I ask because I think that all of us, pagans and Christians alike, want to make good decisions and have peace.

It seems to me that within the Christian community, there are two approaches.  I have tried both and am now a practitioner of the 2nd kind.

The first decision-crisis I ever lived through was when our oldest son, a new Christian, was faced with a significant intersection in his life.  He was a freshman in college and had applied to a different one for his sophomore year.  When he was accepted in January, he faced a difficult choice.  And as a baby believer, he wanted to trust God.  He explicitly announced that he was going to wait on God to give him an answer.  That got ME worried!

  • what if God didn’t answer him; how would he decide?
  • what would an answer even look like?
  • how might a lack of response impact his fledgling faith?

Graham, himself, didn’t know what to expect, but he plunged ahead with this ‘experiment’ in what he thought was biblical decision-making.  He vacillated for about 2 weeks and finally got mad at God. Then God graciously gave him a consistent FEELING of rightness about staying at the current college and NOT transferring.  After living with the FEELING that staying was the right choice, Graham declined the offer from the other college.

I, too, had a feeling-based decision-making experience.  I decided I wanted to leave a current job.  But on the assumption that I should wait for a sign from God, I did nothing but pray.  What would a sign from God look like?  That was the scary part!  Would I even recognize God’s prompting?

Graciously, God indulged my immature view and gave me a feeling of, “I’ve had it!” at the current school. With my husband’s approval, I told my supervisor that I would not seek a contract for the following year. My Christian friends supported this decision-making method by quoting me the verse from Colossians 3:15…Let the peace of God rule or umpire in your hearts.

It seems like Christians live by feelings and not by faith.  And I was one of them.  But reading Kevin DeYoung’s book, Just Do Something,

on decision-making started to change how I make decisions.     Link to Amazon

His premise is that as we soak in God’s principles from the Bible, we gain wisdom.  And God actually wants us to put that wisdom to use.  We are to grow up as we practice walking by faith in Him and not by sight. If we wait on a sign from Him, then we risk nothing.   But if we make a decision, having prayed and sought counsel, then our acting IS a step of faith. And God promises to guide our ‘ship in motion’ if we head in the wrong direction.

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord guides his steps. Prov 16:9

Elizabeth Elliott, a godly and mature older Christian, addresses that perennial topic: How do we know God’s will for our life.  Like Kevin DeYoung, she also counsels wise action when she says, DO THE NEXT THING.

Actually God’s will for our life really isn’t about whom we should marry or which job to take.  It’s our growing up in godliness that He’s after.  At some point, the training wheels come off and we walk on our own.  (But Abba-Papa is always near)

Next week, God-willing,  I ‘ll talk about our experiment with the ‘step out in faith’  type of decision-making.  In the mean time, I’d love to hear about YOUR experiences in dealing with decisions as you have grown in Christ.

And they named him Noah. Lessons about our ancestor.

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Now he (Noah’s dad Lamech) called his name Noah, saying, “This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the LORD has cursed.”  Gen 5:29

Our grandson Noah is due in a few weeks.  Providentially my daily bible reading has brought me back to the beginning, so that I am in Genesis these days.  It goes without saying: I have been keenly interested in the account of Noah.

We are introduced to him in the preparations Dad Lamech makes for his birth. The prophetic words recorded in verse 29 above are so full of hope.  We hear joy over the impending birth of this son.   There is no fear that he will turn out ‘wrong’.  There is a confidence that can come only from a father who knows God.  Lamech the Godly as I will call him (the other, Lamech the Vain and Violent, described in Chapter 4 is a descendant of Cain) knows his family origins.  He understands his original grandparents’ sin.  He acknowledges their punishment that has been passed down to all generations of mankind.  He does not sulk or complain or criticize God.  He realistically acknowledges how difficult working the land has become.  And he dreams of better days brought on by this son of his.

The power of a godly father is unparalleled.  A few verses later, in Chapter 6, we learn how wicked men and women have become.  But Noah, son of a father who has taught him properly to fear the Lord, finds favor in God’s sight.  In fact ONLY Noah is considered righteous enough to be saved as a blood line.  His brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews will perish in the flood.

What makes Noah a standout?  He obeys God’s commands when given, he uses common sense when appropriate and he waits for further instruction when the situation is beyond him.

In Genesis 6:14, God starts to give specific guidance about what to do.  Noah does not question God, but sets to carrying out the construction of the ark.  And he completes the task. In Genesis 6:22, we read, Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.

I put myself in Mrs. Noah’s shoes.  My questions would have been the following:

  • How will we get the animals to come on board?
  • What about all the bodily wastes (ours and the animals)?  Do we have to haul them up to our floor and get rid of them out the window?
  • How will we feed the animals?
  • If there is only one window, we’re going to want it for our family.  And if there are 3 stories, then that means the animals will be in the dark.  Will they panic and fight each other?  Will they hibernate?   Will the ark be big enough if they start multiplying?
  • How long will we have to be in the ark?
  • What clothes, tools and supplies should we bring?
  • What about my prized heirlooms from Great-Grandma Eve?
  • Where will we land?
  • What are we going to do all day long and all night?
  • What will happen to us afterwards?

I can imagine Noah saying to his wife, sons and daughters-in-law, “Don’t worry, the Lord will guide us in all these areas.  Hasn’t he instructed us up until now? ”

When the rains do stop, we read how Noah’s common sense kicks in.  He thinks to send out first a raven and then a dove.  But he doesn’t open the door until God tells him.  Noah seems to exercise that perfect balance of waiting, acting, obeying.

The ‘take-aways’ for me in this chronicle of our ancestor Noah are in the area of decision making and parenting. God obviously trusts us to learn how to rely on him for what is beyond us and to do for ourselves what is within reach.  This lesson is important to me, for I know that I tend to fret over / angst about/ project scenarios that never come about.  I have to continuously remind myself that God is creative and capable.  After all, he did create the whole universe.  I can trust Him to provide.  I’m sure that most of what Mrs. Noah worried about never happened.

Finally, parenting has eternal consequences.  The power of godly parents can change the course of history.  Lamech and his wife taught Noah well.  Yet, I have to assume, if they taught Noah, they also taught all their children.  However, only oldest child Noah survived the deluge.  We parents are limited.  Children are accountable to God themselves and do make wrong choices for which they suffer consequences.  We do the best we can, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  The final outcome is in God’s hands.

Noah will soon join his cousin Chloe, God willing.  I pray every day for these two children that God will, “Satisfy (them) in the morning with (his) unfailing love, that (they) may sing for joy and be glad all their days.” Psalm 90:14.   I want them to thirst and hunger for God early on to such a degree, that only God satisfies.  Furthermore, I pray that their being filled up with the joy of the Lord will spill over onto all whom they meet.

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