So, what am I, if all I do is spew “Christianese” and positive rhetoric – all while harboring bitterness toward my wife and enemies? I’m simply a big, fat, Christian facade!
The word of God is absolutely essential but, when it’s only a mummified auto-response to all of life’s problems, without follow-up actions, and similarly absent of love, then the real problem is me. At the end of the day, I’m realizing that my breakthroughs in life happen only while I’m in an authentic relationship with Jesus. Prayer. Talking to God. Listening to God.
Romans 5:5 talks about God’s love being poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who was given to us. In my greatest triumphs I proclaim that scripture to be infallibly true. Most days, I lose sight of its reality and end up wishing I could love so much more than I have chosen (thus far in my life). I’m realizing that one of the greatest keys to breakthrough in real relationships, in the real world, is by really (no, I mean really) praying, even when you’re really mad. That’s right… I’m suggesting that in the middle of your angriest moment – pray! Pray mad. Love hard even when you don’t feel like it.
The other night my wife, Molly, and I were involved in a rather passionate disagreement. It was like we were truly from two different planets trying to talk about this particular issue. In the peak of my frustration, I raised my voice and dramatically asked, “What do you want from me?” With a seemingly heightened sense of awareness and maturity, she calmly said, “I want you to practice what you preach and I want you to love me and lead us in prayer.”
Whoa! Every ounce of my flesh despised her words but every molecule of my spirit knew she was completely correct. She needed me to take the lead and hold her hands and pray in the very middle of the muck and mire in which we found our conversation residing. My inner dialogue told me that she’s trying to manipulate me by “playing the religion card.” The only problem was that her request was so perfect I hated it. Why didn’t I think of it first?
I gritted my teeth as I nestled her hands in mine. I fought off angry thoughts as I reluctantly began my prayer. I told God I was frustrated and I needed his help to be long-suffering and loving. I asked God to help me see Molly how he does and to help us both forgive and love each other right now in this very moment. Even as I stubbornly clutched my anger and bitterness, I asked God to help me get rid of it and to help Molly do the same. Then, we both heard a voice from the clouds.
Just kidding! Actually, we didn’t hear anything. We said, “Amen,” then sat staring at each other.
Molly, in all her wisdom, then came up with a real doozy of an idea. She said something that initially seemed beyond ridiculous. She said, “Why don’t you rub my feet a little bit, they really hurt.” My first thought was, “Hey lady, we were just in an argument.” Then, I remembered the verse I have quoted so many times to other couples: love covers a multitude of sins. As I started rubbing her feet, I was tempted to give her little toe an extra hard pinch for good measure, but I didn’t. We were soon seeing each other’s perspective and unity and intimacy was re-established.
What I found was that the prayer, coupled with acting in love, helped my mind and emotions catch up. Not because it’s a proven generic formula for success, but rather because we serve a living God who is real, and whose love resides in and through us… which is more powerful than a mighty river flowing!
Now, I don’t think foot massages are the key to resolving every sticky situation (although I know many might disagree), but I do believe love and kindness is the key. It seems to me that the greatest opportunity for breakthrough in regards to Godly love, grace and forgiveness, is to experiment with it in the midst of frustration, anger and bitterness. The only problem is that it’s really challenging to do it. And because this is the spiritual section of my writing, I’m tempted to include dozens of scriptures and build commentary to them to prove my point. This would be fine and acceptable.
The only thing is: What God is laying on my heart is to tell you to apply his love in the real world, in your real relationships and of which you’ve been reading about in your Bible for a really long time. I need to love even when it’s the last thing I FEEL like doing. I need to forgive when the other person definitely doesn’t “deserve” it. I need to think about others when my brain is screaming, “What about me!?” One problem with this is that apart from God these tasks are impossible.
Now, to my main point – an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus is crucial, otherwise I’m totally toast when it comes to being an authentic example of God’s love. What does that mean, you ask?
Nothing too complicated, nor perfect in any way. You see, it’s simply and sincerely talking to my Savior, Lord, father and friend. Then, being still and listening. Not rocket science. Just relationship.
Experiment with this today: next time you’re frustrated, angry or sad, don’t delay or wait for your feelings to feel like praying. Don’t pause for your emotions to stabilize. Force your actions to determine your thoughts by praying in the middle of the muck. Next time you find yourself in the middle of a disagreement with a loved one stop, drop it and pray. Pray mad! Love mad! The point is that you are opening the gateway for God’s love to flow like a river, in the situation and in the hearts of you and the other person. Ultimately, you may very well get in touch with the fact that God empowers us to love, forgive and bless others, more than you ever thought possible.