A Ridiculous Choice
Updated: Jan 25, 2021
I had a busy weekend (what else is new?) and not enough time to write on my originally planned topic, so here's a short little post about a thought I had that I thought was worth sharing.
It starts with a weird little fun fact about me. When I was in high school, we were often asked to write papers in English class, and some of the time, I would write my papers by hand. I've always enjoyed penmanship and it didn't bother me that I had to fill up two or three pages with words. I've always told people I have borderline OCD and I think that this little anecdote is good evidence of that because I'm sad to say that if I happened to be writing in un-erasable pen and if I happened to misspell a word even once, I would willingly choose to misspell the word for the whole rest of the paper in the interest of consistency. My second motivation was neatness, because I didn't want to blot out the word and rewrite it. My brain would rather the word be misspelled the entire paper but be spelled the SAME way than that I have it misspelled once and then spelled correctly for the rest of the paper. My love for aesthetic would rather have the paper look pretty than have crossed out words/rewritten words and be correct. And of course, a whole page in, it was too late to restart the whole paper, ya know?
Sounds crazy, right? Welcome to my brain. I don't know what reminded me of this and for those worried for me, I think I've come a long way with managing my OCD tendencies (kind of!). BUTTT this story brings to mind something I've seen very sane people, without OCD tendencies do in real life and I'm sorry to say guys, but it's as crazy a choice as intentionally misspelling a word for an entire English paper.
Sometimes, you've been sinning in one area your whole life, and you don't know it. This is true for everyone. There are things that we are blind to doing, ways we naturally sin in and don't even notice. However, life has a way of bringing those things to light. Very slowly, we start to become aware that something isn't right. The way I've been reacting to when my husband fails at something, for example. He failed to take out the garbage...again. He failed to say goodnight and kiss me sweetly and instead just knocked out and took up half the bed. He failed to tell me that I look nice Sunday morning. He failed to remember what I told him about crass jokes and kept cracking them with our friends. He failed to honor our agreed-upon rules of video game time. I've always felt justified in sharply criticizing him and giving him a good dressing down. After all, he's wrong and I'm the hurt and angry one being sinned against.
But as time goes on, the Holy Spirit works in my heart, and the Word of God becomes more clear to me, it starts to dawn on me that maybe it's not just his fault. Maybe I've been wrong about how right I am to react the way I do. Maybe I'm not actually allowed to be so judgmental of his mistakes. Maybe I'm not actually the one in charge of correcting him. Maybe I'm not called to fight for myself when my rights are transgressed upon.
I'm giving this scenario as an example, but the sin can be all kinds of different things. I'm just trying to refer to a sin you have been completely unaware of, maybe even felt justified in, but is slowly evidencing itself more and more as a problem. It is dawning on you. You are waking up to it, coming to awareness of it.
At this point, I believe we all have a choice, and often times we make the wrong one. When the Holy Spirit confronts us with conviction, it is our duty to respond to it. The right choice is to pursue the issue. How should a wife be responding when her husband fails or sins against her? What does the Bible have to say about this? I'm unclear about it, all of a sudden, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I have been reacting wrongly. It is my duty to find out, to clarify my thinking on the matter. If there is sin, to identify it, confess it, turn from it and change directions 180 degrees, 100 percent.
The wrong choice is to bury it down into the lower regions of our consciousness where it will continue to bother us for awhile, then stop bothering us altogether, and finally, we will return to the original, strong belief that our behavior is completely okay and justified. We have effectively "stifled the Holy Spirit" as 1 Thessalonians 5:19 states.
Why would we do such a thing? Of course, there can be a million and one sinful reasons, but the one I particularly want to address is in line with my little "misspelling" story. We can sometimes be led to stifle the Holy Spirit for the sake of consistency. Not, like in my case, OCD, but rather because of our pride. If I acknowledge that I've been reacting wrongly to my spouse, that makes me just as sinful as him. That removes me from my higher moral ground and puts me on the same lowly plane as him. I can't judge him anymore because I'm equally sinful. Not only that, but it undermines everything I've been doing up to this point. Instead of looking back at my life with comfortable equanimity (as I have been doing up to this point), I'm now troubled to see it riddled with scores of mistakes and actions damaging to my relationship with my husband. It is undoubtedly much more comfortable to deny the problem exists and preserve my peace.
The mistake is not a mistake. I'm going to keep misspelling the word as if it's totally correct. I'm going to avoid going back and crossing out all the mistakes and rewriting the words. My paper is going to look pristine and perfect. Except, of course, on closer analysis.
And so we choose to stifle the Spirit, preserve our sense of well-being, and stubbornly keep doing it the way we've always been doing.
Friends, we don't like to undermine our own track record. We don't like to admit we've been doing something wrong. My husband/wife example may seem like a not-so-hard to admit mistake. After all, we're always learning how to relate to each other better. It can't be that hard to admit you've been too critical of him. And maybe that's right, if you're a year or two into marriage. But what about if this realization comes 10 years into marriage? 20? 30? What if for 30 long years you have been chronically sinning in your response to your husband's failures? Who would have the moral courage and humility to admit that and simultaneously admit you've made a mess of your relationship for more years than you'll have to make it up to him? And what if it's not a husband/wife sin, but something seemingly more serious? What if you have spent years and years and years pursuing a financial dream, building your own kingdom and family instead of seeking to build God's kingdom and family? What if, 20 years later, you realize your mistake. Will you have the courage and humility to admit you've been chasing worthlessness for 20 years, do a 180 and change literally everything about how you've structured your life?
My challenge for whoever is reading this and the Spirit is stirring your heart is to think about how a ridiculous high schooler chose to misspell the same word for an entire paper for the sake of consistency and a "perfect" - looking paper. Of course, the illusion of perfection was shattered the moment my paper came under the teacher's discerning eye. Of course, all our illusions will shatter when our "perfect" looking life comes under our LORD's discerning and all-seeing eye, at at the same time, so will our false sense of comfort, of "I've been doing everything okay" that we have been trying to preserve. Choose discomfort now. Choose to tear up your paper now, even if you're on the last page, and start again, or cross out the words yourself, so H doesn't have to do it for you.
After all, it's not about our pride. It's not about handing in a perfect paper. They always taught us in education classes that you're not looking for perfection, you're not looking to see that all the students make it to the same high standard. As a teacher, you're looking for growth. If a student messed up on every page of the test and got a D, but last time it was an F, you celebrate the growth and the progress because it means you're doing your job.
God's job is to grow us, and His success brings Him glory. It's not about our pride -- it's not about our perfect life -- it's about the mangled sheet we hand that evidences our growth and His work and His glory. May He give us all strength, humility, and wisdom to reject the ridiculous life-work of pride and choose to humbly bring Him glory.
Carpe Diem! (Seize the day, and the rest of the week, for Christ).