“Yeah right, Jesus!”
Vicky and I were on our vacation this past week…it is my 65th year of life and this November’s birthday celebration included ten days in Hawaii with some great pals. I was minding my own business…and why shouldn’t I? It’s a VACATION! I’m supposed to be simply taking a relaxed pace throughout the day. I was minding my own business and I was ambushed. No, there weren’t people hiding in bushes waiting to pounce on me. And no, I didn’t get one of those dreaded phone calls or disturbing texts that share news that always seems to upset life’s applecart. No, I was just about to sit down and rest a second before taking a morning stroll and my buddy, Larry (whom we were sharing our vacation with – both Larry and his wife, Kim) says, “Robin, did you read Oswald yet?” “Who’s Oswald,” you ask? Oswald Chambers – the man who wrote what some would exclaim to be the foremost spiritual devotional for Jesus followers ever written. You see, Larry and I made a commitment as friends to read Oswald daily during 2019. The truth is, though I have often missed a day or two over the years, I would have to confess that Oswald has been a much-cherished companion in my journey with Jesus for over 40 years. So, I sit down before I lace up my walking shoes and BOOM! Oswald “hits me!” You know, for those of you who are familiar with My Utmost for His Highest, you can totally relate, can’t you? I’ve often thought to myself that they should put a warning label on Oswald’s book…”Read at your own risk and peril.” I’ve experienced it time and again through the years…what seems so familiar at times gets juiced spiritually at key moments in life. I don’t even realize how much I need specific spiritual encouragement when I am ambushed with Chamber’s piercing but prophetic ruminations.
I read just the following…the opening paragraph of the day’s devotional for November 15th…three days into the new year God has put before me:
“One of the hardest lessons to learn comes from our stubborn refusal to refrain from interfering in other people’s lives. It takes a long time to realize the danger of being an amateur providence, that is, interfering with God’s plan for others. You see someone suffering and say, “He will not suffer, and I will make sure that he doesn’t.” You put your hand right in front of God’s permissive will to stop it, and then God says, “What is that to you?” Is there stagnation in your spiritual life? Don’t allow it to continue but get into God’s presence and find out the reason for it. You will possibly find it is because you have been interfering in the life of another— proposing things you had no right to propose or advising when you had no right to advise. When you do have to give advice to another person, God will advise through you with the direct understanding of His Spirit. Your part is to maintain the right relationship with God so that His discernment can come through you continually for the purpose of blessing someone else.”
Oh, aren’t I wise? Oh, aren’t I insightful? Oh, aren’t I entitled to pontificate pearls of “Robin wisdom” on any and all innocent bystander? Oh, haven’t I paid the dues necessary to be able to speak into any and all lives who have the “honor” of being in the shadow of my intellectual greatness? Oh, especially those who have shared a life-long journey with me whether they be child, grandchild, or dear friend…haven’t I earned the right to say anything that pops into my head for the purpose of guiding them to the true path to which they should aspire? Ah, no! That’s Oswald’s point. All of us believe that we know how to live other people’s lives better than they. All of us believe that if only we could tell our cherished “other” what they should know or think or do then their life will be filled with nothing but blessed bliss. So, we interfere…we counsel…we advise…we find ways to squirrel our way into the recesses of their soul with so-called discernment which we are more than willing to offer without regard to how it may condemn them to a destination that they do NOT seek.
I think God’s trying to tell me something…you’ve heard it said before, we have “two ears and one mouth.” There’s a reason for that! We have been designed by the Lord with a MUCH GREATER capacity for listening, loving and supporting then for guiding, bossing, and giving others the benefit of our omniscience…oops, that’s right. You and me, we are NOT omniscient. But we know the ONE who is…Jesus. Larry and I went on that walk…we talked about the implications of Oswald’s challenging phrases…we tried as best we could to defend the personal strategies that both of us have long employed of nosing our way into that which should cause us to pause and ask, “what is that to me?” In the course of that walk, the Spirit did what the Spirit always does if we have open hearts…the Spirit transformed our way of thinking and, consequently, our way of doing life in relationship with those we love. At least that is our goal…at least that is our humble and willing surrender to the will of our Lord.
I thought about this a lot this past week. I don’t have it all figured out…but I do intend to take more of a backseat to God’s desire to give personal direction to the one who seeks it instead of me cutting in God’s line. I have decided that I am going to take up more of a posture where I seek the Lord in all of my relationships to have God “bless them and change me” versus me potentially violating how God is attempting to speak to them about their life’s choices and challenges. I have decided to stop playing “amateur providence” and to start dishing out, as consistently and as generously as possible, that which I have received in spades – amazing grace. Jesus has called me to love…not be someone’s “god” but point that someone TO GOD! I need to help those whom I love to see Jesus clearly and respond to His voice instead of hearing the nagging advice of my oft confused, self-focused ego. As John the Baptist once remarked, “He must increase, and I must decrease” (John 3:30). Instead of me working overtime to prove to others my worth and the astuteness of my life’s perspective, I need to up my commitment to let others see Jesus…He is the way, truth, and life. He is God’s wisdom incarnate. He has the words of eternal life. It is Jesus who will make our path straight. John the Baptist realized that early on…Peter had to be reminded of it up until almost the last day of Jesus’ walk on earth. Oh, to be more like John than Peter. My role in the lives of the people I love. Point them to the life-giver, the soul soother, the direction clarifier, the forgiver of mistakes and the empowerer of those who reach out to Him for help, strength and the ability to take another step. Maybe then, will this next year of my life be that which brings true honor and glory to the Lord. Maybe then will my most cherished relationships be blessed not by what I can bring to their “table” but how God can change me to help them see the “table” from which comes true life’s feasting and life in abundance.
How about you? Give that some thought. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that those words really made a HUGE difference while walking in the Hawaiian paradise but even if you can’t get there, trust me, they’ll do fine busting into your heart and life today no matter where you are!