Around this time of the year millions of us get an opportunity to look at the year we are about to leave behind, and to reflect on whether we have achieved those goals we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the new year. That is of course if you set yourself any goals in the first place. There are those who thrive on the satisfaction of aiming for something and hitting the target. I used to be like that once upon a time, but the knocks of life and the still small voice which sets my eyes on ONE and ONLY target, have taught me that there is a stench of self-reliance, self-centeredness and arrogance in taking pride on the things I set out to do in my own strength; the things I convince myself I am meant to be doing; the things I choose to do, because though they may have a form of godliness in them, they ultimately point to myself and my own accomplishments; the things that fill up my time and convince me that I matter, but deep down they leave me wanting, because I know in the pit of my stomach that in truth and though to the world I may seem successful and together, they have truly missed the mark; they have missed the will of God for my life for they only point to myself and not God’s Holiness and Righteousness, but my own.
Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. You may have noticed by now that though hard on the outside, I have a very soft interior. I do not let many people in, but when I do, I hide very little about the person that I truly am. My problem is that I love much but I also expect much from those whom I love. I set high standards for myself, and then I expect everybody else to meet my own standards and always set myself for major disappointment, on myself as much as on everybody else. But that is ok. It just means I have to rely on grace and not my own self-sufficiency much more than others, and I have learnt that this is no bad thing. On the contrary. It just makes my faith in Christ all the more real and indispensable .
When you are as sensitive and complicated as I am, you don’t bounce off from hurts very well, you are scarred easily and healing takes that much longer. Similarly, feeling rejected by others can become a major hurdle to overcome, and so you keep hoping that people will change and that they will accept you as you are. It is particularly hard to accept rejection from other Christians for obvious reasons. To be given the cold shoulder on an ongoing basis by those who parade a banner of unconditional love and shout it to the four winds could be equalled to how Jesus must have felt when rejected by the Pharisees who took pride in the keeping of the law and religious customs but at the same time completely contradicted everything they took pride and believed in by subjecting the pillar, the core of their belief to the utmost humiliation, rejection and hurt.
I am no angel myself, let me tell you. I am perfectly aware of how much I have hurt other people, particularly with my words. I know that if any of the people whom I ever hurt read this, they would not believe me, but I wish to say this nonetheless. Every single thing I ever said, every rebuke, every reminder, has always been born out of deep reflection and prayer. As I said in my previous post, when the spirit of Christ comes upon you, you are unable to play games with people any more, and you love people in a way which is much deeper and genuine than the love you felt before. But this becomes a double-edged sword and though you love deeper, the potential for hurting others will also magnify as you seek to speak the truth in love, to give timely warnings and words. People always assume the worst in a person who gives a word that comes across as criticism or as doubting their integrity. The word of God tells us that wounds from a friend can be trusted and yet how many Christians shut the door on other’s face time and time again because they still carry the raw wounds of a word which was never meant to hurt but to restore, to purify, to refine.
Rejection towards others by Christians who see themselves as leaders within the Body of Christ has caused more damage to Christendom than the plots of the devil to steal, kill and destroy. And the reason for that is the sheer hypocrisy of placing a yoke of bondage and guilt upon others for failing to learn the lessons and obey those things which we are not prepared to do ourselves. Yes, I have hurt others in the past, but the one thing that cannot be taken away from me is the strength of the love that I feel for those individuals. Though wounded, I never lose faith in the goodness at the core of another person. I try to ignore the bad and hold on tight to the good in them, to the potential in them. Don’t get me wrong, forgiveness does not come easily to me. Having to forgive and forget has got me on my knees more times than any of the other commands in the Bible. This is the one I hear God giving me time and time, and seventy times seven more. And then after blood, sweat and tears, when I finally get to a place where I can let go of the hurt and begin to see others as Jesus sees them, I give more of my love, another bit of encouragement, a positive message which I feel God has for them, a piece of my heart for which I had to die to self once again, and though it took much humility, courage and prayer to get to that place of exposing my vulnerability yet again, of extending my hand to build a bridge again, I wait and I wait and I wait some more, but all I can hear is the echo of my own words wrought in the furnace of self-denial and affliction coming back to me unacknowledged and rejected by the silence of those whom I seek to be loved back by, forgiven back and blessed back by the mere admittance that they accept my apology, my encouragement, my eagerness to be loved unconditionally.
As I thought this morning about goals for 2011, the first thing that came to mind was my decision to never open up myself for further rejection by those whom I love most deeply; my decision to not give yet another word to another which I feel has been given to me as a result of prayer, to not give another dream away within which lies the key for another person’s next step in the path that God has for them, my decision to not send someone another book with a message which every bone in my body, every bit of my heart knows has wonderful whispers of the Lord for that person’s future. There you have it. Sorry to disappoint! But that is the true me: weak, selfish, full of hurt and rejection, imperfect and in need of abundant and endless grace, forgiveness and much mercy. Not a bad place to be at, let me tell you. Only in the midst of all that weakness, the humiliating realisation of how imperfect I truly am, can I find the presence of my Saviour whose power and beauty is made perfect in my weakness.
I am truly blessed indeed for as I stood there enjoying the thought of never again exposing my tender heart to further hurt and rejection; of teaching others the lesson that enough is enough, of seeking justice for all the knocks received when turning the other cheek, for having efforts born out of ache and tears to seek reconciliation turned right back on my face by receiving silence and disdain which numbs the senses and paralyses the heart. As I thought about finally setting myself free, putting myself first, walking away from the call to love unconditionally when those who preach it to me cannot put it into practise themselves, the Lord gently removed the rope around my neck which was about to seal my fate for eternity and gently and lovingly whispered in my ear: “No my child, not thy will but mine. Which one will you choose: to put yourself first, to seek your life, to appear strong to the world so that you gain their admiration and praise OR to deny yourself, to lose your life, to turn the other cheek as many times as you have to so that I can perfect you in the fire of affliction, so that I can remove all impurities which stop you from reflecting the light of my glory, mercy and love for others?”.
Jesus, please continue to give me the grace that I need to pick myself again time and time again when I extend my hand to others and they walk away as if they could not even see me. Lord, give me visions of how you carried your cross with dignity and endurance, because you had the revelation that no treasure and reputation, glory and recognition we may receive on this earth will amount to much in heaven. Father I wish nothing for 2011, only to accomplish YOUR GOALS for my life. Let your will be done and not mine. Let nothing of what I do or achieve in this life be for my own enhancement, praise or glory but ALL YOURS. Let it be YOU AND ONLY YOU who sets the course my life should take. Grant me the humility to be still for long enough to be able to discern your will for my life and not my own. Thank you Lord Jesus for not letting anything that is born out of my own pride, self-centeredness and arrogance stand in your presence. Thank you for all that has taken place in 2010. Thank you for the privilege of stepping into the kingdom of Heaven and for being able to take a glimpse of the wonderful plans which fill your heart and overflow from your Spirit to heal the sick, to mend broken hearts, to save the lost and to feed the poor. I am privileged indeed to be able to say that in this last year I have not hit the target, I have not accomplished my goals, but all the good that has been born out of my life this year has been born solely out of your Spirit, your faithfulness and your ongoing reminders that those who are willing to lose their life for your sake, will find it, IN YOU AND ONLY YOU. Let nothing other than your presence and love sustain me for the rest of my life. THANK YOU JESUS!