So. All morning I've been thinking about the lesson taught during our midweek service at church the other night. It was a deeply convicting message to the ladies by our Women's Ministry leader about having the heart of Christ when it comes to having compassion for the lost.
I woke up, spent time with God and began to write about my convictions as a spiritually single woman. I had a lot of stuff written down...I closed my fancy little iPad on which I was scribbling down my thoughts and got ready for work with the intention to finish writing during my lunch hour. At the lunch break, I walked to the store, picked up a salad and some fruit (and a huge slice of cheesecake, as well as a bag of chocolate chip cookies stuffed with brownies), placed myself comfortably in the lunch room, opened up my iPad and picked up where I left off. Ahhhhh....I was smiling with each word as I recalled Cheryl's lesson. Deep into my thoughts, I clicked out of the app I was using to find a scripture in my bible app. I came back to the app I was using to write....and found a blank screen. Everything I had written was gone. Nowhere to be found. Gone.
I first wanted to cry. I kept whispering, "no! No! Where is it?" That didn't help me to find it. Then, on comes the anger. I could feel my face getting red, now I was going to cry out of anger. "Ugh! Stupid gadget!" That still didn't help. My work was still missing.
I sat there, staring at the blank screen. I opened it up, trying to see where it went...when I notice a tiny 'save' button at the top right corner of the screen. Yep. Don't remember touching that little rectangular button before I clicked out of the app (by the way, Blogger, how about prompting the writer to save their work before exiting out of the app? Just an idea for lame-o's like me).
Ugh, what a let down. And wow, how quickly I was to jump to anger! The moment of shocked disappointment lasted only a second because then I realized it was the gadget's fault. How dare it erase my work! Didn't it know I wasn't done?? Stupid technology. Smart phones, smart tablets...you aren't so smart after all, are ya?
I'm pretty sure you read that last paragraph and thought to yourself, "uhhh...you're the one who forgot to press 'save..." So what right do I have to get angry with the iPad? I don't. As much as I want to blame the app and the iPad, I can't. It's ultimately my fault. I didn't press 'save.'
Don't we do that a lot? Something goes wrong and we want to shift the blame onto something or someone else. I do that a lot in my marriage and I am very good at manipulating a conversation to take the focus and the blame off of me. It's not something I'm proud of, but it's definitely something I'm guilty of doing and I quite frequently have to apologize for my manipulation.
But I'm also guilty of blame shifting when it comes to my husband...and church. So often I'll blame him for my lack of heart. There used to be a time when I would really struggle to come to church on Sunday mornings. I would tell my girlfriends, "oh, I won't be there this morning, my husband is giving me a hard time about going, I don't want the argument." And I wouldn't go. Now, my husband may have been giving me a hard time, but he definitely wasn't holding me back from going to church. That was my own lack of heart. Or I would miss several events that were outside of church "because of my husband." Poor guy, I was blaming him for everything, when in reality it was my own fault.
Sometimes as spiritually single women, it's easier for us to lose our heart to simply attend church. Why? Because it can be hard just to walk out the door as we're listening to snarky comments as we leave. We want to throw up our hands and say, "forget it. It's not worth it." And then we want to blame our iPad, I mean, our husbands. Yes, there are some of us who have husbands who love to make comments about our love for God (I was writing all about in my piece that went missing). My husband is one of them. And many, many years ago, his snarky comments were downright intentionally hurtful. He would persecute me in front of his entire family. He would call me names like "bible thumper," and "Jesus freak." Every Sunday morning as I would get ready for church, he would spill hurtful words from his mouth. And then, I quit. I quit on God. It wasn't abrupt, I didn't wake up on Sunday morning and decide to never return to church. It happened over time. I'd miss a Sunday because I was running late, or because the family had something planned, or because I wasn't feeling well, or because my husband wasn't feeling well. I blamed my situation for my lack of heart. I blamed my situation for losing faith. I blamed my situation for losing my trust in God.
Jesus reminds us that we will be persecuted and we should expect it.
"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: 'a servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecute me, they will persecute you also." John 15:18-20
A couple things here: first, I love knowing that Jesus chose me. He chose you. He plucked us right of the world and said, "sorry, you don't get to keep this one, she's with me." Did that not just fill your heart with love bubbles? Second, the reminder that the world will hate and persecute us for following Him. But, don't miss out on his encouragement about it. "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If they persecute me, they will persecute you." In other words: if you're getting flack about being a follower of Christ, take it as a compliment, because he received flack for being the Christ. That means, you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing.
People will oppose you because you are not part of their world (side note: I almost started singing that song from "The Little Mermaid" when I read that...did you?). And believe it or not, that is a good thing. If the world is applauding you, you may want to recheck your heart. Now, that doesn't mean the world can't admire you or applaud you at all. You have worldly people watching you and wondering how to be like you, those are the hearts you need to find and lead to God...that is, after all, our purpose. But, if you never receive some kind of flack for being a Christian....are you exuding Christ-like qualities in your daily living?
Take the persecution as a compliment. Sounds weird, I know. But it's true. My husband was opposing the changes I had made in my life and he didn't like it. So he persecuted me, almost daily, and often in front of people. Take it as a compliment. Don't let your heart harden towards God or His church because of the persecution you receive....Jesus told you that it was going to happen. So, when we decide to walk away from God because it's too hard to follow him or we don't want to deal with the arguments anymore, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. That is our own heart losing faith. We're saying that we don't believe God will deliver us. We lose trust that God will protect our hearts. So we blame our husbands. We blame our situations. We blame our lack of heart and faith on others around us. But in reality, it's our own fault.
Don't be like me. Don't blame the iPad because you forgot to hit 'save.' Don't be a blame shifter. Don't blame your husband for your lack of heart. It all comes down to us. Our decisions. Our hearts. Yes, there are still days when the persecution feels intense, often unfair, and frequently unprovoked. But when those times come (because Jesus said they will), I stand firm and say to myself, "thank you, I'll take that as a compliment, because that means you see Christ in me."
Smile through the persecution and through the testing, let it strengthen your heart, not weaken it. When you do, Jesus looks at you and says, "she's just like me!"