There's nothing quite like sitting down, feeling light and full of the Spirit's word, and then getting smacked with your sinful nature. Here I sat, excited at the opportunity to write while M gets the last of his nap, as I sped through the usually lengthy warming up of my very old macbook. Even more excited, as the technical side of things was looking up, I logged into my site... and wouldn't you know, ten minutes later, lots of long deep breathing and prayers unceasing, my little old buddy managed to stop showing the spinning rainbow wheel and allowed me access to share these feeble thoughts of mine. "Oh how kind of you, sweet little white MacBook. Please don't take it personally if you find yourself out on the curb one of these days."
I have to laugh. This is such a picture of our lives. Riding high on the love of the Lord and the truth of who He is and then something as small as a technical error brings about our sin nature faster than an exploding gasoline truck in a head-on collision. Or maybe it's just that fast and intense for me. As sweet and kind and gentle as I may painstakingly try to appear, my tendency lies more in the area of anger, irritability and carelessness. But we all have our things, right? That's one of a bazillion reasons why we need grace. Every day. All day.
Well I've had a small little passage on my mind these past several weeks. The fact that it's been residing for so long in my mind and not being shared with the world goes to show my willingness to try to be less selfish... I don't want to.
Ok, obviously I want to, but what my soul wants and what my "self" does are usually two very far-apart things. Several weeks ago we were going over the Sermon on the Mount in BSF. We read a verse I've read about a hundred times, but in discussion a fellow classmate shared an alternate version of the passage and I haven't been able to shake it since.
"Simply let your 'yes' be 'yes' and your 'no', 'no'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." -Matthew 5:37
I don't know about you, but in my circles I don't find myself making many oaths. When I think of myself saying "I swear" I'm brought back to my Jr. High locker bay and swearing to my friend that the boy she liked asked about her. Or that I swore I wouldn't share her secret crush. Or asking my best friend if she swore my permed hair didn't look and smell too awful. (That actually happened. The night of a formal dance at school, where I knew I would be dancing with my long-time crush. Who's idea was it to get a perm the day of a potential slow dance sesh? Sigh... Oh high school and your drama. Glad to be rid of you.) To be honest, I don't do much of that these days so this verse has always been a lesson in future instances where I might need to swear on something. My classmate shared the Message translation of this verse and it gave it much more life and applicability.
"And don't say anything you don't mean. This counsel embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying 'I'll pray for you,' and never doing it, or saying, 'God be with you,' and not meaning it. You don't make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say, 'yes' and 'no'. When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong." -Matthew 5:33-37 MSG
So.... what can I say after that? How many countless times have I, in hearing of another's difficulty, said, "Oh man, I will be praying for you." and forgotten about that oath within seconds of departing? I'm ashamed to say this happens on the regular. But here is the problem: I never intentionally tell a person that I will lift them up only to know that I in fact will not. I think the bigger issue is a lack of true understanding of the power behind the prayers I am willing to offer. If I truly understood the power behind the Spirit inside of me would I be more willing to pray right at that moment? Have those words become just one of many scripts we, as a society, say to one another?
This happens in more than just the Christian circles. "I'm thinking of you" "You're in our thoughts" "Let me know what I can do to help" "Keep me posted on what happens"
This is not just another problem with Christians, for non-believers to add to the list... this is a problem for humanity as a whole. Underneath our facade of empathy and care lies a lot of selfishness and only enough willingness to do what we are comfortable with... so long as it does not interfere with our own plans for ourselves.
I'm talking about you. And I'm talking about ME. Big time me. Majorly me. Oh man this is me.
I really want to be close with people. But not just close... I want to be their "person". The kind of friend you'd think of first to hang out with. Or when someone asks who your closest friends are, I'm on the list. I want to be thought of to be in your wedding. I want to be trusted to help in a time of crisis. I want to be that person. The favorite auntie, most helpful child, most thoughtful granddaughter. The problem is, I allow that underlying selfishness to rule and reign in my actions. My heart is all in, totally there, bursting with love. But my butt is still at home, sitting on the couch, surfing facebook, instead of calling you. Selfish. I think of you and your current heart-ache while I'm tending to M and I think, "I'll text in a bit" and a "bit" becomes never... or midnight when I think of it next. Naturally this problem has seeped into my intentions of prayer. These past weeks I have felt convicted time and time again that these promises must be fulfilled. My words must stay true to my oath. Unlike a friend who may also forget that I promised them prayer, my Lord does not. He is not vindictive, He will not come after me and scold me for saying and doing two different things. But just the reality that He remembers fills me with sorrow. How many dates have I ditched with Him in forgetting to pray?
One of the difficulties of T being deployed is the short, never deep, and often interrupted conversations we have. It's been a long time since my best friend has really been able to know and hear my heart, and me his. It sucks, in every sense of the word. And this, I now realize, is just how my Father must feel. When I begin to talk with him about a dear daughter of His, and suddenly I'm interrupted by my phone or my kid, that's a moment where He is left with only a piece of my heart. Then I forget and go on with life and He waits. He knows what this daughter or son needs before I ever even think to ask Him, but the intention behind my heart is an issue all of it's own.
And this is why I haven't been obedient in exploring this any further. It's a matter of my heart needing some changing. This is never easy. But it's always necessary.
Here are 4 questions you can ask yourself with this passage in mind: 1. How do Jesus' words concerning oaths emphasize His requirements of absolute truthfulness? 2. What commitment have you made to God that Jesus' words remind you to keep? 3. How would your relationships change if you obeyed Jesus' words in Matthew 5:33-37? 4. What could you expect God to do for you if you obeyed this command?
It's humbling and amazing to think of how simply and wonderfully my relationships with others and with God would and could change if I just obeyed. Maybe I could actually have a deep, meaningful conversation with my Savior and know that I am also building a friendship in the process. Maybe I could actually feel the closeness with others that I claim to want and need. Once again, it goes back to selflessness. Life can't just be about me. It must always be about Him and those He loves.
So to this I say, if I've told you I will pray for you for something you are in need of, don't be afraid to ask if I actually did it. If we all put a little meaning behind our words we just might see a lot more kindness around us. Life can't be about us. We aren't here for that. We are here for one another. We are here to bring Him glory.