Tuesday, November 12, 2013

- no "buts" -

"Nuh-uh-uh. NO BUTS."

How many times have your parents said that to you in your life time? They give us a command, we obediently (or not so obediently) agree to execute it, then right before they turn to go, we say, "But…."

Normally we have a very valid excuse for why we are incapable of carrying out the particular task. But unfortunately, that's not normally the response our parents are looking for. If you grew up in a household like mine, you've probably been told that obedience is not just as action, it's a state of the heart. Obedience means obeying "Cheerfully, Promptly, and Thoroughly." That doesn't leave much room for "buts."

This week I've been learning this lesson all over again - this time, with my Heavenly Father. He gives us a command in Scripture, and oh, how terribly often we say, "Well, okay, I'll do this part of what You said, but…."

Right now, my entire "plan" for this entirely spontaneous season of my life is falling apart. Not….in a bad way….necessarily…..but just, it's turning out to look completely different than I thought wanted it to be. Plans are getting rearranged, time seems to be sucking away, and life is about to get pretty crazy.

In all this, I managed to lose sight of God's Big Picture and start looking at things from "down here" (insert Nathan Johnson hand gesture) instead of "up here" (insert Nathan Johnson hand gesture). I lost it one morning and just broke down, trying to figure out on my own strength how all this is going to possibly work out fine. Wandering out to the fire ring where we burn scrap paper and trash, I dropped down on a charred log and proceeded to have a pity party and feel very sorry for myself.

As I sat there in a puddle, I thought to myself (rather snarkily, I might add), "Well, look how 'incorrigibly cheerful' I'm acting right now….All that rejoicing seems to make sense when you're doing great, but when…."

Pardon me? What was that?

And that's when I recognized that whiney little word "but" had wormed its way into the conversation. Oops. I thought that'd been dealt with years ago via the rod of correction. Hmmm….apparently not.

I don't recall God ever giving an easy way out of any of His commandments. They all seem pretty straightforward. Such as this well-known gem:

"Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:5-7

The commandment is to rejoice always. No room for "But, Jesus….". No room for whining, fussing, or sulking. Yes, I may not feel like rejoicing, but life isn't about doing what we feel like, is it?

I certainly wasn't feeling particularly joyful that morning, definitely wasn't leaping for joy. But I was still called to rejoice - to be thankful for this opportunity to fully rely upon the power of God. No buts.

I was alone, helpless, hopeless, miserable - and that's when it's important to turn my eyes outward and upward, and find the cheerfulness I was lacking in the Person of Christ. So I quit my griping, knelt in the ashes, and cried out for that joy that only comes from above. I felt like Christian from Pilgrim's Progress, letting that burden just roll off my back to the foot of the cross. Needless to say, I felt better.

Oh, I am so grateful for a long-suffering God! I do not, in any way, deserve His grace and patience. He is using this circumstance to put me through the wringer, expose my weaknesses, and showcase His strength. Actually, I feel like a chastened preschooler right now - giving Daddy a sniffly, contrite hug and promising to obey right away the first time from now on. *cough*

Moral of this story: when something is commanded in Scripture, obey it. Obey it cheerfully, promptly, and thoroughly. Don't make excuses of why you "can't" - look for ways that you can.

"Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

No buts about it.

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