Over the years I have really grown to hate this word; hypocrite.
What does it mean to be a hypocrite? Who qualifies as a hypocrite? What are our hang ups when it comes to hypocrites in the church? Why do we so quickly point fingers at others to call them this, without acknowledging our own hypocrisy?
The very definition of the word, hypocrite, leaves me believing that absolutely every person on this earth has played the role of hypocrite more than once in their lives.
: a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings
We are human beings who learn from our mistakes, sometimes after the first one, but often after many. And during that learning curve, people can sometimes see us stumbling.
What is it about our human nature that feels the need to point out others in their failures, faults, and stumbles, while we too struggle with our own battles? What is it about finding flaws in others that makes us feel better about ourselves?
On top of being flawed human beings, destined to make and even repeat mistakes, most of us are also human beings who do not wish to inform absolutely everyone of our mistakes, flaws, or internal struggles. Are we all living under false pretenses? Perhaps, to strangers or acquaintances who stumble upon our flaws, it would appear so. In reality, most of us are just trying our hardest to put our best foot forward. Most of us are trying to be the person we portray to the world, but still stumbling along the way.
One great example of groups of people who are constantly trying to do better, but often still stumbling, even while trying to help others, are support groups for addicts. When addicts stumble along their journey to sobriety, or have set backs, big or small, we call it a disease. Society tries to react with understanding as these people try over and over again to clean up their lives. We often applaud them for seeking the help that they need.
Listen, we are all born with a disease of the heart. We are all born with sin. Not a single one of us will ever, ever live a perfect life. People attend church and Bible studies, and even lead church or Bible studies in one way or another, still struggling with their own sin! We are not a group of perfect people, nor are we a group pretending to be perfect. We are a support group for sinners. The person who greeted you might be struggling with addiction. The person sitting next to you might be struggling with adultery. Just as an AA sponsor has a history, and might still have set backs, the very leaders of your church might be struggling in their own sin.
Pray for them!
We have it in our heads that our leaders are above the need for prayer, that our leaders have figured this all out already, that our leaders have a direct line to Jesus which we don't. FALSE! And when we put them on this pedestal of perfection, we are setting them up for a fall, not them. They didn't place themselves there. We did.
Think about this; what if we all wore our sins on a post-it note stuck to our foreheads? What if we were completely transparent with our faults? Would that make any of us less of a hypocrite? Maybe not.
But if we knew that we were walking around with our own mistakes visible for all to see, maybe we wouldn't be so quick to judge the mistakes of others.
Friday was the last day of school for our children. It was only a half day, and I attended the awards ceremony which took up most of the day. One of the things they do, which I love so much, is in the last hour of their final day, the teachers each take their classes up to the alter and speak a blessing over each and every one of their students. As I sat there, and I watched children crying with the sadness of moving on from their beloved teachers, and teachers choking up and wiping away tears; one particular teacher sweetly sobbing as she led her class out of the chapel for the last time, I thought, how could I have ever worried about sending our children to school?
Let me backtrack just a little. When our oldest two children were 5 and 4, I began homeschooling them. I homeschooled them until they were 8 and 7, after having our fourth child. The homeschool schedule became difficult for me to keep, and I was struggling with serious back trouble after a very large baby. I was tired and stressed, and felt as though they weren't getting the best of me. As the thought of sending them to school crept into my mind, I was then filled with such a devastating guilt, that I would often cry over this decision. When I reached out to a couple of homeschool mom friends of mine, who were doing it with more children than I, I was left more discouraged than ever. There seemed to be this general idea that we were supposed to suffer, that it was for the greater good, that it was supposed to be hard. Don't get me wrong. It is hard. If it were easy, so many more families would do it. But I was made to feel like a failure, as though my friends, with 2 or 3 more children were tougher and stronger, and pushing through, and I was just giving up on what they felt was the best option.
They did not mean to make me feel this way. Of that I am certain. I believe that they were trying to encourage me to do what I had originally felt so called to do. But what I really needed to hear was, It's OK.
It's OK to need help. It's OK to change your mind. Sometimes, it's ok to quit.
You. Are. Enough.
Life is fluid. It doesn't always flow easily. There are sometimes steep drop offs, often jagged rocks, and turbulent waters, but it keeps moving. As we move through it, sometimes we need to adapt and adjust to the changing currents.
The thing about being enough is that we have to be able to recognize when we need to make changes, when we need to ask for help. Truth?
Sometimes we aren't enough.
What I needed to wrap my brain around, in that moment, was that I wasn't quitting on my children. I wasn't quitting because it was too hard, or because I wasn't good enough or smart enough to do it. I was adapting. I was changing the plan to better suit the needs of my children. I was asking for help. I was praying. And while a few of my friends didn't understand what I needed, God did.
And so, this little school that was randomly suggested by an acquaintance in passing, this school that wasn't even on our radar to contact, suddenly became one of the greatest decisions of our lives. It is a place where our children are literally loved to tears, a place of great growth and learning, a place where our children are learning how to walk with Jesus, a place that has afforded me the opportunity to coach my son in a sport we both love, a place we can trust with our children while I now have more freedom to grow a business from home and contribute to the income of this ever growing family. But listen, it is a place we never would have thought to look...on our own.
The enemy will tell you that you're not good enough. The enemy will tell you you're a quitter. The enemy wants you to feel like a failure, and if you're trying to do all the things on your own, he will feel victorious, and you will feel defeated. Because you aren't meant, on your own, to be enough. You weren't supposed to be. You were designed to need Jesus, and what He has to offer, is more than enough.
Sometimes my Monday Messages are hard to come by. Sometimes I pray and read, and read and pray, and it takes me a great deal of time throughout the week to decipher what it is that the Lord would have me say.
Then sometimes, they write themselves, and God makes it so abundantly clear. To be fair, I think He is always clear and consistent. It is my own brain that tends to fog things up.
A few weeks ago, we were preparing for an ice storm. It was supposed to be significant, and we were supposed lose power. I didn't realize how much of our preparing was being absorbed by our 3-year old daughter until she became very scared of this "ice cream storm," as I will now and forever refer to them, because that makes it sound so much more fun.
It never amounted to much, and we never lost power, but then last week, we were again talking in front of sweet Charlotte about a thunder storm we were expecting. She became extra concerned and so distraught that she couldn't seem to eat her dinner. She was afraid that this storm would enter our home. In an effort to calm her, my husband told her, "Storms don't have thumbs. They can't open our door." This seemed to work. She repeated this several times, as if trying to soothe herself.
"But storms have ears!" she exclaimed, as though that was fact, and a good indicator of the severity of the storm. She became very upset again.
My husband quickly said, "Charlotte, can you open the door with your ears? After dinner, I want you to try to open the door with your ear, and see if it opens."
She thought about this very seriously for a minute, and then agreed that ears can't open doors. Then, upon her own realization, she proclaimed, "But God stole the storms! God steals the storms from us!"
Do you have storms you need to hand over to God? Storms in your life you need to allow Him to take from you? He is waiting. The chapter of Psalms is believed to have been written when the Israelites were allowed to return to their homeland from their Babylonian captivity. To read it all, we come to understand that some of their storms were self inflicted. Some of the stress in our lives could have been avoided had we listened to God's whispers to begin with.
But He waits. He waits in the stillness for us to listen. He waits in the storms for our cries. When we rely on Him and Him alone, He can take those storms from us. That is not to say that he will restore our lives to perfection (which they never were to begin with), but He will bring peace, the antithesis of the storm, to your heart, your life, your storm. He will steal that raging storm within you, and replace it with faith, if you only ask.
Not every day, but some days, when I put Charlotte down for her nap, she still talks about the storm, she acts scared, as though she does not want to be left alone, and then she asks one simple question, "Mommy, can you pray to Jesus for me?"
In a very simple prayer, asking God to take away her fear, and keep her safe, she smiles, says, "Thank you, Jesus," and closes her eyes.
That is a child-like faith. That is the faith we are capable of if we simply allow God to take our storms. And what He replaces it with, is far greater than anything we could imagine...
Have you ever had a disagreement in which there was just absolutely no way of reaching a resolution? How did you go about handling that?
I will be honest. My first instinct it to continue to try to explain my side (or whatever side I feel is misunderstood or misrepresented). It often turns into beating a dead horse, and can get heated rather quickly. We often just keep circling the same points over and over again, and realize, much too late, what a futile waste of time the whole disagreement has been.
I believe that there are four key causes to our disagreements with people:
1. They are wrong.
It is possible that they are 100% incorrect. They could have the wrong information concerning a topic of discussion, and maybe you feel it is your duty to correct them.
Pray about it. We actually do not have to react to every incorrect person we encounter. If they aren't asking to be corrected (most people are not), or your correction is causing an escalated argument with someone convinced of their rightness, it is often best to walk away and pray.
2. You are wrong.
It is also possible that you are 100% incorrect. Maybe you've been given the wrong information. Maybe you don't remember something correctly. Whatever the reason may be, believe it or not, you could be wrong.
Pray about it. It is never good to engage in an argument ill-equipped with the facts. Do you really want to be the person convinced wrongly of their rightness? If it is a topic of importance, pray that God would show you the truth, and bring light to the subject. If it is not, why are you arguing about it?
3. You simply have different tastes.
I have known people in Buffalo who almost seem to take personal offense to those who dare to complain about winters. I don't mean to rag on them. They are a passionate and loyal bunch, but listen, it is ok for people to like and dislike different things, and to express that. If it really and truly upsets you, guess what?
Pray about it. Maybe you don't like their opinion on something. Maybe you don't like that they complain about it. Whatever the case may be, pray about whether or not you should address it. Better yet, pray for them. If they are complaining a lot about something they really don't like, or something which really makes them unhappy, pray that something would change for them. Sometimes just lending a kind and understanding ear, can add hope to an otherwise dreary situation, no argument needed.
4. You are each looking at completely different pieces of the same puzzle.
I hate to break it to you, but you could both be right and wrong, at the same time. It is possible that neither one of you has all of the pieces. In fact, I believe this is the most common of all the causes of disagreements.
Pray about it. When you have two (or more) people, 100% convinced of their rightness, when neither (or none) of them even have all of the pieces, it can make for a disagreement which escalates quickly. The trick here, is not in sharing your pieces. We are all very quick to say, "Well, this is what I've found!" No, the trick here is in being willing to look at the other pieces. Pray that God would give you the wisdom and the patience to not only acknowledge another possible viewpoint, but find how it actually aligns with yours.
These are areas of disagreement in which, I believe, everyone struggles, myself most definitely included. But do you notice a theme?
One of the greatest lessons God has ever taught me, is that it is nearly impossible to be impatient while praying. No, it is not impossible in the grand scheme of things. In the bigger picture we are often impatient for the things we are praying for.
What I mean, is that if you are actively taking time away from a frustrating, escalating, or even hostile situation, to pray, you have already exhibited a great amount of discipline and patience. That, right there, is about 90% of the battle. God will meet you where you are. Sometimes He may call you to a difficult or unpleasant conversation, but believe and pray that He will lead your way and your words, and soften the hearts of those He wishes to receive it. Other times, He may tell you to let it go.
I have seen coffee mugs and shirts, where it is written, "But first, coffee." Many of us acknowledge that we are not ready for the challenges of the day without our morning caffeine. We acknowledge that we are not yet ready to even be decent human beings to one another, without that jolt to awaken us. What if we applied this to our prayer life?
I challenge you to this; the next time you feel the need to correct someone, or argue your opinion or point of view with someone, pray first. You may be surprised at how much this simplifies your life. And by default, you will find yourself closer to God, and farther from conflict.
When I was growing up, my dad had a saying, "God helps those who help themselves." Since the age of the internet, or more accurately, the age of angry, offended bloggers, has occurred, this saying has made countless lists of "things Christians should never say," and "things that aren't actually in the Bible," etc, etc. It has caused quite a tizzy.
But here's the thing, and I can't stress this enough, no one ever said it was in the Bible.
This saying, along with the idea that one must "work as though they depend solely upon themselves, and pray as though they depend solely upon the Lord," have never been represented as quotes from the Bible, that I have seen. That's the thing about sayings. They aren't direct quotes. They are things that people say. Now, does this saying apply to absolutely everything? Like most sayings, no, it does not. I was raised to believe that it is specific to working toward a goal, or working hard. Does this mean that God will give you anything you want, as long as you work for it? No, and I was never led to believe that was true either.
You can take from it what you will, and people may still be upset and offended by it, but let me tell you what it means to me.
It means that God is not a genie in the sky granting wishes. It means that God has given us free will, gifts, talents, and abilities to take action and carry out the plans He has for us. It means that we must not sit, idly by, in hopes that God will make all our dreams come true. There are most definitely times to sit and pray, and wait on the Lord. There is great power in patience and great wisdom in waiting.
However, when God has given us the gifts/abilities/resources to take action, and we sit on our hands waiting for Him to do everything for us, we cannot cry that He hasn't helped us. We cannot blame Him for our failures, if we do nothing. The Bible may never specifically say, "God helps those who help themselves," and it may not always be an applicable saying, but there is no shortage of verses referencing labor and hard work, and the pitfalls of laziness.
Labor Day has a very interesting history, if you want to look it up, but ultimately, it is a day to celebrate the workers of our nation.
"Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country." ~United States Department of Labor
For centuries, people forced changes into the world, their country, the economy, and their own lives by working. There is something to be said for hard work and dedication.
Have you been asking God to change something in your life? Or help you with a goal? Try asking Him how He would have you work toward that goal or that change. I would never tell you to act without Him, but pray for guidance. He may have already given you the gifts you need to take action.
Don't miss your blessings while waiting for God to do it all. Sometimes God answers our prayers, by requiring us to take action. Action can be hard work. Hard work can sometimes be painful, but like the blessings of childbirth, life can spring forth with abundant blessings!
As a wife, mom of 4, and business owner, finding time to spend in the Word, can be difficult, so I get it! Come join me each Monday for a simple message of hope, faith, and encouragement amidst some honest mommy moments.
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