Recovery: It's a God Thing
Saturday July 23, 2016
by Teresa McBean
Scripture Reading for today: Hebrews 13; Jeremiah 18 and 19
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1 NLT
It’s one thing to recognize our shortcomings; it’s quite another to experience their removal. This friend of mine that we’ve been learning about for several days had to humble himself; he had to believe that change was necessary–for him. He had to learn how to process information differently. No longer could he rely on his old standby belief that he was right and the world was wrong. He had to be willing not only to acknowledge his fear of failure, but to recognize it for what it was: an indication of faith gone awry. Although he claimed to be a committed believer, his fear of failure was really revealing that he trusted far more in his ability to perform perfectly, avoid mistakes, and win the approval of others than he trusted in the God who saves. (Who needs saving if they’re perfect?) Let’s pause on that one. Fear of failure sounds so sad, but it is really quite arrogant. It’s implying we think that with enough effort we can live without wrongdoing! (Wouldn’t that make us God?) And this obsession with winning the approval of others: isn’t that idolatry? Wasn’t he caring more about what mere mortals thought of him than of God?
Honestly, when carefully presented with plenty of examples for support, he didn’t even try to deny his false beliefs. But acknowledgement alone does not produce transformation.
So what did he do? He began living an “as if” life: “as if” he knew he was going to make mistakes and “as if” a mistake did not mean he was broken–just in need of learning something new. His boss actually had him make a mistake and then have to confess his wrongdoing–nothing major, just little things. And he couldn’t offer an excuse or justify his goof. He simply had to confess, “I did this wrong.”
He also had to live “as if” he was humble and contrite of spirit, so he had to practice valuing others. This was particularly taxing after years of undervaluing others in a misguided attempt to elevate self-worth. So his mentor made him practice, practice, practice. One assignment involved going to his local grocery store chain and asking if he could bag his own groceries (a store noted for their excellent customer service). This is a huge no-no in this company. He asked, the bagger explained that he could get in trouble for such a practice, and the guy had to watch as the bagger bagged. He thanked the bagger twice for his service. He ultimately enjoyed that assignment so much that he still loves expressing appreciation to baggers, and he never tries to bag his own groceries in a fit of impatience. He regularly humbles himself in this way by allowing another to serve him, and he takes the time to recognize this blessing for what it is and express appropriate appreciation.
Another practical assignment that the boss gave him was to ask people questions that he knew would net him a resounding, “No!” response and to accept that response with grace. This guy had a nasty habit of never taking “no” for an answer. For example, he had him go to a fast food drive-through window and ask if they gave away free food. When they said, “No!” he was instructed to thank them for considering his question and drive off, but he had to make sure he waved to the guys as he drove past the window. This was pretty embarrassing, but it was funny.
In a variety of ways, the awesome mentor was trying to get his student to think differently, perceive more accurately, behave more consistently with his stated core beliefs, and ultimately experience his faith genuinely–not just as a concept, but as a daily living experience.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me – everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 NLT