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Monday, September 17, 2012

Affected or Infected?

Did you ever stop to consider just how much you actually "worry" about stuff you really have no control over?  You leave the house in the morning, finding traffic a little heavier than you expected, only to come upon a wreck which has bogged traffic down even further.  Instead of being concerned about the wreck, we find ourselves concerned about whether we will reach our destination on time.  We see the "low tire pressure" sensor has triggered the little light on the dashboard of the car, so we stop, get out, look around all four tires, then fret we might have picked up a stray nail somewhere.  We count and recount the number of items in our cart at the checkout lane because the sign says "15 items or less" - in turn, we are worrying if the three bananas count as one item or three!  Silly stuff, really, but we worry ourselves about stuff we have no control over.  No wonder we go to bed exhausted at night!  We wear ourselves out with worry!

My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.  (I John 3:18-20 The Message)

One of the most "telling" forms of worry is the type we might classify as "self-criticism".  It is the fear we are not "measuring up" to either a standard we have set for ourselves, or which has been imposed upon us by another IMPERFECT human being!  Did you catch that?  It is OUR standard or that of another totally IMPERFECT human being!  Now, don't get me wrong, there are some "good" standards others have imposed in my life.  Things like chewing with my mouth closed, learning to share my stuff, and the like all qualify as "good" standards someone imposed as I was growing up.  These are not the types of "standards" I am suggesting.  

The types of standards we are constantly striving to live up to are the ones which require us to do stuff over which we have very little control.  For example, when someone demands we "always" look a certain way, with our appearance just so, it may be quite unrealistic, right?  Ever try to keep up appearances on the outside when you just don't have any desire to do so on the inside?  It is difficult to say the least.  The problem with "imposed" standards is that they are IMPOSED - they come from the outside and are supposed to affect us inwardly.  The standards God asks us to adhere to begin on the INSIDE and then affect our outside!

Looking at our passage, we observe several salient points.  First, the worry of our hearts is nothing compared to the magnificence and ability of God.  I read a post this morning which simply stated: "Be thankful for the bad things in life.  For they open your eyes to the good things you weren't paying attention to before."  Hmmmm....now this certainly gives us a new perspective on our worries, doesn't it?  It is in the discovery of our worries we see the evidence of God's blessing!  When we finally connect our worries to the ability of God, we are doing the right thing with them!

Second, we "shut down" debilitating self-imposed standards (self-criticism) by learning to live in the love of God.  As I stated earlier, when the right stuff gets worked out on the inside, it begins to affect the outside!  When we come into a place of really seeing God's love for us - connecting it to the evidence we see in the blessings we enjoy in life - not simply focusing on the bad stuff happening around us - we begin to see our worries take on a right perspective.  

Last, but not least, we are challenged to make love a practice - not just a matter of talk.  This is only possible when our INSIDE is affected.  It must be affected with the right stuff, though.  Otherwise, we might say it was "infected".  When we see someone as "infected", we are commenting about something which is going on in their bodies - on the inside.  As time goes on, what is occurring on the inside begins to affect the outside.  If we are running a fever, we might get flushed, break out into a cold sweat, and begin shivering a bit.  There is evidence of the infection now apparent on the outside.  Leave it untreated, and it will begin to destroy every part of our being.

God's love has a way of AFFECTING us - until it changes our entire affect.  In other words, it begins to work in our minds until it changes our feelings.  When feelings are changed, we begin to see evidence of this in the actions we reflect.  Our countenance eventually changes, as well.  In fact, when we encounter an infection, we find it is content to be contained in one host up until there is nothing to "feed upon" any longer - then it looks for another host.  God's love has a way of not "feeding upon" its host, but building up and restoring its host.  The similarity to being "infected" and being "affected" comes in the "sharing".  Whereas the infection looks for another host to "feed upon", love looks for another host to build up.  

As long as we dwell upon the worries IMPOSED upon us, we won't have anything positive to give out.  When we lay down these worries, we find we have ample capacity to take in God's love and in turn, give it out freely.  Just sayin....