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Friday, March 8, 2013

Not another "leaf check"

I know I am not supposed to take scripture out of context, but something struck me this morning and I zeroed in on it because of what it implies for ALL our thought, actions, and intent, not just for the subject of speaking in tongues.  Paul was speaking to the Corinthian church about "honoring" others in their worship - coming prepared to worship, teach, etc., and being cognizant of the fact others don't get much from speaking in tongues or making a show of your "spirituality".  Paul encourages believers to pray for others to come into the depth of relationship I often refer to as a place of "intimacy" with God.  This is the place of real transparency with him - the place of honesty and "integrity" in our sharing of heart, mind, and soul with him - not just for our sake, but for the sake of others.  Now, I came across this passage and was just impressed to read it over and over again until it sunk in a little.   

To be perfectly frank, I’m getting exasperated with your infantile thinking. How long before you grow up and use your head—your adult head? It’s all right to have a childlike unfamiliarity with evil; a simple no is all that’s needed there. But there’s far more to saying yes to something. Only mature and well-exercised intelligence can save you from falling into gullibility.  (I Corinthians 14:20 MSG)

The apostle Paul was getting "exasperated" because the believers were stuck in the rut of what he called "infantile" thinking.  There are times in scripture when I just sit back and relish the "honesty" God has provided for us in the accounts of those who penned these pages under his inspiration.  When I see other believers admitting to some emotional response or challenge in their lives - it warms my heart!  Paul was "exasperated" - he was irritated!  Not because someone was doing something "wrong", but because he was having to focus on the same "types" of lessons over and over again.  Does this sound familiar to anyone else besides me?  This idea of focusing on the same lessons over and over again, then feeling a little exasperated with oneself or another, is not uncommon.  In fact, it is probably one of the most talked about things in realm of Christian teaching!  People get stuck in ruts and they don't seem to be able to "grow beyond" those confined spaces!

Paul asks the question:  "How long...?"  How many times have you spoken these same words to yourself or another?  "How long" before I get this right?  "How long" will I have to endure this?  "How long" does it take to understand this stuff?  There are probably a dozen other "how long" questions you could add to this right now.  The point is - we ALL deal with the "how long" questions and they each give us a little bit of exasperation in life!  Paul points out something which seems to be the theme of our "how long" experiences - there is a transition time between "childlike" and "adult" responses and thinking.  

In this "transition time", we often lose our momentum.  We get a little exasperated (frustrated) with the length of time it takes for us to "grow into" the "mature" and "well-exercised" intelligence God gives each of us.  I guess I am no exception to this challenge.  I get equally hard on myself when I am having to experience the same lessons I thought I learned some time back!  Paul says it is okay to remain childlike in some things - as they pertain to evil and the pursuit of what will cause us to stumble in life.  In this, he tells us to have a childlike "unfamiliarity" - it should not be a practiced thing in our life.  But...we are to have a "mature" and "well-exercised" intelligence when it comes to avoiding sin.  Here's the rub - we get caught up in stuff which pulls us down because we don't "exercise" the intelligence we have been given!

Now, lest you think I am picking on you, let me assure you this lesson is just as much for me as it is for each of you!  Yesterday, I talked with you about three little trees I am growing from seed in my backyard.  Two are doing quite well, but the one which has not resprouted its leaves after this harsh winter is actually the BIGGEST tree of them all!  It has been around my yard the longest and has the biggest appearance, biggest root-base, and biggest branch spread!  Yet, it is the last to get its leaves!  The thing is - the appearance of "maturity" doesn't always guarantee the "hardiness" of the tree!  I think this is what Paul may have stopped a moment in his teaching with the Corinthians to say - the "mature" OUTSIDE appearance is not always a reflection of the "stability" and "soundness" of the INSIDE.  

* It is more than saying "yes" or "no" to something.  We need to exercise some "intelligence" in our decisions.  The most intelligent process involves both remaining "childlike" in our experiences with those things which will only pollute and pull us down and being "mature" in our responses to the things which will actually help us grow stronger in our faith.  When I was first asked to teach, I thought I was too immature to do it.  In looking back, I see how much I actually "grew up" in the process of sharing from an honest heart.  There is a process to growth - it is a series of saying "yes" to the right stuff, and "no" to the stuff we'd do better if we'd avoid.

* There are times when our struggles exasperate more than just us.  Others see our struggles - even if we try to hide them.  We might just need to be open to hearing from another about how "frustrating" our continued struggles with the same old thing are to those who look to us for evidence of growth.  Some of us need to embrace the revelation that others see us as we are, not as we hope they will see us!  Remember, the biggest tree doesn't ensure the continued evidence of new growth.  Sometimes we need to do a little "leaf check" to see if we see evidence of mature growth!  Just sayin!