Nothing is more elusive than the approval of man. Try as we might, we often fall short of what another expects of us - leaving us feeling like we haven't measured up and them experiencing disappointment. Since it is so elusive, why do we spend so much time trying to "measure up" to some other man or woman's approval? The approval of another is kind of like a well disguised snare in the path - we get caught up in it without even noticing we were headed in that direction! The pathway to man's approval is pretty demanding, though. It demands our time - often time we don't have to give. It demands our attention - often attention which is diverted from something which also requires our attention, but which will go without while we pursue something completely opposite. It demands our energies - sucking us dry of that which really would be best utilized on a task designed by God for us.
To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd. (Psalm 18:25-26 NIV)
Most of the time, we can regroup from our time being squandered, our attentions a little distracted, or our energies a little depleted. What we have a greater difficulty with is when our desire to please others begins to change our morals, or shape our convictions of heart to theirs. Given enough time, the demands of others in our lives will do just this if we aren't "wise" to the "warping" of our convictions. Wood doesn't warp overnight - as it dries, it curls right up and looses its straight or even surface. The same is true with our heart convictions - they don't just change overnight because someone makes demands of us - they change little by little until we one day recognize they are no longer "plumb".
God is at work in our lives - all circumstances and encounters are an opportunity for him to shine through us. Even the demands of another can be his tools to clarify our desires, focus our attention, and determine the course of our heart. If you haven't figured this out yet, then here's the truth about how God works - he looks for our willingness, then he "checks" it with our choices. He allows circumstances and people in our lives which will help us to clarify our choices. If we are constantly following the whim and fancy of the one who makes the external demands of us, we are missing out on the opportunities to do what God requests of us. God is gracious - others demand, he requests. He is looking for willingness - then he works on our choices.
Yesterday, we spoke about a pure heart - one which is free of all the clutter that gets in the way of pursuing what God intends. Now, think about that in light of what we read today. A pure heart is aware that God is at work in their lives - even through the demanding people! The kingdom of God (the dominion of his power) is within us. It affects those around us when we remain true to that "reign". A pure heart is not affected by the multitude of demands people are making - it remains consistently at ease and resists the pull to be twisted out of "plumb". When we get our minds out of the muddle of the demands of another, we can begin to wrap our hearts around the settled peace of the reign of Christ within.
A word of caution: Purity of heart is maintained easiest when we are partnered with those of similar heart desire. What we fail to recognize many times is the distance between what our heart tells us and what our spirit requires of us. Heart may aim to please all people - sending us into a spiral of frenzied task-driven performance. A pure heart aims to please just one - Christ alone. What we find in this pursuit is the ability to balance what we "do" for others with what God asks us to "be" in him. "Treasure" is a matter of choice. I saw this in the antique shops I visited recently. The price tag on many items was out of this world and definitely not "reasonable" in my mind. Yet, many will pay the price because they have defined the item as a "treasure" they will pay any amount to attain. Truthfully, there is but one treasure which impacts our heart, purifies our motives, and settles our minds - it is the treasure of drawing near to the heart of Christ.
If you are caught up in the frenzy of pleasing others, finding yourself pulled a little "out of plumb", and just circling in a holding pattern as it comes to your ability to move on, maybe it is time to do a little "detachment" from the demands which have pulled you this direction. Just sayin!