I want to embrace life - living it to the fullest and enjoying every moment. In order to do so, there are some things I should not do - things which would serve to shorten my days and / or fill them with things which are not pleasant, enjoyable, or "embraceable". If you drive an automobile, you know you need to fill up the tank every so often in order to have the fuel to continue to see the car's engine work as it should. In fact, you also need to do oil changes at regular intervals, get tune-ups, and even rotate the tires. If you have driven your vehicle for any length of time, you can even sense when there is an unusual sound or vibration you might hear. You can either respond to that quickly and get it put back in right order, or you can ignore it and see the further damage this "little thing" will cause. I don't think life is much different than caring for our automobiles - on a very literal sense, if we ignore the little stuff, it brings bigger issues; if we tend to the stuff when it is just "routine", we don't have as many opportunities to deal with it as a crisis.
Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, here’s what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth. God looks on all this with approval, listening and responding well to what he’s asked; but he turns his back on those who do evil things. (I Peter 3:10-13 MSG)
According to our passage today, if we want to embrace life and see the day filled up with all kinds of good, there are some specific steps we need to take to ensure this happens - much like we need to regular and consistent maintenance of our vehicles. There are just some things in life we cannot ignore and think things will go well for us. They are:
1. We cannot just speak our words and not be cognizant of how they will impact the lives of those around us. Evil and hurtful words come out of our mouths more often than we might imagine - not so much because we make a practice of saying them, but because we ignore the little warning signs that they are just under the surface waiting to break forth! Evil words may be likened to those spoken with any hint of anger or irritability - they aren't spoken on purpose, but they sneak out whenever we don't have a tight reign over our emotions. Words spoken in haste often have the tendency to do damage just like ignoring the red warning light advising you your car needs its regular maintenance visit. They may not be immediately noticed as causing harm, but ignored long enough and they will become the wedge which separates good friends.
2. We cannot ignore bad stuff and think it will just go away or magically be replaced with something more pleasant and enjoyable. Bad stuff needs to be dealt with. It is like the smelly garbage can - taking out the trash may help, but until you actually wash out the can, you are only masking the stink. We have to cultivate good in our lives and the lives of others. Whenever something needs to be cultivated, this implies there is work involved and this is often where we have the "rub". There is nothing within my relationships which has come easy - everything good has taken some work, even to the point of working through those things which weren't so good to begin with. In other words, we had to work to get the "stink out" in order to appreciate the full value of these relationships.
3. We cannot expect solid relationships without a little bit of effort on our behalf, anymore than we can expect the auto to run each time we jump in it if we fail to fill it up at the gas station, or ignore its regular maintenance. Our relationships run dry if there is not a consistent "infilling" of them with the "good stuff" which makes us strong. Peace within relationships is not just a "state" we enjoy, but a sense of sturdiness and consistency we experience. There is much to be said about taking time away to build up these relationships - first starting with your relationship with your Lord, Jesus Christ, then branching out to those God has placed in your life as partners in marriage, friends who help to hold you accountable, and those who just share so much in common with you that you are more like sisters / brothers than friends.
God asks us to pay attention to these three things because they matter in the end. They are what give us the stability and consistency to finish well. They are what keep us centered and help us to get the most out of each interaction with others. It begins within our relationship with Jesus, filtering down into every relationship and acquaintance we enjoy in this earthly life. God takes notice of how well we move toward "maintaining" what he gives us - avoiding the tendency to ignore the little stuff. The adage to "not sweat the small stuff" doesn't apply in relationship with others - the small stuff needs our attention so as not to allow it to become big stuff. Sometimes I think we think it is okay to gloss over the little harmful things, almost thinking they will resolve in time. I don't think this is the case, though, for even though they appear to be resolved, there are memories created which we hold onto - this is part of human nature. If we want to be consistent, we have to respond well to what God asks of us - even if what he asks seems to only be the small stuff. Just sayin!