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Monday, March 9, 2015

Power, love, and self-control

There are times when I feel pretty "cowardly" in this life.  I don't like big, hairy spiders and would rather not encounter them.  Yep, I will deal with them when I do because it is just me, so if I don't, they will soon overrun my house if given a place to dwell unharmed.  Now, the means I use to get rid of them may be a little odd on occasion, but it works!  I grab whatever is in my path - like the Windex, Spray-N-Wash, or even an occasional can of Raid.  They get a good dousing with whatever I can wrap my hands around the quickest.  I have been known to empty an entire can of room deodorizer on those creepy crawlers!  They might not die instantly, but they go to their grave smelling rather good!  You might ask why I don't take a shoe and just smash them.  I would have to say this is where the cowardly part comes in. Using the shoe requires accurate aim, and I have to get rather close to them to actually make the connection.  I'd rather have the distance afforded by the can of deodorizer!  I at least get them so bogged down with liquid stuff that I can be assured they cannot skitter under the dresser or off into the recesses of the cabinet before I whack them!  I call this "strategic planning" - not genuine cowardice.  It is all in how you look at things sometimes, isn't it?  In this life, there are times when the stuff coming at us makes us feel pretty overwhelmed - almost cowardly in our desire to deal with them, much less get through them with any sense of pride in the way we accomplished them.  There are just times when God's Spirit has to give us the power to accomplish things way beyond our own abilities - or creativity!

God’s Spirit doesn’t make cowards out of us. The Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7 CEV)

My unusual means of dealing with the spiders is kind of my own technique developed when I no longer had a husband around to scream to that a big, hairy creepy crawler was in the bathroom.  In Arizona we get some big spiders - almost furry in appearance - and faster than some Indy race cars!  I needed a strategy that would give me time to deal with the inevitability that I'd have to eventually get close enough to the thing to scoop it up and send it into the depths of the sewer system at some point!  My unconventional means of dealing with the spider is probably not going to be considered one of my highest qualities in life, but it gets the job done.  There are times when life's circumstances come at me like those big hairy spiders - unannounced, unwelcome, and undeserved.  I didn't hear them enter my life. I didn't invite them in.  I didn't even deserve whatever it is they brought my way.  The circumstances just come - leaving me to deal with them the best way I know how.  In many ways, you and I face these circumstances similarly.  The first reaction is to pull away in fear, much like we do when faced with the spider.  We almost feel ourselves shudder by their evolving presence.  Then we might just react with a little indignation that these circumstances are in "OUR" lives - after all, we don't have time to deal with them.  We even feel a little put off when they come because we just don't deserve the hassle they create. 

As I was reading through Paul's letter to Timothy this morning, these words struck me as pretty important for us to begin to lay hold of as it comes to dealing with what life sends our way.  God's Spirit doesn't make us cowards - in fact, he gives us three very powerful tools with which to face the big hairy circumstances of life - just as much as he walks with us through the lesser issues.  I had to wonder about the three "tools" God's Spirit gives us, though.  I get the power, and even the self-control thing, but how did love fit into this "toolkit" of sorts?  After all, when the tough stuff comes at us, the last thing we want to do is break into a happy dance, or give any impression we might actually love it!  I think these "tools" are kind of important to understand - each with a specific purpose and intent.

The Spirit gives us power - that ability or capability we lack in ourselves.  Some of us immediately equate power with strength - and we would not be wrong to consider the Spirit's power within us as "added strength" or strength way beyond our own capability.  In fact, this power often is something we look back on and wonder whether it actually was "us" walking through the tough place.  Yes, it was, but we did so not under our own "capacity", but as almost "super-charged" with the capacity that comes because we have God's Spirit resident within us.  When I go to the store to buy batteries, I am always stumped by the selection. There are the good old regular ones of yesteryear all the way to these newer "super-charged" and supposedly longer-lasting ones of today.  I can go to the 99 cent store and buy the regular ones - but I have to go to a store where I will pay a bigger price for the more "super-charged" ones.  I guess this kind of makes sense - longer lasting should cost us more, right?  So, why is there still the selection?  Why would we buy batteries which last 1/3 as long?  Kind of seems like a waste of our money, right?  So, why do we settle for anything less than all the power available to us when we are faced with life's tough issues?  Maybe it is because we are afraid of what it will cost us to "tap into" the power which comes from the Spirit.  Truth is - the cost is already paid on our behalf - we just need to plug into the power!

The Spirit gives us love - a weird tool to deal with life's challenging moments until you consider the real purpose for this "tool".  Love is not some emotional release, but more of an expression which guides us through those moments with something akin to courage.  When we are faced with ugly stuff, to walk through those things with the passion of Christ is something akin to the most amazing courage we could ever see.  Christ put his heart and soul into all he did.  Nothing less than all of him went to the cross.  Nothing less than all of him stands in the gap for us today, making intercession for us day and night - holding us up before his Father and beckoning heaven's hosts to our side in those moments of our toughest struggles.  This is why we need the tool of love - to help us stand with passion and assurance.  To turn the tides of grace, one must have the waves of love flowing within their veins. 

The last tool is one of self-control.  Power unleashed is not always the best response - sometimes we just need to hold back a little in order to see the outcome God desires. We might walk headlong into things and places we'd have done better to avoid - this is where self-control comes in.  We rely upon the power of the Spirit to get us through the places where our own abilities are insufficient or unreliable.  We lean upon the love of God to bring grace into the ugliest of moments.  We exercise self-control to avoid those moments of collision with things which will only leave us messed up and crying out for deliverance. Three powerful tools - all carrying their own method of making us courageous disciples of Christ.  Use them well and you will be certain to walk strong through all life throws your way. Just sayin!