Today driving into work I started thinking about the kind of person I want to be.
I’ve been allowing myself to get frustrated over little petty things being done at work. Controlling things that seem to scream “I know better than you” and “I’ll get my way no matter what”. Things that usually don’t get detected, like changing a job ending time by 10 minutes. But when it happens a lot in the course of a day and a week, for no apparent reason other than control, it can get on your nerves.
OK, it has been getting on my nerves. A lot. And I have allowed myself to be carried away on the roller coaster of my emotions and have stubbornly done it my way. Yes, I’ve allowed myself to be petty and “fix” what should have never been touched in the first place. And as I’ve done this the resentment builds bigger and more powerful, like an incoming storm. I’m consumed with being right and having my way. Just because. And it doesn’t matter what I put behind the “because” – because it won’t be right. It will just be me justifying my wrong behavior.
Ouch! And I cried as I drove into work discussing this with God. Because I realized a few hard hitting truths. I’m not right, no matter what. I shouldn’t be mad, no matter what. I need to let it go, no matter what. And I just don’t want to.
I joke with people that I’m not a nice person. And at our very core, none of us are. My human side (aka my flesh) wants to be harsh, hard, vengeful, and unforgiving. I want to hold onto my hurts and retaliate.
And of course I can rationalize that my wrongs (and yes, I know they are wrong) aren’t as bad as ____ (fill in the blank with the latest offense of someone else). But God reminds me that two wrongs never make a right. My wrong doesn’t undo her wrong or make the situation any better. My wrong isn’t walking in love. My wrong is walking in unforgiveness.
But Jesus is all about love. He proved this again and again and again in the stories told by the Gospel writers. He touched the untouchable. He dined with the dregs of society. He healed rich and poor. And He refused to condemn the adulterous woman.
In John 8:2-12, Jesus is brought a woman caught in adultery: 2 Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. 7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” 12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
Thinking about this story (as I cried), I realized there are 4 people involved:
- The adulterous woman – publicly humiliated to try to entrap Jesus
- The religious leaders – who want to destroy Jesus’ reputation with their people
- Jesus – the loving Savior who speaks only one sentence to her accusers (verse 7)
- The adulterous man – who, ironically, does not enter into the story
No one thinks about the adulterous man. He isn’t humiliated publicly. He isn’t even mentioned. But he’s part of the story. He’s one of the two people involved in her sin, and he made a conscious choice to sin. Yet he seems to be invisible or irrelevant to the religious leaders, who choose to focus instead on the woman. Was he perhaps one of them, a religious leader who hated Jesus and His unconditional acceptance, the man who was chosen to set this woman up? We’ll never know, but it’s an interesting thought to consider.
Everyone focuses on the other three characters, those mentioned in the verses. And it becomes a comparison of personalities. Jesus is loving and accepting and forgiving. The religious leaders are calculating and harsh and unrelenting. The woman is the victim of a religious battle who was caught, literally, with her pants down and shamed publicly.
And as I’m talking to (or arguing with) God, I realize I have a choice. I can be one of these four people. So who do I want to be?
Do I want to be the person who stays in the background, causing trouble and never taking responsibility? That makes me devious and sneaky.
Do I want to be the person who drags people’s problems and weaknesses into the light for all to see to prove I am the better person? That makes me self-righteous and sly.
Do I want to be the person who chooses sin and pleasure and momentary satisfaction over the right choice? That makes me impulsive and sin-centered.
Or do I want to be like the Savior who sacrificially gave His life after viciously suffering for my benefit? This option means choosing love over being right, forgiveness over being right, and grace over being right. And that makes me a loving and obedient follower of Christ.
And I’ve battled all day over this one question – who do I want to be? Which of the four people do I want to be? Which of these people are my actions representing?
And it’s a HARD question. And it hurts to answer honestly. But I have learned that honesty is the best policy, since God knows everything anyway. I’m not fooling Him, and I never will. He knows what I’m thinking and feeling and being. He is just sitting back waiting for me to admit it and run to Him to get back in line.
So honestly, I am not happy with the person I have become the last month or two. I am not satisfied to any degree with my behavior and choices. I am disappointed that I have been led astray by my fickle emotions.
So that’s where I start. Right where I’m stuck. Right where I’m wrong. Right where I’m aggravated. Right where I want to see change happen.
And in being wrong, I can begin to find what is right. Because being wrong lands me in the center of His loving arms, where real repentance and then change can happen.
So I can move from this feeling – I am stuck in the muck of frustration. And I feel stuck and aggravated and a little hopeless. There may be a black cloud over my head. So I can embrace this truth – God is trying to break me, I don’t doubt it. And I know Jesus is standing there, waiting for me to bend in His direction. And I know without any doubt that the story of the adulterous woman applies to me – And just like He did not do with the adulterous woman, so He also does not condemn me.
So the choice becomes mine. So now I decide how tightly I hold onto God and if I refuse to let go like Jacob. And I wrestle with the person I want to be – right and self righteous or peaceful and passive.
Who do I want to be? I definitely don’t want to look back and realize that I was the adulterous man or the religious leaders. I realize I will usually be the adulterous woman, either voluntarily embroiled in my sin or unwillingly dragged into my sin. But I want to be like my precious Savior. I want to be open, loving, and quick to forgive.
And tomorrow is another new opportunity to get it right. How will I act and react differently? Will I be open to letting all the petty and crazy things go? Jesus, help me give You full control so I can be more like You.
Marie Fremin. Started 4/22/15 and finished 5/3/15.