I need to rest. I am going to run myself ragged if I do not rest on my vacation next week. I don’t want to rest on vacation next week. I have loads of things I want to do. I have about 40 hours of work I would like to do, which would still give me like 100 hours of vacation. That is quite a bit, right? I have about 10 hours of work I have to do. I love my life. I better sleep in tomorrow, then work really hard, so I can rest on my vacation.
I am so thankful to God for the conversations He has with me. Recently, someone shared that God works with them really gently, guiding them along, getting their attention and changing their worldview until they change directions. I heard that and thought, “That is nice for you, but He is pretty brutal with me. My lesson’s don’t come so neatly from God.” Such would be natural for an ex-addict to think. “It is so nice to actually be emotionally sober.” I told someone today.
But there is one conversation God and I have had over the last two and a half years, where He has guided me really gently. Oddly enough it is my critical spirit and my pride. Ironic since Pharisees were the one group of people Jesus was extremely critical of. I definitely am a recovery Pharisee.
I suppose the moment that broke most of the Pharisee in me was my rock bottom almost three and a half years ago. That was not a gentle moment; but in that moment, I knew I had to do whatever it took to put God first in my life again. Period. But after that, God has been gentle. Well, there was the year that followed that, which was the most painful, hardest year of my life. Submit to God? At the cost of losing everything else, I did.
But in the last two and a half years, God has been kind to me on this journey. I came here with such a critical spirit. I came committed to this church before I ever stepped a foot in its door. It is a good thing because otherwise I would have never stayed. For four months before I hit rock bottom, I church-hopped. I made every excuse in the book for what was wrong with each church. When I came here, I wasn’t going to repeat the mistake.
God was really kind to me here. He put me in a church that really annoyed my flesh. He left things happen in front of me that had me silently screaming in anger. He left me walk home with clenched fists, repeating over and over to myself how I was not going to leave this church.
But somehow in spite of all my criticism, I became wildly attached to this church almost instantly because it was entirely obvious that God was doing something here. I desperately needed a God who was doing something. I didn’t want to be the miserable wretch I was, so I started obeying God and I asked Him to change my heart.
Then He became more gentle. I used to be so proud and conceited. I thought I was the epitome of everything that should be. I am just not. In fact I have a lot to learn. I have a long way to go. There are loads of people around me who are also giving everything. I thank God I am becoming brave enough to talk to them.
The more I have obeyed the gentler He has become with me. He is kind to me. “Laura, Laura,” He says, “Take your eyes off yourself. Look around you. You are not the only one serving me. You are not the only one loving me.” Getting my eyes off myself is allowing me to worship Him and actually connect with those around me. I am not lonely anymore.
I guess it takes a lot to break a Pharisee, but eventually, He is kind to me, too. Breaking me was the kindest thing He could do. I think all those things tonight because today God gently showed me more things. He is kind to me.
Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Luke 18:9-14