We made it. Today was a sweet day of family, remembrance, and gratitude. I prayed that it would be that way. My mamma deserves every time we get together to be a joyous event. We went through some serious family drama last spring. Today was a dose of redemption.
Perfect isn’t something I pursue or grasp for anymore. My definition of perfect has evolved to something less than flawless when it comes to relationships. Perfection has more to do with responses than with actual happenings. Things happen, choices are made, things get brought to light, and occasionally those things are less than ideal. It’s part of living in a fallen world. When I say things went perfectly, I mean they went much, much better than they could have. How do you deal with those happenings in your family and close relationships? Or better yet, how did Jesus deal with relational issues?
I don’t have the time or space to turn this into a systematic examination of every relational problem Jesus encountered, so let me paint a broad stroke that should cover most of them. He had siblings that thought he was crazy, his closest friends didn’t understand him, his own cousin was unsure about him, one of his closest friends betrayed him, and another of his close friends sold him out to his own death. (if you want references for each of those, just ask). What did he do?
Jesus was unflinching in his love and compassion. And before you play the “God” card, remember that Jesus laid his divinity aside and relied ENTIRELY on the Holy Spirit for his power and strength. Now of course he is God, and being God gave him a unique advantage, but my contention here is that he lived they way we are supposed to live. In doing that he became our perfect mediator (Hebrews 2:17-18) before God because he understands our weaknesses and temptations as we do. So before playing the “God” card, remember that when Jesus had relational issues with people, he was tempted to respond the same ways we are. And trailblazing the way he demonstrated that the Holy Spirit empowers us to respond in a godly manner with each moment of temptation. Like Jesus, we face a choice to choose the right response with each moment.
Sometimes love is filled with compassion. Other times love is a gentle rebuke. And then love can also be a swift, firm, heartfelt kick in the pants. Jesus demonstrated all of these toward his friends and family while he was here. How? Total reliance on the Holy Spirit to direct his words and actions. How do we know that? “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 5:30) If Jesus responded with compassion, it’s because the Holy Spirit led him. If Jesus responded with a little tough love, it’s because the Holy Spirit led him. And so on, and so on.
What in the world does this have to do with us? Glad you asked. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” (2 Peter 1:3). If you have been born again, you have received everything you need for life and godliness. How? We have received the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that empowered Jesus and raised him from the dead (Romans 8:11). The Holy Spirit that directed Jesus’ every move resides within us awaiting to likewise guide us as he did Jesus.
You may say, “If I have all this power and resource dwelling within, why is my life still jacked up?” Without being too harsh, let me suggest two things.
One is you’re too proud to listen. And that is the same boat in which we all find ourselves. Welcome to being a proud, messed up human. But don’t mistake pride for being only boastful arrogance. Pride is also self-loathing hatred. Why? In both cases the majority of your thoughts are about yourself. Stop the pride, start the listening.
Two is that your problems are far more complicated than you realize. Take depression as an example. Depression can have as many as five different causes, and they’re all interrelated. Depression can all at once be rooted in spiritual, emotional, physical, relational, and existential issues. Yet we usually treat depression from one, maybe two of these avenues. And the result is that the depression may improve, may even have spurts where it lifts, but ultimately it still lingers. What about gluttony? It’s much deeper than just overeating. Gluttony is a spiritual condition that manifests physically, and affects our bodies, even changes the chemistry of our brains. Spiritually you’ve allowed food to become a stronghold. Emotionally food satisfies you more immediately than God, but only temporarily which is why you return to it over and over. Physically, as you use food to meet an emotional need, your brain chemistry begins to change, associating food with emotional satiation. Also physically, you become overweight which leads to myriad of other problems. Don’t just treat the symptoms of your problems. Don’t only take antidepressants or only go on diets. Dig deeper. Doing so means you’ll have to become increasingly skilled at letting go of your pride. Let the Holy Spirit guide you through the complexities of your problems.
So back to where I started. When I say things went perfectly, I mean they went much, much better than they could have. Why? God’s grace is working in my heart and the hearts of my family. In every family there is potential for incredible discord and destruction. Secrets, hurt feelings, awkward moments, they all pile up over the years. How do you start having more perfect days? Start taking advantage of all that power and resource given to you in the Holy Spirit. That is what Jesus did. That’s what He has enabled us to do through his death, resurrection and the abiding Holy Spirit that he has sent to each of us who have been born again. The power that created worlds and sparked the brightest stars into existence is at our disposal to simply love each other. When you say it that way, it makes it sound so simple, and it makes us sound like utter fools for missing it so often.
I’m a fool, but thankfully Jesus knew I would be. Thank you, Lord, for seeing how stupid I can be, how prideful I am, and yet still saving me. Today was great because you made it great. You make each day great. Forgive me for interfering so often.