I don’t know how this week has been for ya’ll, but I’ve been struggling. Even if you took world events out of the equation, I’ve had a hard week – a week filled with a funeral, hateful words, misdirected rage, disheartening news and general un-Christ-like behavior from some of those in my world. I’ll tell you a secret though, I always jump ahead to Friday’s reading early in the week so I can be *brilliant* (or at least coherent) in my post, and this week I found myself reading today’s passages over and over again, because as usual God gave me exactly what I truly needed. (Exodus 4:1 – 5.21, Matthew 18.1-20, Psalm 22:19-31, Proverbs 5:15-21)
God will lend us proof of our testimony, just like he did for Joseph. While I don’t have the grand party tricks Joseph received (I mean water into blood, stick into snake!?!), I survived to thirty (and some change) with a body that doctors gave a best by date of 1986. I live a rich and complex life that defies medical understanding – with full brain and heart (I wasn’t supposed to have either of those at birth), lungs that keep me 100% oxygenated with 45% functionality, and a body that thinks that Chanel Number Five and milk are toxic, but is totally cool with strep making a home in my kidneys. I’ve survived ski and horseback riding accidents that should have killed me, with nothing more than a few bruises (mostly of my ego, at that). And every time a doctor tells me they just don’t understand, I get to testify to the power of our God – I get to explain the merciful and miraculous act of my survival as a testament of God’s love, and my testimony perhaps will become a gift to one of those professionals already doing God’s work.
And when my testimony does not turn hearts, I may choose to turn away. Matthew calls us to “cast out” that which offends us, even if it is a part of us. I, like many of you I’m sure, have seen and heard much disturbing commentary in the last week from public figures, news casters, along with family, friends and acquaintances. I’ve toyed all week with this idea – is it right or fair to disregard those with different views of the world from mine? But there is a large gap between someone you don’t agree with and someone who is corrupting you. Christ isn’t asking asking us to cast out what personally offends us from the world, we are not asked to punish the unrighteous, we are instead asked us to cut ourselves off from the offence and offending. I’ve come this week to the conclusion that some social media “friends” are not the influences driving me to be a better Christian, citizen, friend, daughter, or partner. I need not lead a crusade against them, but I am called to protect myself and my eternal soul, and so I choose to end many relationships which were asking me to stand for things I don’t believe in. This was hard – many of these relationships were longstanding, and I have at one time or another respected these women (they were all women) as friends and mentors. But they were asking for me to act in ways offensive to myself and my God: to speak disrespectfully, to lie, to claim other’s work, to carry violence into my community and anger into my home – and I cannot bring myself down in these ways, for Christ expects more of me.
But it was hard – and so I read Psalms. Kristen wrote of praying the Psalms a few weeks ago, and I prayed these words every day:
But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
Delivery my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
Psalm 22:19-22 (KJV)
Ultimately we turn to God for strength in weeks like this one. When you can’t see past today and the world is full of unkindness and sorrow, we as Christians have a place to turn for strength, that will always hear our voices and the heart-song behind our words so no misunderstanding or misinterpretation can taint our meaning. Because, as today’s Proverbs highlights
For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponderth all his goings.
-Proverbs 5.21 (KJV)
God is watching this human drama unfold. All of this is in many ways his children’s school play, scripted by him, and awaiting the final curtain call. Because God is listening to what we say, he is waiting for our voices to raise up to the heavens in prayer, and in return for the prayers of hard days, he gives us the proof that he is the good, he gives us the strength to stand up and cast out that which is not good for us, and to stand up and praise Him, no matter the circumstances.
Be kind to one another,