by Joanie Butman
Last week’s blog discussed prayer and fellowship as integral components of Christianity. At the time, I didn’t realize that God was about to use me as the poster girl to support that truth. It’s not the first time. I give Him plenty of material with which to work. I’m willing to take one for the team so here goes.
It began with an altercation I had with someone I love. As is often the case, I was well-intentioned, but you know what they say about those. Regardless, I was rebuffed in a harsh manner and left hurt and angry. I then made the decidedly unwise choice to stay hurt and angry. Walking around harboring an offense never ends well. I speak from experience.
I’ve always been taught to pray for the EGRs in my life (Extra Grace Required), but I’ve never seen such immediate results. Before I continue let me just add that I'm fully aware that I AM the EGR someone else is praying for at the moment - maybe even an army of people! Even so, God can take anything we give Him and transform it. Hurt and anger are just one of His specialties. Even so, I believe this transformation was expedited by a well-placed slap I received from another well-meaning Christian. You know what I’m talking about. Think about the famous slap scene from the movie Airplane. I got the message loud and clear and awoke the next day full of renewed love and compassion towards my EGR, and gratitude for the man who helped me achieve it.
God wasn’t done with me yet though. He was going to drive this point home because He’s had to repeat it so many times in my life. I opened my email to a note from my mother mimicking what I had been told the night before and pointing me to the daily devotional we both enjoy reading. The topic was judging others, as was another of my daily devotions. Here’s the highlights.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” (Matthew 7:1). Give your mind a break from its habitual judging. You form judgments about this situation, that situation, this person, that person, yourself, even the weather – as if judging were your main function in life. When you become preoccupied with passing judgment, you usurp My role. Jesus Calling
Stop judging….Is there someone in your life right now who is rubbing you the wrong way? When negative thoughts start to spiral out of control, say a quick prayer: “Holy Spirit, help me to stop judging this person. Help me to accept him or her as you have accepted me.” In the end, you’ll discover that love can take you much further than judgment ever could! The Word Among Us
I suppose these were the equivalent of a Christian ice bucket challenge just in case the verbal slap wasn’t strong enough.
A slap or a splash of cold water are well-known remedies to help someone ‘snap out of it’ – usually a panic attack. My ‘it’ wasn’t panic, but I was definitely on the attack. I meant no disrespect, but I deserved the wakeup call and am grateful my friend and my mother had the courage to tell me what I needed to hear – gently but firmly.They held me accountable for behaving in a way that wasn’t consistent with my beliefs. Therein lies one of the most important aspects of Christian fellowship or authentic friendship of any kind. If your friends don’t care enough to challenge you when needed (or tell you when you have food in your teeth), they aren’t real friends.
I’ve never had reason before to test the efficacy of the slap-in-the-face technique, but the soothing effect of a sincere apology I’ve had many an occasion to apply. It works every time. I knew what I had to do – not for the EGR who wasn’t even aware of my feelings – but for my own benefit. Unresolved issues had already taken their toll on my life. I wasn’t going to choose to add more fuel to the fire. Just as an aside, the scariest prayer I’ve ever uttered is “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Frightening thought for many of us, and excellent motivation to extend grace when you’re tempted to do otherwise.
No one likes to admit being judgmental, but we all do it. It’s innate. Think about it. Even when the judgment is positive, it still involves evaluating another in some area – appearance and performance being the most popular. I suppose the instinctive nature of this particular sin is what makes it so difficult to tame.
While I was writing this essay I received a timely message from another friend who knows my tendency towards self-flagellation and knew the circumstances. Thank goodness for the encouragement of friends. She reminded me that we are all a work in progress and that growth is the goal, not perfection. Bless her BIG Texan heart.
As my pastor would say, “So what’s the take away?” Simply this: Choose your friends wisely because ‘the company you keep defines you. Surround yourself with shining souls that inspire you, lift you higher and bring forth the best in you!’*
Scene from Airplane: