A Spiritual Spanking

by Joanie Butman

During my quiet time Wednesday morning I was ‘discussing’ an on-going issue with the Lord. I prayed for Divine intervention and was even bold enough to request a miracle. I concluded with the following prayer from The Word Among Us:

“Father, please show me how you want me to become part of the answer to this need I am laying before you right now.”

In addition, I asked for a topic for this week’s blog. Little did I know I’d have my answer on both fronts by the end of the day.

After a busy day followed by dinner with friends, I sat down to catch up on a couple of days’ worth of emails. I opened one from a friend and was surprised to read an aggressive message chastising me for not being a good friend. I felt awful (and convicted) because everything she said was true. I had to humbly admit that I’d been self-absorbed for far too long and not as attentive as a friend might expect. I responded immediately to express my sincere apologies. That email did nothing to assuage my guilt and angst over offending a friend, so I called her despite the late hour. She explained the backstory to her message, and I could certainly appreciate her deep disappointment in the Christian community she reached out to – particularly me.

That conversation was the two-fold answer to my morning prayer. It was a spiritual spanking of sorts where God’s message was revealed with stark clarity and the same firmness as my friend’s email. “Get over yourself. Your situation is in My hands. Now, get back to the business of living. There are needy people out there.” Every once in a while He needs to give me a whack to the back of the head like the nuns of my youth. It is done with love of course (His is; not sure about the nuns’ motivation), but we all need a firm talking to at times to jolt us back to reality.

In addition, the situation gave me a blog topic to which anyone can relate. What might that be? That regardless of our spiritual beliefs, we will disappoint and be disappointed by others – including ourselves. It’s part of the human condition. Our Christianity doesn’t preclude us from the character defects of our own humanity. Sometimes we disappoint others knowingly. More often, we do it because we aren’t even aware of their expectations. There’s a clever saying that “expectations are just resentments (or disappointments) that haven’t been born yet.” Amen to that!

People often hold Christians up to a higher standard – especially other Christians. In reality, it is specifically our imperfections that draw us into relationship with Christ because we know the only solution is His perfection and grace. Christians, like all humans, will hurt and disappoint others at times. In that, we are not unique. Hopefully, how we resolve those hurts and disappointments is what differentiates us. Do we choose to seek and offer forgiveness with humility and grace? Do we choose to take a moment before responding to see beyond the behavior at hand to recognize the underlying hurt that drives it? Not always, but progress, not perfection, is our goal. I will say that once you’ve experienced grace, it’s a lot easier to offer it. Jesus states in Luke 7:47, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Lastly, do we view difficult circumstances and conflict as growth opportunities?

God can use anything to communicate with us. He hears our prayers and answers us – often not in a manner of our choosing. John Eldridge, a mighty prayer warrior, warns that until you are willing to hear whatever God has to say, you won’t hear anything because your attention is distracted by your own desires.

So what was the Divine lesson in my spiritual spanking? Simply, don’t become so self-absorbed in your own troubles, pain, sorrow or even joy that you fail to recognize, acknowledge and tend to the needs of others because in serving others we heal ourselves.