Thursday, October 31, 2013

Be Careful when Doing Good

I was about to leave work when I saw a co-worker walking around trying to find someone to give their car a jump.  I'm no car mechanic, but I did have some cables, and had used them before.  So we go outside and I drive my car over.  I looked at the instructions for a minute, then proceed to successfully jump their car out in the pouring rain. 

It felt good.  Very good.  I'm glad I could help them out.  It was kinda fun actually.  I was thankful that I had the chance to do this before and that I had been taught at least a little bit about cars. 

But after a while I realized something.  There was a bit of a temptation to congratulate myself too much.  "Great job, you did it!"  "You are awesome!"  I recognized this for what it was.  Sin. 

Of course you will feel good, and maybe you really did do a good job of going above and beyond.  There's no harm in feeling good about doing that.  But - the second you switch your focus from being thankful you could help others to praising yourself, inflating yourself with pride, even thankful that you alone were able to do it - that's where you start to fall down spiritually. 

Always keeping your focus on God and others keeps this problem at bay nicely - although that's easier said than done. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Unconditional Love

Sometimes people are frustrating.  People, even people that you thought were your friends, just don't always respond the way you want them to.  They do something that just makes no sense to you, or maybe they just run away.  Maybe they told you they were going to do something for you and just never do.  Maybe they are too busy and just don't have time for you.  Whatever the case may be:  you feel hurt.  Confused.  Disappointed.

Sometimes you start to wonder... is this worth it?  Why would I want these people in my life if they just do stuff like this.  Well, the truth of it is:  you're about to put a condition on being friends with them.  You're loving them conditionally.  "As long as they don't do X again, we're cool."  Aren't we supposed to love unconditionally?  What's that even look like?

It means looking out for their interests first.  It means at times loving people in spite of themselves, instead of because they are doing something lovable.  Do they need some space?  Fine, give them space.  Do they just need to vent?  Let them vent.  Are they about to do something stupid?  Do your best to stop them, but don't give up if they don't listen.

In fact, don't be at all concerned with what you are feeling.  Let God give you the strength to persevere.  He will give you everything you need to help.  Instead of being offended by what they are doing, try to ask questions and see the deeper reason why they did that.  And then if there is some deeper issue, try to help them resolve that.  Put your focus on helping them and you won't have room for your own feelings of insecurity anymore.

There's another part to this as well.  It's still important to let people know if they are hurting you somehow.  But here's something I learned from one of my friends a long time ago:  Just tell them once.  And move on.  If they listen, great.  If not, well, you did what you could.  You planted a seed, hopefully it will grow one day.  But don't bring it back up.  Forgive them.  Help them work through it.  Help them be the best they can be.

Loving people is hard sometimes.  But as you learn to refocus on God and neighbor instead of yourself, you get new strength from it.  You start to see the world through God's eyes a little bit.  See what's really important.  You realize that just doing what you can really is enough.  You don't need to be burdened by that anymore.  Love people the best you can, God will take care of the rest.  And He will help you continue to grow and fill your life with even an greater love.