When I was in my late-twenties, there were about six Christian people in the whole world that didn’t rub me the wrong way.
In particular, everyone at my church, most especially all the men, and all the women, annoyed me to infinity. I was a real peach.
My general attitude was: “Are you really inviting me to a ‘Women’s Study’? During the workday? On my one night off? On a Sunday afternoon? Really?! How tone-deaf must one be to think this time/date/subject/location/event would ever work for a person like me?
I was so precious. “Don’t you know I work at a particularly unique and challenging job, also have small kids, and am involved in other important and noteworthy community obligations?”
What a joy and encouragement I must have been to the body of believers. What a breath of fresh air.
And as if that weren’t enough, I was equally bothered when you didn’t invite me to attend (or, better yet, lead) your little Bible Study, or retreat, or small-group, or whatever. I was mad when I wasn’t invited to the table, when my voice wasn’t heard, or when my thoughts weren’t duly considered in every decision.
Me: Doesn’t “the leadership” around here care about the gifted women who are doing hard and great things in this world? Is “the church” intimidated by strong women with leadership gifts? We need spiritual support too! Am I not an equally important member of this body because I don’t stay home during the day? Because I have a real job?
Sheesh, I was hard to love. Bump into me and I would surely have sloshed contempt and righteous indignation all over you.
And, heaven forbid if a man failed to ask my opinion on an important church matter. “Are you seriously making these decisions without seeking my insight as a woman? Well, that’s just foolish. Ignore my counsel at your own peril, brothers, because I can discern things in a way you never will.”
Good grief. I took myself so very seriously. I was such a punk.
I’ve known God from as early as I could remember, but in those days my heart was far away from him. I loved my own self, my own ideas and plans, much more than I loved God’s Word or his family. I liked the sound of my own voice and loved my own wisdom above all else.
But through the years, God has dealt mercifully with a stubborn daughter. He has sorely cut away – pruned down to a nub – my deeply rooted spiritual pride. God’s loving and humbling discipline was a divine kindness; a grace I never sought, but (obviously) desperately needed.
Even today God’s spirit continues to create a new heart and mind in place of the old; one that can usually appreciate, even encourage, the unique loveliness of his kingdom people. Even those who used to rub me raw.
It turns out my Father did not choose to spare the rod in my case. And in doing so he restored my life and saved my soul. Because we do not – we cannot – love God with all our hearts if we are chronically suspicious and contemptuous of the motivations of others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.
It is impossible to reflect the heart of our Father when we are vigilant in seeking offense and finding the fault with other Christians. Why? Because he is vigilant in forgiving our offenses. It’s God’s intention that our new nature becomes more and more like that of Jesus Christ – holy and peaceable – in spite of our many faults.
We are out of accord when we are religiously, and zealously, committed to defending and insisting on our own rights, especially in the church. For Jesus did not defend his own position as Lord of all, even though he was worthy of honor and consideration from all. Instead, Christ gave up every right; he humbled himself even to death on the cross, out of great love and obedience of his Father.
We love like God when we slosh out heaping measures of forgiveness and grace on those who offend us most. And we love like Christ when we routinely show mercy to our brothers, walk humbly with our sisters, and extend healing peace to his own body on earth – his beloved church.
Who rubs you the wrong way then? And when they bump into you what is it that overflows on to them? Do you leave them for better or worse? Richer or poorer? Heavy or light?
Peace to you and all you encounter today. May they be covered – soaked completely through – with God’s grace and peace when they leave your presence.