Christmases are anticipated with trepidation among many a family for a vast range of reasons. I have to admit to that selfsame trepidation as I plan around my unique family dynamics. Indeed, I am part of my own problem. I get anxious about the broken family dynamic and try my best to cover for it—inevitably, I try too hard.
The effect of trying too hard had a surprising spin-off during my most recent Christmas, when I received the gift of a coffee mug, emblazoned CAUTION: NEXT MOOD SWING IN 5 MINUTES. In the moment I received it I had to laugh; the longer I thought about it, however, the more I felt incensed that this was truly the way my precious family members perceived me.
I may have a part in God’s work, having believed that I have found my call, but what does being perceived as moody and unpredictable emotionally have to do with the Lord’s great commission?
Was I just wasting my (and more poignantly, God’s) time?
The spirit of disconsolation would have me believe that, and besides the fact that family see me warts and all, whereas church and ministry contact is purified in the Presence of God and of common goals, I have to face the truth: I am no better than the next person, and due to my ‘feeling’ personality—which is my only perceptible excuse—I may actually be worse; and certainly worse from an unbeliever’s viewpoint because they may see me as self-righteous. And that, too, is not untruthful—if I appear prideful, even to one, there is more than a shred of evidence to support it.
‘You Can’t Handle the Truth’
I might hate to say it, and whilst I can see, I do hate to say it, but I am so seriously flawed it amazes me that God would even want to use me, besides wanting to show me how far I often am—attitudinally—from his immediate Presence.
The biggest part of the problem is I see more readily others in their pride, with their faults, more naturally than I do my own. I’m probably no different to you; sorry to make such an all-encompassing and dispassionate assumption about you. But my observation of human nature leads me to think that pride is a sweepingly common thing.
But, we digress from my problem.
There are many ways to define humility, and one way may be to see it as the most natural aversion to pride; if that be the case for me I might often pick myself up in my pride, but most of the time I’m not as quick as I would like to be. I can see my fault, apologise, and even institute reparation, but typically the damage might already be done.
The truth hurts.
The truth is I want to be seen as a good person—right, just and fair—yet, that is not typically me. And whilst I am a new creation in the Lord Jesus Christ, most of the world does not see me that way. Most of the everyday world I belong to sees me as a normal person, dealing with my stuff, struggling to love, failing often, and yes, with mood swings to boot!
Again, the truth hurts, especially for someone who espouses to be a man of God. I follow Jesus but I make a hash of it a lot of the time. And though Jesus never gives up on me, much of my world does, like you might feel much of your world does, too. It’s hard to live for God when we get it wrong a lot of the time.
If this is your truth, as it is mine, it hurts. (But, as we should know, there is hope only beyond it. There’s no need to be perfect, or even close, when we have a perfect Saviour!)
Many Problems Together Means No Simple Solution
Added to the above problem—about how I am perceived by those who most know me, by the fact they see me at my most vulnerable—is a problem that has plagued my whole life. I struggle, immensely at times, with self-control over sensate stimulation; typically, these days, food.
If I don’t watch myself I overeat, and though I look fit, and am otherwise healthy, this lack of self-control sets me apart as a carnal man; not someone especially spiritual.
Part of my problem is I want to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and food is one way to artificially ameliorate such discomfort. Remember, I can’t handle the truth. Can you relate?
Many times I feel quite perplexed in defining what the actual problems might be. Rather than sit and quietly pray I will choose to do something; typically write. Whether writing is ministry or therapy is beside the point. Many of the things I write about are personal reflections, morphed through theological reflection, as God works through me to heal myself—and that process is nowhere near complete.
I am to make a study of humility, because as the person becoming a man of God again I need to make my offering of worship. That offering of worship is, at least today, to grow in my understanding and application of humility. That is what God, through a small Christmas gift, has impressed upon me. I am thankful for such revelation.
One thing I’ve learned: if you can be better, be better. Not in a self-righteous way, but simply out of prudent self-leadership that’s irrefutably subject to God.
Being people of God is, more so, becoming people of God, again, each day as a continual process—of drawing near to the Presence of the Lord.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.