Friday, January 17, 2014

Operating in Love

I do periodic self-evaluations of my attitude.  I go through my mental rolodex of things that once triggered negative emotions to see whether they still do.  By the middle of last year I was patting myself on the back because I had definitely grown into a better person than I was the previous year.  I was no longer holding on to anger and resentment from 20 years ago, I had made conscious decisions to forgive, I hadn’t had any outbursts of anger in a while, and I had let go of most of my past grudges.  I still had some work to do, but I was praying earnestly for healing and believed I was headed in the right direction.

So you can imagine my frustration when the latter part of the year rolled around and I found myself consumed with anger and out of control because my husband made a couple decisions I disagreed with.  I felt like he had completely disregarded my feelings and put me in an uncomfortable situation and that really set me off.  My years of working on my issue with anger seemed to fly out the window and I was so mad that I said some very hurtful things to and about him and others.  I felt like I was going to have an emotional breakdown—literally.  I had to pray like never before to get it together. 

Guilt set in shortly after my blood stopped boiling.  My children had watched and heard me spew venomous words.  I’m a CALI Girl and if there was a Christian TMZ, my picture would have been all over it along with an unflattering write-up.  I knew God wasn’t pleased with my behavior either.  Although I had been talking with Him about how I was feeling all along, I disregarded what He said back to me and allowed my flesh to take over.  I acted so ugly.  At the time I chose to blame it on the age-old notion that “I was just upset.” 

I later realized that my anger wasn’t what made me say the things I had said.  Proverbs 4:23 instructs “Guard your heart above all else, for from it flow the issues of life.”  It is true that I was upset when I had my outburst, but the root cause of the outburst wasn’t the anger, but a heart that was unclean.  The bible says that “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”  So the unkind words I spoke, the language I used, and the wrath with which I spoke were only evidence of what I had going on inside me.  What a horrible realization.  I thought I was doing so well, but having a heart issue like the one I had required immediate attention and I knew I wouldn’t be able to correct it on my own.

I went straight to the Lord for help and together we began work on my “heart issues.”  I sought forgiveness from my husband and the others I had hurt.  I explained to my children how I had behaved inappropriately and reminded them that there was no acceptable excuse for my actions. 

Then I immersed myself in scriptures about love.  I decided that I want to exemplify the love of God at all times because that’s what He has called me to do.  Matthew 22:37-39 says “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  Love is powerful.  God is love.  And without Love I am nothing.  When I see people through the eyes of Love and when Love rules my heart, I will respond differently when people say or do things that I disagree with.  Anger won’t fuel me.  Love will.  I continue to pray that Love dwells in my heart because I understand that the words I speak are a direct reflection of it.  I want my words to be rooted in love at all times.  I want my words to build others up—not tear them down.  I want the words I speak to be a great representation of the God I serve and the Love that He is.

The final decision I made was to pay closer attention to my thoughts.  I can’t control my initial thoughts, per se, but I do choose whether I will give attention to the thoughts that pop in my head.  In 2 Corinthians 10:5b the bible saystake captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”   I am paying attention to every thought that enters my mind and throwing out those that go against the word of God.  (Read Philippians 4:8 when you have a moment.  It tells us the exact things we should think about.)  If I allow myself to meditate on things that go against God’s word, I risk having an unclean heart.  I risk saying and doing things that I will later regret.  I don’t want to take any chances. Psalms 51:10 says “Create in me a clean heart, Oh God.  And renew a right spirit within me.”  That is my prayer.  I pray that God remove anything from my heart and from my life that is not of Him.  I truly want to be right.  I want to draw others to Him and I realize that I am a more effective witness when I’m operating in love.

Family Prayer Time

One of my fondest memories from childhood was spending the night at CALI Girl Eboni’s house and being a part of her family’s prayer circle.  Eb and I spent the day chatting, watching television, playing dress up, and all the other stuff girls do, but before we went to sleep at night her mother and father would call everyone together so we could pray.  It was obvious they did this regularly and they were unashamed, even though they had a guest.  At the time, I had never participated in a family prayer circle, so the concept of holding hands with my parents and siblings and praying at home was foreign to me.  I couldn’t help but glance around the circle and see that everyone was so comfortable in the presence of our Heavenly Father.  I closed my eyes, bowed my head, and prayed as well.

That moment impressed me so much that now that I am married with children, I make it a point to pray with my family almost every night.  During our prayer time we acknowledge and thank God for who He is and all that He has done for us.  We ask Him to continue to bless us.  We pray for our family and friends.  We pray for those who don’t know Him.  We pray for their teachers, classes and anything else that is on our hearts.  As God answers various prayers, I make a huge fuss over it.  “See…God answers prayers!”  It’s so awesome.  Whenever we have visitors, we welcome them to pray with us as well. 

As we start off the new year, I encourage you to pray with your family.  If you aren’t already doing it, you can initiate it by asking your family to pray with you at least one night a week.  I promise you it is a powerful experience.  And you will be amazed as you see God move in your lives.