The Splinter

One of my children recently had a splinter in his foot. Now this child is extremely sensitive to touch and pretty much all sensory inputs. He showed me the splinter. I pushed the skin slightly around it and he started crying, “Owwey Owww.”

I took a look at him and said, “Son, I’m not cutting your arm off. Do you want the splinter out, or do you want it to stay in there and keep hurting?”

He thought about it for a minute. Then he asked, “If you don’t get it out, when will it come out?”

“Well, not anytime soon. You can either let me get it out now, and it will stop hurting. Or you can leave it alone and let it keep bothering you. But if you want me to get it out, it’s gonna hurt for a minute.”

I honestly thought he was going to tell me to leave it alone, so I didn’t give him a choice. I grabbed his foot, endured the tears, and pulled the splinter out in about 30 seconds.

Once it was out, he said, “Thanks mom. It doesn’t hurt anymore.”

Imagine that. Once the splinter was out, the pain was gone. But the immediate pain of removing the splinter actually had my son considering leaving it alone.

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Come on. I know we can all relate to this. We all have that guilty pleasure, secret sin, that we know is hurting us but can’t let go of.

For some of us, it’s gossip. We get sucked into that real-life soap opera and crave the details. (more on this in a little bit…)

Maybe it’s lust. Watching those romantic comedy movies has you secretly wishing your significant other was more romantic, funnier, or better looking, so every time you are alone or bored, Netflix has you sucked into another movie.

For others, it’s food. We know that those sugary treats are no good for us, but hey no one is watching. A donut for lunch is just fine for now.

I do not know your personal struggle, but I know you have one. The Holy Spirit has slowly shown me areas in my life that need pruning. If you have been following my blog, you may recall some post about my struggle with gossip and drama. Let me just say, this is an area I continually need reeled back in on.

First, I was convicted to turn off the television. Then I was convicted to redirect conversations that do not honor those who were not present. But the next step was a hard one. I had to distance myself from people who would not respect my boundaries around drama.

“Bad company corrupts good character.” Wait God… there’s no way you were talking about them… what will people think when I distance myself from them?

Oh man! You can see my next conviction in that statement- why are you trying to please man rather than God? Whose approval do you really seek, Renee?

Obedience is rarely easy. God’s word is not something that is popular. Many people want the Bible to be a buffet that you can pick and choose from. But it’s not. It’s one big love story between God and His creation. We cannot just choose the parts of the story we want to hear.

Let me be honest, it was painful to put up those boundaries. It was even more painful to stand firm in my convictions. I literally tore myself up inside. I knew what people would think. I kept trying to convince myself that these people needed me to point them to God… But all they were doing was stealing my joy, keeping me on guard, and continually disrespecting my boundaries. Sadly, that showed me I had remove the part of my body that caused me to stumble. God gave me peace over the situation. And once I distanced myself from the company that kept dragging me back into my sin, the struggle with this particular sin lessened.

It’s no different than an alcoholic choosing to no longer go to a bar or hang out with his partying friends. If you are going to grow, you must remove the weeds that are choking your growth.

Removing things or people who are bad influences is hard. But the peace that comes from being free to walk with God is unexplainable. If you are feeling the Spirit prompting you to remove a splinter, do it. But know it won’t be easy. You will have to lean into God. You will most definitely need to ask for prayers and support from your Christian friends. It will hurt. But, if it is from the Holy Spirit, you will be better for it.

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to depart into hell. “

Matthew 5:29-30

Part of the Story

My boys have gone a kick where they enjoy making books. They draw sequential pictures to their stories and occasionally add some words. Then they will assemble their books with a three-hole punch and three pieces of yarn.

Earlier today my son was sharing one of his books with me. I opened up what I assumed to be the cover and started to “read it.” He quickly corrects me flipping the book to the last page. “Mom that’s the end. Start here.”

Oh, my bad… I didn’t realize that I was starting at the end. Or that his book was assembled backwards. Nonetheless, I needed to read the book in “order.”

This got me thinking. How many times do I start in the wrong spot of a story?

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It’s easy to walk in on someone else’s story and assume I know the beginning, middle or the end. I may have one important detail; therefore, I know everything… This couldn’t be further from the truth!

For people who “know” me, it’s easy to make assumptions about who I am. You may read my blog, follow me on Facebook, or watch my family while we’re out and about. Based on all these interactions you may assume you know me or know my character. I’ll be honest, you may make some pretty accurate assumptions. But I know you may give me too much credit… or possibly not enough…

Some people may know me from high school or college. These people have a part of the story but have missed chapters that have made me who I am today. These people have a piece of the story that some people I know today do not have.  When I was younger, I was crazier. I was wild. I chased what the world had to offer. I did not really know God, and I definitely did not try to walk with Him.

Other people may not really know me, but they know someone who does know me. The stories they hear about me are filtered. Whether or not these people like me is completely dependent on the perspective of the person who claims to know me.

If I’m really honest, not many people have the full story of who I am. Parts of my story are purposely not told. Not because I do not trust you with it. Not because it is not important. But because some things have a time and place to be shared.

It does no good to share a sob story when everyone is celebrating life. It does no good to share my success while others are mourning. The Bible tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who are mourning.

I think all too often people forget to realize that everyone has a story. Everyone experiences joys and disappointments. Just because someone responds, “I’m good,” doesn’t actually mean that’s how they are doing.

There are so many days that I do that. So many days I put on my Sunday best- including a smile, and walk into Church. These days can be crazy and hectic. But as I walk into church, no one knows the story of the morning.

Like last Sunday when I had to go to the grocery store before Church. I only had 3 items to check out- but they had to be purchased before leaving for church. I had these items in the cart and ready to check out in less than 5 minutes… But I got in line at 8:57… three minutes before Schnucks will sell alcohol.  Guess what the four people in front of me were trying to purchase… beer, liquor, wine, and wine coolers. I guess the cashier decided to scan the alcohol before nine o’clock, so when the first person in line tried to pay, he was unable to do so. Instead of re-scanning the items, they decide to wait. Well, at 9:05… now 8 minutes after I had been standing in line… she calls a manager. This manger cannot figure out what’s going on. So more waiting. And more waiting. And finally the four people in front of me check out with their adult beverages. I can check out. But the cashier decides she needs to talk to the lady at the next counter about what just happened. Here I am- trying really hard to stay patient with my six children in and beside the cart. Knowing I have to be at church- 30 minutes away- in 40 minutes.

I am frustrated. I just want to leave. My time feels wasted. I feel rushed. But I am holding it all together. I turn on my Jesus Jams and head to church. As soon as I get to church, I start smiling at everyone and telling them I am good. I am good. I just had a rough morning. It’s part of the story that feels inappropriate to tell even my mother-in-law sitting beside me.

Every single person at church had a morning story. I bet some of them had a happy breakfast with their families. I’m sure someone overslept. I’m also positive someone else felt rushed. Me- I had a frustrating shopping trip.

We are all human. We all have stories that do not feel worthy of being shared. Share them anyways. Someone can relate. But more than that, we are the body of Christ. If I am feeling off, it is important to ask someone to pray for me. They don’t need all the details about why it was frustrating (we need to avoid gossiping and putting down others), but there really is something powerful about knowing you are not alone. What is even more powerful is inviting God our heavenly Father into the situation. He cares and wants to be apart of it, but God will not force His way into it. Invite Him in and watch what a difference it will make.

Remember we all struggle. We all fall short. We all have days where we feel like we are on top of the world, and then days where nothing seems to work in our favor. But as sisters and brothers in Christ, it is important to ask each other for prayer and support. We do no have to do life alone.

One of the most amazing realizations I had, was when my husband and I were sharing our early marriage struggles with another Christian couple. They laughed at each other and then said, “What do you think we used to do?”   I don’t know what they did- I wasn’t there for that part of their story. But those few words lifted a burden off me. I wasn’t alone. We weren’t alone. They’ve been there. They got through it. We can get through it too.

So don’t judge someone based on the part of the story you know. But more than that, be willing to share parts of your story that may not be glamorous, so that others can see the hope you have in Christ! You never know how much a simple, “I’ve been there,” can change a person’s outlook.

 

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am.”

Matthew 18:20

 

 

 

Swinging the Bat

Sunday after church my kids were playing in the gym. My kids love to “play sports,” but they have not really been trained or taught how to play most sports. They have some basic knowledge of how to use the equipment, but proficiency is not a reality. They definitely do not know the rules of the sports.

Anyways, two of my children decided to try to play “baseball” with a plastic bat and ball. One of them threw the ball like it was the perfect pitch. The other swung the bat as if the ball had come straight to her. Then she yells, “Awe man, strike.” The problem… the ball went behind her… If she understood the game at all, she never would have swung the bat.

Of course, I’m an outsider looking in. I know the rules of baseball. I know the ability level of my children as well as their knowledge of the sport. But I, mom, sat back, laughed, and watched. I just let them pretend to play.

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There have been so many times in my life that I have done the same thing as my kids- just pretend like I knew what was going on. Play the game by the few set of standards I knew. I mean… seriously, every new stage of my life I pretty much lived by the motto, “Fake it till you make it.”

Life doesn’t come with instructions. You maybe able to read a good book with helpful suggestions, but even a one, two, three approach will not work for everyone.

I can remember sitting in the hospital after having our first baby. It was like the nurse handed me a tiny living human and said, “Here you go.” I had no idea what I was doing. The first time I changed his diaper, I got a golden shower. Then I had to call the nurse to help me swaddle him back up. I felt completely inadequate. I had no idea what I was doing.

I can also remember being led to read my Bible as I began my faith walk. I had no idea what I was doing. I knew a few passages. I had been prompted to read a couple others. But beyond that, I had no idea what to do.

Being the introvert that I am, I did not exactly reach out for help. I really have to give my husband some major kudos here. He could see a shift and desire to draw nearer to God. I started reading like crazy. But he also saw that I was reading a lot of books about the Bible and not very often was I actually in my Bible. He tabbed me a new Bible and started encouraging me to look up the scripture those books were referring to. Once he saw me actually taking his advice, he slowly prompted me to start reading one of the Gospels. Before long, I was in my Bible regularly.

Instead of sitting back and laughing as I swung and missed, he guided me. He didn’t ridicule my slow progress. He recognized the direction I was comfortable with and used it.

Now this could have gone in a completely different direction. If he would have just come out swinging, telling me I needed to get in my Bible and to put those silly books up, I probably would not have taken his advice.

Sometimes I think, we as Christians, expect other Christians to be in the same spot as us on their walk and hold them to that standard. I can remember being convicted to turn off the TV and only watch or listen to shows and music that would enhance my walk. Someone very close to me (my husband), did not have this conviction. I was being convicted to guard my heart and be still. At times it was frustrating that my husband was listening to secular music or entertaining a silly pointless sitcom on TV. However, pointing out that those shows were senseless, and those songs were about worldly things, did no good. The Holy Spirit was working on me in this area- not him.

He was being worked on in another area that I did not struggle with.

Looking back, it’s clear why the Spirit moved on me in this direction. I lived a life of distraction, of noise. I needed to turn off that noise, so I could learn how to walk with God and learn how to hear from Him.

I think it is extremely important to realize, other Christians need us to come along side of them in their walk. They need encouragement, love, and support. What they do not need is someone imposing their convictions on them. The Holy Spirit works on every single one of us. Sometimes we may have the same convictions as another, but that may not always be the case.

I am forever grateful for the people God put in my path to help me learn. Instead of watching me swing the bat when the ball was nowhere around, they came into my life as Godly examples. They encouraged me. They offered suggestions on where to start.

We are called to build each other up in love. We need each other. We need support. If you see someone swinging the bat when the ball in nowhere near them, come along side of them and gently guide them.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11