Do you ever have one of those days? I had one of those days this week. We found out we own a vehicle which needs a new engine. Fun stuff. Of course, this was after doing the work to remove a fuel tank to install a new fuel pump. If you have never had the joy of doing this work you know it is hard, greasy, smelly, and heavy. The vehicle just wanted to add insult to injury.
I did learn a few things while working on the vehicle though. Things that never move are much harder to move later. We had to undo a few hoses connected to metal parts. Those hoses had not moved in at least 15 years. They were unpliable. Those hoses and I had a few words together: cantankerous, obdurate, unyielding, pertinacious, unruly, perverse….Well, you get the idea.
My disappointment with the vehicle led me straight to my old habits of anger, jealousy, and rudeness. Thankfully, none of these things came out too much to other people. But I certainly felt them.
It is not wrong to feel disappointed when things go wrong. Morality comes in when we choose how to deal with feelings. We have an opportunity to be faithful to Christ, or to give in to our old selfish desires. The hoses reminded me about how Jesus could form me in the middle of my disappointment. Was I going to remain unpliable or was I going to look to Jesus?
Proverbs 18:15 says, “Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights.” (The Message)
If we want to be good followers of Christ, we need to be life long learners. In Lent and Easter, it can be easy to fall into old habits. We can easily go through religious motions. Sundays can be this way too. Repetition is easily found in exterior actions of faith.
How do we avoid the trap of just going through the motions, especially when we are doing things which are outwardly repetitive? We must become people of wisdom. People who are wise know how to live. We know how to live because our lives are full of Jesus.
Jesus fulfills all the scriptures in such a way to breathe new life into them. We memorize scripture not because it is powerful as a book on its own right, but because it brings us to the person of Jesus. As we know scripture and apply it, we come to know Jesus in each of those instances. The knowledge of Jesus is internalized and then externalized through our actions.
Going back to my week, and my disappointment- how would I apply this insight when finding out about the vehicle?
First, I would take a second and realize my disappointment. This is an important step. Usually, when we act out externally, we haven’t taken the time to assess what is really going on internally. If I don’t know why I am acting, whether internally or externally, I am only dealing with symptoms and not root causes.
Second, after realizing why I am feeling disappointed, I take a few minutes to talk to God and let out how I feel. This is where scripture often speaks to us. If you have ever heard someone speak of scripture reading us, this is one of those places where scripture reacts with our inner selves in this way. If we haven’t taken time to memorize scripture, we may miss out on a chance for God to speak to us in these times.
Next, it is time to review how my feelings can be directed in a way to honor God. In this case, it could be taking the time to look for ways that I can be a blessing to others even though I am disappointed. My internalization of the failure of the engine can now be turned into an external act of faith.
This whole confusing process must be lived in the Holy Spirit. We internally admit and live out our need for Jesus. The Holy Spirit embodies us to live and learn in a new way, rather than reverting to our old habits. This faith is what makes the difference in acts which are indistinguishable externally. My heart has been submitted to Christ.
A simple prayer, “Jesus, help me to learn from you in all circumstances. Teach me your word, so that I may know you more and share you in my life.” -Christopher