Authenticity and Grace

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

Ephesians 4:29

Maybe it’s because of some thoughts I was having just this morning – ugly, judgmental, critical thoughts – that these words from Paul hit an unusually tender (and sore) part of my soul. As I read them over and over, digesting the truth and rebuke I found there, I had to swallow hundreds of justifications rising to the surface from my sinful heart. What if those “unwholesome words” were witty or true or honest or smart-sounding?

Ephesians 429

I want very desperately to find the loop hole so I don’t have to acknowledge the dirt in my mouth, so I can still spew my opinion – whether out loud or not – without consideration of others. My words aren’t always seasoned, weighed, considered, prayed over, and tested. Sometimes my words are reactionary. I can barely keep my mouth closed until someone else is done speaking because I want to chime in, be heard, be the one who said what everyone else wanted, or could have said, first. Other times I give what hasn’t been asked for. I haven’t considered “the need of the moment” and I spew forth for the sake of contributing.

I can write without considering the need of the moment, too. That’s the danger with any sort and size of platform – be it a blog, a small group, social media accounts, or close friendships. It’s just so easy to speak and share without pausing.

Platform danger

As I’ve been making changes and refining this blog, authenticity and transparency have continued to be major goals. However, authenticity in one’s writing and online presence (and personal life) comes with quite the challenge – being honest while still offering edification and grace. In my efforts to be vulnerable and honest, I don’t always let the Spirit be my copy editor, allowing His fatal red lines to make my sentences more full of love.

With the last few weeks of 2013 and the expanse of 2014 ahead of me, I am purposing to steep my words and writing in grace and to consider what is needed in the moment. Some practical steps I’m going to take to do this:

  • Take time to consider the motivation behind my words. If that means I remain silent or miss the opportunity to speak, so be it.
  • Wait a few seconds before I would normally respond to hear my ideas from the other person’s perspective.
  • Let some posts sit in drafts while I let my Copy Editor do His fine tuning.
  • Memorize Ephesians 4:29 so that I have an ever present reminder to consider the grace factor of my words and writing.

How do you balance authenticity and grace in your life and platforms?

When The Scales Tip

Next Tuesday I’m scheduled for my second ultrasound. Tim and I will get to see our little one again and find out if BG is a boy or a girl. We’ve been counting down the days to this doctor’s appointment. It was incredible to see the small nugget of a person being formed at 8 weeks, so seeing his/her progress at 20 weeks is thrilling.

I’m beyond excited. And beyond terrified.

scales

I shouldn’t be; there’s no reason for me to be alarmed. My pregnancy has been pretty smooth thus far. I was nauseous during the first three months but have yet to throw up, which for this barf-phobic gal is truly praiseworthy. All of my check-ups have gone splendidly – BG’s heart rate, my weight gain and blood pressure are all on track. I’ve been able to travel without complications. Tim is a sweet father-to-be and an exceedingly patient husband during this season.

But, I’m still terrified. The precious life Tim and I created is fragile, just like ours. There is no guarantee of health and safety. A multitude of things could go wrong in the next 20 weeks I carry our babe, some of which could be revealed next week at the ultrasound. The what-ifs are endless: mental handicaps, genetic diseases, physical deformities, a dangerous labor and delivery.

In my anxiety I tend to view God as a lawyer with His scales, apportioning blessings and catastrophes to each person, making sure that all is in balance. Despite the fact that I know this image of God doesn’t hold any weight scripturally, it feeds my worry. Subconsciously I think since I’ve had a good pregnancy thus far, I’m due for something to go wrong…

But God doesn’t use scales. We aren’t in a system of checks and balances. The truth is that bad things do happen. The doctors could find something wrong during my ultrasound. Labor could be horrific. I could develop some sort of third trimester barf reflex.

God doesn’t promise smooth sailing. He promises grace and love and strength and peace and healing. Grace that can cover our messy. Love that can stitch up our wounds. Strength that can get us through the unthinkable. Peace that can calm our irrational fears. Healing that brings new life.

In my excitement and terror, that’s where I want to camp out. I want to pitch my tent in green pastures, by still waters. God doesn’t dish out the good and the bad. He is Immanuel, God with us, in the good and the bad.

photo credit: procsilas via photopin cc

The Problem With Judas

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor. When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

{Matthew 27:1-5}

Judas believed that Jesus was who He said He was.

But Judas was a manipulator – the ultimate manipulator.

When Jesus didn’t act like Judas thought a Messiah should act – storming in to take His throne – he tried to force his Master’s hand.

Judas worked to create a situation that would force Jesus to take His rightful place as king.

What better way to do that than betray Him to the authorities. It was the perfect set-up. When faced with certain death, or at least imprisonment – Jesus would have to unleash His full power.

Right?

Again, Jesus didn’t meet his expectations.

He didn’t fight.  He didn’t resist.  He didn’t upset the government.

Jesus displayed more power and might in His meekness and humility than any king. With the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus proved He was the Messiah.

And Judas’ mistake was exposed with a sickening reality.

His Lord had died and he had a hand in killing Him.

Judas missed the mark with his manipulating and then missed the mark again by ending his own misery with death.

Overcome with guilt and grief, Judas hurried his own death and missed the glorious resurrection of Jesus.

Judas missed Jesus taking the ultimate throne.

The problem with Judas is he wanted Jesus to fit into a Judas-made Jesus box.

The Problem with JudasI can be a Judas. I have constructed plenty of Emily-made Jesus boxes.

When God doesn’t act the way I want, I try to manipulate Him. I use my own planning powers to make things happen the way I think they should happen.

Invariably, I regret my decision and purger myself for missing the mark again.

But Christ didn’t die for me to manipulate or for me to feel guilty. Jesus died so I could live in relationship with Him.

As Easter approaches, the time when we celebrate that glorious sacrifice and resurrection, I want to deconstruct boxes instead of building more.

I want to accept the grace so freely given and be content in the way Jesus chooses to shape my life.

May we celebrate what the Lord does and not what we think He should do.

Again {Five Minute Friday}

Against my best efforts, my failure is a perpetual reality.  And not failure in a horrid sense, but failure in a less than perfect, with faults sense.  When I’m thinking sensibly, failure isn’t the end of the world.

However, sometimes I feel like particular failures are with me over and over again. I try to legitimize these repeated offenses by likening them to Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Maybe my critical self-talk or striving for who knows what is just my constant companion, given to me by God to endure. But then I hear the soft strains of a violin playing its sorrowful song of pity.

I make myself out to be the victim of my own choices. Again and again I choose vanity over humility, I choose ill-humor over joy, I choose myself over God.

God doesn’t see a thorn or a martyr.  He sees a broken vesel, a jar of clay who He chooses to pour living water into again and again.

His love never fails.  The repetition of my mistakes does not hinder His grace, a grace that He shares so abundantly.

Five Minute Friday

The Curtain Incident II

God has a sense of humor, and I’m beginning to think it’s the sort that only seems funny after the fact.

If you’re not up on the curtain shenanigans of Monday, refer to The Curtain Incident to get caught up, because this is a continuation of the saga.

The following events happened yesterday.  It took me awhile to recover, hence the one day delay on this post.

The original curtain rod came from Walmart and was desperately flimsy from the start.  Tim and I thought an upgrade would solve the problem, so we purchased a thicker, longer curtain rod from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

Holes from the previous hardware were already made, making the installation process quicker than before.  I had the new rod supports secured to the wall in about 15 minutes.  The curtain was strung on the rod and, with Tim’s help, the new ensemble was hung with care.  The new rod was the perfect length and the whole thing looked great.  We just needed to tuck the curtains behind the couch.

In the process of getting down from my perch atop the couch, my foot made contact with the excess curtain yet again.  I stared in disbelief at the drooping curtain and bent rod, for a split second thinking I must be in a dream.  Reality was quick to follow and after some, um, words, I was silenced by anger.

I paced in the living room for a minute before retreating down the hall to sit in the most hidden corner of our bedroom.  The frustration was welling up so quickly, I couldn’t keep the flow of tears from matching its pace.  I was stunned and angry that an exact replica of the curtain incident, a meer 24 hours earlier, had just occurred.

As I sat wedged between the wall and my nightstand, I began to cry even harder.  I felt defeated.  God had taught me a lesson on Monday, and though I wasn’t expecting to be tested on the material so soon, I didn’t pass.  I failed the test.  I reacted to the same situation in the same manner – with anger and frustration.

I realized as I lay curled on my bed (I had changed sobbing locations) that I was angrier at myself than the situation.  The perfectionist in me was appalled at how quickly I failed.  I had supposedly learned a lesson – why was I reacting the same?  And shouldn’t the appropriate reaction have been a no-brainer?  I mean, it was the EXACT same situation as before…

After some time had passed, with much hugging from Tim and reassuring that I had at least reacted better to him this round than the previous day, I had a glimpse of God’s perspective.  He was laughing – not spitefully, but with the kind, crinkled eyes of an amused father.  I was frustrated because I missed the target, but God knew that I was aiming at the wrong bullseye.

With those God goggles on, I realized the real lesson God was teaching me through curtains was less about anger and more about accepting His forgiveness and grace.