May 7, 2008

Your Gentleness Has Made Me Great!

The big joke used to be that "Brian has no mercy". To an extent, it was true. Every time I took one of those spiritual gifts tests the Mercy column was almost in the negative. It was quite painful. But one day, as if a light shone down from above, my wife explained to me that it wasn't mercy I was was gentleness. Gentleness? Interesting.

As I thought about this one for awhile - days on end - I began to find some encouragement in the idea that it was not an enormous genetic character flaw that was plagueing me, but a learned behavior, a reactive and harsh spirit. I know it sounds pretty bad itself, but this was overcomeable (if that's a word). With God's help I could beat this.

One of the driving forces in my spiritual quest to conquer and erase this huge check mark in my "Weakness" column was Philippians 4:5, where Paul exhorts us to "let your gentleness be evident to all". What do people need from me? Do they need my influence? Are they desperate for my witty interjections to brighten their day? Or do they need my insight into God's Word? Maybe. But what they definitely need from me is gentleness. Might sound crazy, but it's true.

So I'm reading about David in 1 Samuel where he's going to fight with the Philistines (as he's running for his life from Saul, again) and the Philistine commander finally tells him, "Thanks, but no thanks". His men start to turn on him and become bitter and uneasy - they're ready to stone him - and he very calmly and patiently brings them back down to earth. I don't know if it chronologically goes along with this story, but you look in Psalm 18:35 and David proclaims to the Almighty that "Your gentleness made me great". Are you kidding me? David? The one who took down a giant with a rock? The one who had "killed his tens of thousands"? And it's not God's righteousness or his power or his might that David is latching his triumph and greatness onto? Huh.

But I guess it really all makes sense, doesn't it? David spent all those years running from the dejected king who really just needed to get out of his way. He could have killed him, disposed of him, done away with the problem, and that's that. But he was not about might or revenge...he was about mercy and gentleness. Much like another who came from his family line who was crucified and died and saved the world, not through political or military conquest, but through surrender. Absorb that for a moment.

The "King of Kings" saved me through surrender. And I question as to how it is HIS "gentleness that has made me great". Not anymore. I want to be "great". Not the world's "great", but the kind that causes a King to say, "Well done my good and faithful servant. Well done."

May 1, 2008

I Once Dug a Hole THIS BIG!

It was the 5th Grade. I had this brilliant idea that would never have even presented itself if the stupid school hadn't put the teacher's phone numbers in the directory. Nevertheless, one day as I was captivated with boredom I thought, "Let's call some teachers...and have some fun!" I know, it's childish and immature. HELLLLLO, I was in the 5th Grade! So I did it. It was fun. Lots of fun.

One thing to note about young boys - nothing we do that is fun, adventurous, daring or otherwise is brought to completion until we've bragged about it. So I went to school the next day and told my circle of buddies. Thing about this circle, there was 1 kid in the circle that I hadn't invited. Paul Cardona didn't like me for some reason, so I in turn did not like him.

A few days later the Principal came over the intercom and let the whole school know, "Someone has been making inappropriate phone calls to some of our teachers. If you have ANY information pertaining to this, please let us know." My first thought was, "Ha. I'm invisible, I'm infamous, and I'm GOOD!" And ego-boosting mental parade came to a screeching halt as I watched Paul Cardona walk across the room to the teacher's desk, whisper in her ear, all the while glancing over at me as if to say, "Welcome to my little prison you preppy schmuck!" And this is where the digging began.
[Brian now picks up his shovel]

After hearing the dreaded broadcast: "Brian Mayfield..........Please come to the office" I made the long journey down the halls. Mr. Jones, our Principal, was an older, larger, hairier version of Gene Hackman...and he frightened me. So much so that I began to inform him that I had no idea what he was talking about and that Paul must be making up this crafted lie to get back at me for kissing his cousin Angela out on the baseball field and this must be phase 1 of his plot of revenge. 
[Can you see the dirt flying? I'm digging the hole.]

I remember on the ride home, as my Dad had picked me up from school so I could begin my 3 day hiatus (also known as suspension) that he told me, "Son, I'll stand behind you in this as long as you're telling me the truth." [Can you feel the guilt burning through my intestines at this point] "Thanks, I know Dad." Well, if I did know I wasn't exercising his invitation to spill the beans and I wasn't calling the bluff. I was going to ride this roller coaster until it derailed and killed and maimed everyone on board. I spent 3 days in prison, going to seminary class with my Dad, doing classwork while watching Gilligan's Island, and listening to that same speech: "Son, I don't care if you did this or not. It was dumb and stupid, but you say you're sorry and go on with life. But if you're lying to me..................[no other words needed to burn the point into my frontal lobe and small intestine]

I had dug this hole so deep - I had refused to put down my shovel and stop digging - because as we know, 1 lie requires 4 more to cover it up. But in all honestly, that's a fat load of crappe diem! You can recite as many "cover up" soliloquies your heart desires, it won't do the job. I was so deep in my self-shoveled hole that I could no longer see daylight. And I knew the humiliation awaiting me at some point was going to be painful and embarrassing, but it was going to come as sure as the sun is hot. 
[Do you feel sorry for me yet? Don't you want to take the shovel out of my pour, calloused hands? Of course not.]

What's the point? Simple. When we finally realize that we've dug ourselves into this pit of deception and humiliation, we begin asking and wondering, "How will I ever climb out of here? There's no ladder...I can't even see the top. AAAAHHHHHHH." And then we realize - God doesn't ask us to climb, scratch, claw, or dig our way out of the hole. He says, "Repent" and let me pull you out. God's grace says, "Stop digging, put down the shovel, TELL THE TRUTH, and let me cover you." No, this does not mean that there will not be any humiliation or consequences. God usually doesn't take those away because that's His way of telling us, "Don't start digging again, bonehead." But He walks with us and covers us as we walk through the humiliation and consequences.

So now you know my story. I once dug a hole THIS BIG! 
And lived to tell about it. 
If you start thinking about digging, just throw away the shovel.