No Apologies--James 1:2-8
I have been reflecting on prayer and trials and joy this week. This is my default point, or my “Sheldon’s Spot” in regards to my faith walk. Regardless of where or what season I am in, this is always where I end up. This week was just a little different.
Over the past few years I have been praying that God will make the Type A side of my personality more manageable. It is hard to be in ministry and roll with the punches of its unpredictability when you have the Type A trait. Along the way God has shown me the negative implications of expectation and the positive side of not anticipating what is to come. He has done such a masterful job at this that my Type A, as I have known it, is pretty much MIA. I am trying to adjust to this new normal and a part of this is seeing my faith through this new lens.
A verse I usually look at, at last once a week is from the Book of James:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1: 2-4
I do not subscribe to life verses, but if I did, this would be mine. I am a Book of James girl through and through. It simply speaks to me louder than any other book in the New Testament. However, this week, a chain of events happened that lead me to reflect on this a little differently and ask some different questions to God.
Before I continue I want to say this, life is stressful. Even the best life has stresses, concerns, needs, and countless other things. When we walk through life with others whose needs seem greater than ours we tend to think that our needs, stresses and concerns are less than or irrelevant or an unnecessary burden.
Currently, surrounding my world, I have a family member who is battling her second round with cancer, an acquaintance whose husband is in critical condition, friends who have lost their jobs, friends who are dealing with bitter divorces, and so many other things.
Usually when we hear of these big things happening around us we tend to think that our issues are not a concern. I liken it to “Keeping up with the Jones.”
We view this as a bad approach when we see the neighbors new car and then think, “Well, if they have a new one maybe it is time we get a new one too.” Why haven’t we yet realized that the other way around is equally detrimental to our spiritual, mental and family health? We tend to think that “Well my little issues are not important when people are battling for their lives and losing their jobs!”
I was living in this “keeping up with the Jones” mentality until something small, yet, profound happened to me this week. I had to alter a plan. *GASP* In the process I was dealt with complaints about not being able to totally follow through on the original concept. In the midst I realized that I was on the road to apologize when I stopped myself.
You see, the type A side of me from years past, would have been unrelenting because the original plan did not get executed. I would have felt shame and I would have allowed myself to shamed by this person. I would have changed all of my plans and devoted all of my energies to making up for it and trying to make a perfect finished product. Instead of an apology and unnecessary upheaval, in my exhausted state, I simply said, ‘Well next time I will not get sick or have a severe allergic reaction.”
BOOM! Perspective change in an instant! I have a life too! I am a person too! Things happen to me too! And I am not apologizing for it.
My issue was not a big issue in comparison to the issues around me, but it was not meant to be compared. My issues are unique to me and they are meant to be lived and navigated by me with guidance from God and in this case, doctors. An apology is not necessary because I had to deal with the unexpected.
This particular reaction was unexpected and the meds to treat it left me very exhausted. I had to pick my priorities and of course it is my kids. Thankfully the type A prevailed a few weeks ago and I had something for this project that would work for the purpose that it was needed for. So no harm. Not perfect. Not the intended result. But it works.
Now back to the Book of James.
After this incident I began looking more closely at how we pray and interact with God when we are dealing with trials and the unexpected that we feel are less than in comparison. I realized how we default to apologizing for life! And how awful we are with supporting each other and ourselves through the trivial. How our everyday language and the expectations we put on others cheapens the life our friends are living and eventually harms relationships, our relationship with God not excluded.
Cheapens? Yes, we often make others feel less than when we judge their issues as being insignificant because they do not seem big to us or the issue they are dealing with does not impact us.
How do we do this? Rather innocently actually. I don’t think malice is intended. But here is an example of something small, yet again, to help put this into perspective.
I had technical difficulties and needed to have copies run. I asked my Pastor. He said yes.
This seems insignificant, but for me, this was huge! You see my Pastor is a disciple first. He is always willing to help if he can. No task is too small and if he can he will. This is something that I admire most and never expect from most clergy or “leaders”. Too often a Pastor or “leader” will decline a task as minimal as making copies. The default is, “I don’t have the time because I am too busy.” But not my Pastor. He says sure that’s easy.
This seems insignificant. BUT in ministry, in friendship and in Christian relationship we NEED more of this. He will probably never know how that simple act was actually an act of mercy for me. He ministered to me by simply printing an attachment and making copies of it. Foot washing in an office setting, if you will. He humbled himself, did not delegate it out and he helped me because he could. We really do not stress enough the importance of little mercies and small moments like this and the impact that is has on the world around us. This, was trivial to most, but to me it was important. I think he knew that. That’s the point here.
This week, while visiting my ground zero in scripture in James I continued on…something I do not always do.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who generously gives to all without reproach and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driver and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double minded man, unstable in all his ways.” ” James 1:5-8
Sooo….. let me get this straight.....I am supposed to consider it joyful when I face trials of any kind……and if I lack wisdom on how I am supposed to be joyful in these circumstances I am supposed to ask God.
“Okay God, what does this look like? What does it look like to be joyful when I face trials?”
That is the first question.
The second question.
“Okay God, how can I pray for myself and remember that I too am important and not forgotten? How can I remember that YOU do not see the measuring stick, you just see the race set before our individual path? In other words, what does perseverance actually look like?”
To give you more of a framework on where I am currently sitting in my faith walk. Our pastor is pelting us with reminders that we are disciples and that Christians are disciples and that you cannot be one without the other.
And that leads to my last,
“Okay God, if I am to be joyful in trials, preserver, and be a disciple, what on earth does THAT look like?”
The answer came rather unexpectedly this morning on our ride to church. It was a song on the kids station from a movie soundtrack that has been the backdrop of our life for the past few months. Because, yes, God has a sense of humor……
All of that said.
We ALL have our own stresses. Each one of our nearest and dearest have issues they are dealing with. Many of these issues are dealt with in silence because of feeling insignificant.
Let’s stop that.
Let’s share with our friends even the events that seem mundane. And let’s be friends to our friends during the small stuff so it doesn’t fester into big stuff. Let’s journey together, pray for one another and remind each other that we matter to one another and more importantly that we matter to God and he will remember us in all circumstances. Let us show the little mercies.
Perseverance is a team sport.
Joy is a team victory celebration.