Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 27, 2007
Take a long look how you choose to respond to God
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
Have you ever noticed that one child in a family is easily made happy while their sibling is easily made unhappy? Those two tendencies can become entrenched at an early age - blessing one child and dogging the other throughout their lives. Either way, it is often a result of how the two children choose to respond to their common environments and individual events in their lives.
Somebody may comment that it all revolves around the perennial discussion about what makes people who they are: Is it nature or nurture, or a combination of both? I think the parameters of that discussion are too narrow. People are not merely products of their environments or genetics, they are also products of the choices they make.
I am referring to the choices people make to the circumstances or situations of their lives and how they respond to them. Another consideration is how they choose to respond to God.
In considering my own life, I have come to the conclusion that I'm as much a product of the choices I made as a product of the powerful forces of genetic predisposition and environments. Some of my choices were good and have blessed my life to this very day.
One obvious example that comes immediately to mind is my Christian conversion in 1980. Choosing to surrender to God through faith in Jesus Christ was an excellent choice. The alcoholism that precipitated that surrender was the result of a long series of dreadful choices.
Hand in hand
In his wisdom, God immediately intervened to quench my addiction to alcohol. Apparently I had much larger fish to fry and he wanted me to burn them to a crisp. God did not, however, correct my colossal character flaws; I was left with the arduous task of working those out (which presented a new series of choices and new surrenders).
This has nothing to do with forgiveness of my sins. That is achieved through the sacrament of Reconciliation and the victory of the cross. It has more to do with my incomplete repentance that can often be traced back to my character flaws. They need to be cut out by their roots and burned.
Excising these character flaws is proving to be a life-long task. The painful process is still incomplete. There are still areas I am reluctant to burn, yet they must be burned. It's much better that they be burned away in this life than me being found still clinging to them when I face Christ at the Final Judgment.
The Scriptures tell me that God may wipe away every tear on the other side of the grave (Revelation 7:17, 21:4), but there is hard work to do on this side of it. I am a sinful and self-absorbed man whose self-will and pride need to be scoured away in the here and now.
God has not left me to my own means in this monumental task. I am convinced God has allowed my degenerative and increasingly serious disability as a necessary tool to break down my illusions of self-sufficiency and delusions of self-importance - leaving only my weakness and insufficiency. It is only in that wretched state that God can use me, refine and change me, for a higher purpose.
St. Paul's thorn
In 2 Corinthians, St. Paul tells us that he wanted God to remove a thorn in his side. We do not know the nature of Paul's "thorn," although many biblical scholars think it might have been an infirmity or a disability. Whatever it was, St. Paul was insistent that God remove the thorn.
The Lord replied, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." Release or healing of Paul's "thorn" was denied in order to serve a higher purpose.
This means a great deal to me. My nature is not conducive to growing in Christian faith, a relationship with Christ or serving God. By nature I am stiff-neck, arrogant and proud. Nurture for some of us involves tough love, not warm fuzzies and afterglows.
Warm fuzzies and fiery trials
For rebellious and self-willed Christians, like me, the warmth of glowing embers and afterglows must wait until we are on the other side of the grave. On this side of the grave, apparently warm fuzzies are counterproductive to our spiritual state. We must go through a fiery trial to purify and prepare us for then.
What brought us to such a state - whether nature or nurture - it no longer seems to matter. The end goal of eternity with Christ is all that matters. If the fire of suffering is an indispensable ingredient to that spiritual preparation for heaven, then so be it. We must learn submission to the will of God.
Does it sound like a bitter pill to swallow?
Yes, but the cure must be pursued, the boil lanced, the infection drawn out and drained. When that painful process is over, God himself will dry our tears. We will have a new nature fit for heaven. Our higher purpose will be complete.
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