Are we so sure that we can say there are some things we would never do? For instance, I’m sure there are many people who have gotten married that never dreamed they would end up divorced. There are probably plenty of people who struggle with addictions that swore they would never go down that path. While I know it would take the perfect storm to succumb to some extremes, I’m learning to say “I’d like to think I wouldn’t” rather than “I would never” do any of these things, and more. Why? In order to remain diligent to examine my heart of pride and maintain a godly focus. Besides, the Bible warns us repeatedly about the deception of our own hearts.
I believe we all think we know ourselves and are sure that our intentions are pure. Maybe they are, but it can be interesting that many times we are surprised that our actions don’t measure up. Even in smaller situations, our own emotions can catch up with us. I know they have for me. Today, I really want to share two circumstances that together have really taught me how little we know our hearts apart from God’s leading.
The first was an embarrassing failure….
I was with a group of friends and one of them asked us what we wish for in the next year or two. Several people mentioned things they wanted, and then when it was my turn, I simply said, “I have more than I deserve”. Everyone ‘oooed’ and ‘awwwed’, and of course I didn’t mind that reaction. I really thought I meant it…but apparently I didn’t. Just a little while after that, I thought that I misplaced my favorite jacket. Boy, was I mad, and it showed! Now, if I truly believed that I have more than I deserve, I wouldn’t have acted that way. Action speaks louder than words, and my action gave me away.
Our pastor happened to say an interesting thing this morning. He said that we would be “terrified and devastated” if we had any idea of the depth of our depravity apart from Christ. But thankfully, we have the Holy Spirit and His help, if we choose to live in submission to Him.
The second story I wanted to share was a victory.
Not long after that, I got into a spat with a friend. I’ll call her “Jan”. I didn’t think about the value of that friendship or how our argument put tension between us. I prayed about it that evening. I hated the awkwardness I had and how the whole thing wasn’t necessary. Well, I ran into her the next
morning. We were the only people in the room and I couldn’t avoid her. God gave me a golden opportunity. Was I going to take the easy way out and ignore her or would I apologize?
Everything in me wanted to ignore her, but I found myself trying to get her attention.
She glared at me.
“Listen, Jan, I’m sorry about our fight yesterday”
Her reaction was immediate and dramatic. You could see how she was taken off guard. Her face softened and her whole demeanor changed.
“That’s ok, Margo. I’m sorry too”
A swift acknowledgement was all it took. I had a second to nip it in the bud, and once I did, everything was ok again. I thought about these two instances and I realize that even though they were two very different circumstances they had one thing in common.
I was surprised by my own behavior both times.
In the first story, I felt like I was hit with a 2×4 the instant I realized what I did. My heart showed its true sinful nature when I least expected it to. I was surprised at the huge discrepancy between what I believe and how I acted. It reminded me of how Peter must have felt when he heard the rooster crow after denying Christ. (John 18:15-27)
On the other hand, the Bible says so much about how we are given the capacity to live beyond ourselves, but we can only do that if we live by His Spirit. This means that we often must die to our own desires. When we determine to obey God, we can bet that He will give us an opportunity to follow through. In the case concerning the fight with my friend, I was surprised by how quickly our fight was resolved, I guess because it wasn’t my nature to seek reconciliation.
Have you ever been surprised by how sinfully you are capable of acting?
On the other hand, have you ever acted so beyond yourself that you knew it had to be God’s Spirit working within you?