Learning My Lessons
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. (Prov. 9:8-9)
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal. 1:10)
The other day I was having a teaching moment with one of my children. Every once in a while I find myself saying something to them that is actually quite profound, even though I never planned on speaking it out. In this instance, I found myself saying "It's okay for you to make a mistake, I have lots of tolerance for mistakes. But what's really important is how you learn from your mistakes." As I've been processing through that interaction with my child and looking back over this last year, I realize that I need the same advice I was giving.
You see, I've made lots of mistakes this year. I'm pretty sure that I'm not alone in feeling like this has been an especially taxing and difficult season. We've come to the end of another year and I'm feeling emotionally exhausted, physically spent, and spiritually dry. I feel like the whole year has been one continual roller coaster of issues, one right after another. I've had to deal with marriage issues, church issues, extended family issues, children issues, friend issues, and COVID issues, all while still trying to figure out how to be Christ-like in all of the roles and interactions that I have. In fact, in all of these issues I've had to take a good, hard look at how I'm contributing to each of them and how I need to grow in order to do better. As I said, I've made a lot of mistakes… which is fine as long as I make amends, learn, and grow. If I've learned nothing from them all, then it truly has been a waste.
As I dwell on this, here are a couple of things that I have learned through this all; important principles I'm trying to apply to my life from here on out.
First, I've learned that I look too much for approval from others, especially when decision making. I want to be seen as wise, knowledgeable, and inspiring and all too often that influences how I make up my mind. This year I've had to make a lot of decisions about what to do with the COVID restrictions, especially as the leader of a local church. Do we still meet together? What should that meeting look like? Will we meet in homes? Will we still sing together? My decision-making hasn't been all bad on that front, but too often I was making the decision based on fear of what someone else might think. Will other leaders agree with me? If we make that decision, will people leave the church? If we do this, what will the government or people in the community think?
Jesus didn't make decision like that. His criteria for decision-making was what He saw the Father doing. It was based in confidence in relationship with the Father, no matter who feel away or who was offended. Let's be honest, Jesus offended just about everyone that He came in contact with, but not because He was a jerk. It was because He was so sure of His mission and what He was there to do. I need to be the same. I need to be sure of my mission, to represent Jesus well in the town of Cochrane. I need to be so confident that I'm doing what He wants that I'm okay with offending others… not by being a jerk, but by obeying Jesus.
Second, I need to speak truth and love to those around me a lot more. You see, I've found myself alternatively either avoiding saying something to someone because I was afraid of their reaction or how they would take it, or blazing ahead and saying hard things to people without love or good communication skill and really hurting them. Neither of these help relationship. I've caused myself and those around me a lot of emotional pain because of this. I realize that communicating well and honestly is actually one of the most important skills any person can ever have. Scripture says that "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits" (Prov. 18:21), meaning that how and what I speak will either tear someone down or build them up. I'm supposed to be in the business of building them up.
Jesus was the most compassionate, caring, loving person around, yet He never compromised on speaking the truth. He didn't avoid tough conversations, but He didn't skimp on loving the other person at the same time. This is exactly how we need to be as well.
When I look back at 2020, I want to look at it as a year of incredible value and worth. Probably not because of how easy it has been, because it's been anything but easy. More so because I want to see it as a year of growth, where I learned a lot of significant life lessons. I'm optimistic and hopeful for the future, not because my circumstances will likely get easier, but because God is in the business of bringing beauty for ashes. God loves to take awful circumstances in our lives and turn them into life-giving experiences because we've learned from Him and we're getting closer to Him. I'm looking forward to what God will produce from 2020.