Thursday, July 23, 2015

Meeting With God Before We Meet With Others

We must meet with God alone before we meet with man.
(Genesis 32-33)

Jacob had stolen from Esau his very birthright. He had deceived their father Isaac and taken from Esau his inheritance and standing with his father and with the generations to come. Surely Esau had reason to hate Jacob for the rest of his life.

Jacob fled for his life and paid for his sin for two decades. During that long labor he learned the value of honesty, and began to long for relationship with his brother again. He had every reason to expect his brother to attack him, maybe even kill him. He sent word to Esau anyway, and waited. But before he faced his brother, Jacob spent the night wrestling with God.

Jacob understood something very important: we must face God before we face man.  In Jacob’s case, he wrestled with God. And that will be the case for some of our relationships as well. The relationships with the deepest grievances will require a wrestling and a patience as we struggle for peace. Jacob said to the Lord as he wrestled with Him, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (32:26). This is the type of battling prayer that we must be willing to undergo to see blessing in the most hurting relationships. 

There is much concern and anxiety in our culture today about reconciliation between races, between churches, between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers. We will be equipped for this reconciliation when we first face God alone, before we face one another.

There was another important element to Jacob’s encounter with God before he encountered his brother.  As he struggled that night, he was forced to face who he really was. The Lord asked him his name (32:27), and Jacob gave the familiar name he had always been called, Jacob. The Lord answered him by giving him a new name, Israel, because he had overcome (32:28). As we face God, we lay aside our old labels. Failure. Betrayer. Liar. We become overcomers, and we are given a new name. Overcomer. Friend. Honest.

In seeking God first, our hearts are dealt with and we are enabled to face others with less bias, less obstacles blocking the path of peace.

The discipline of meeting with God before we meet with man is valuable on a daily basis. We do not know what each day will hold; but we do know that most days hold encounters with people. The very attitude of our minds, the openness of our hearts to others, can be determined by time spent with God before we face others each day. By meeting with Him first, we change the course of our day and our relationships.

Jacob met with God before he met with his brother. To Jacob’s surprise, Esau’s response to him was completely different from what Jacob expected and deserved. In the time that had lapsed, God had worked in Esau’s heart as well as Jacob’s. Esau embraced his brother and wept, rejoicing in their reunion. His forgiveness was evident, and their relationship was restored.

God’s plans for our relationships may surprise us. The outcome may be more than we could have hoped or imagined. 

Let us meet with God today before we meet with man, and listen for His direction. 

Has your life been impacted by the practice of facing God first? Share your story in the comments section below.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Gift of Anger, Part Two: Responding Constructively

Long ago a wise person suggested to me that each day I read one chapter of Psalms and one chapter of Proverbs. That habit has helped center my days and my relationships, and it has much to offer us on the topic of responding constructively to anger. 

Simply speaking, the Psalms show us how to relate to God; the Proverbs show us how to relate to each other. Many Psalms illustrate the angry heart pouring itself out to God; while Proverbs instruct us how to understand the difference between godly anger and selfish anger, and how to manage it with wisdom.

Today I will offer you three simple suggestions I have gained straight from these two invaluable books for responding to anger in a way that is constructive, instead of destructive.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Gift of Anger, Part One

They say that you realize how much language you truly know when you get angry. At least that’s what the villagers said to me the day I really lost my temper.

I had gone to great lengths to find tomato seeds on our monthly trek into the city, two hours away from our home in the bush of Africa. Who ever knew I would miss tomatoes so much? But being a southern girl who grew up on farm tomatoes, I had a certain wistful image dancing in my head of beefsteak tomatoes, red and juicy, and I had to try. 

After finding the precious seeds, I carefully tended the soil and saved water from the roof to make sure they were well irrigated each day. The tomatoes grew, and grew. My neighbors were insanely curious, and gave me daily updates on their progress.

One especially sweltering day, a gaggle of children sat crowded under the small banana-leaf porch we had attached to the front of our house. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Two Kinds of Light

I have made many language blunders around the world. Some have been funny and others have  made me wish the floor would open up and swallow me. Like the day I went to the market to buy light bulbs. I was armed with vocabulary and practiced sentences, and was ready for the challenge, I thought.

Marching bravely up to the man behind the rusty shop case, I asked, “May I please have a light bulb?” He looked at me quizzically, and said something under his breath. 

I was used to men in that culture saying things under their breath anyway, so I assumed he was just commenting to himself about the fact my hair was not covered, or that I had looked him straight in the eye. I repeated the question. “May I please have a light,” with gestures this time to help him understand me.

This time, he did not mutter to himself. He leaned past me, craned his neck, and shouted to the men passing on the street, “This foreign woman thinks she can buy a light!!!!!!!” And he laughed till he cried.