“Even When It Hurts”

(Job 5: 17-18)  17 “But consider the joy of those corrected by God!  Do not despise the discipline of the Almighty when you sin.  18 For though he wounds, he also bandages.  He strikes, but his hands also heal.

Years ago, one of my cousins was in a terrible mountain-biking accident when he was a young(er) man.  He was awfully disfigured and underwent numerous surgeries in order to regain a normal appearance…meaning — an appearance that wouldn’t cause people to wince and/or ask questions everywhere he went.  The doctors called it reconstructive surgery.  Throughout the process of these procedures, which took years to complete, my cousin had to endure a lot of pain both physically and emotionally.  The surgeries were painful.  He had bone removed from his skull and placed into his gums, so that he could have dental implants to replace the teeth he’d lost.  He had skin grafts and pins, and everything else that goes into reconstructing a crushed face.  I am sure there came a point for him when just the thought of going to the doctor was enough to send him into hiding, but he had to continue on through the pain to get the desired results…reconstruction.  He had to trust the surgeon completely.  He had to remember that the surgeon’s intention was not to harm him, but to make him whole again.  Sure, the surgeon’s hands wounded him, so to speak, but over those cuts and sutures were gently and carefully placed bandages. 

Our lives sometimes bring us into places where we are wounded beyond recognition.  Our choices lead us into situations, though at times out of our control, that disfigure our spirits…and we have to be lifted into safety and undergo some tough reconstruction.  We have to trust God in that pain.  We have to understand that His hands sometimes have to wound us in order to correct us.  Like the locked jaw that has to be broken, then wired shut for a time, before it is mended and corrected.  It’s not fun, and it hurts, but we have to trust that the process is worth the outcome. 

10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.  (Hebrews 12: 10-11)

When I was little, I was the kid that needed some (okay…a LOT of) spankings and discipline.  I constantly had to be reminded (because of my impulsiveness, impatience and quick temper) that I was making poor choices.  My parents had to, at times, strike me (usually on the butt), but were always quick with a loving hug and healing words of grace and encouragement.  Well, I’m 37 years old and I still need those reminders…only now they almost exclusively come from my Heavenly Father.  He sometimes has to lovingly reach down and (figuratively so) slap some sense into me!  And I desperately need those reminders.  Maybe it comes in the form of embarrassment, or internal conviction…sometimes it’s having hurt feelings…or causing them.  However it may come to pass, I recognize my Father’s discipline for what it is, and though I don’t enjoy it (not by any means), I am able to reflect back on it and be thankful that He loves me enough to help me learn from and correct my mistakes. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I thank you for your eye of concern that is always fixed on little ole me.  Help me to love the process, even when it hurts.  Amen.

“Misstra Know-It-All”

(Proverbs 2: 2-6, NLT)

2 Tune your ears to wisdom,

    and concentrate on understanding.

3 Cry out for insight,

    and ask for understanding.

4 Search for them as you would for silver;

    seek them like hidden treasures.

5 Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord,

    and you will gain knowledge of God.

6 For the Lord grants wisdom!

    From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

One of the most important qualities that we can (and should) seek to develop in our spiritual lives is a teachable spirit.  With a teachable spirit, our hearts and minds are open to wisdom, knowledge, revelation, and correction.  We are able to learn from mistakes, from our elders, and from the word of God, when we are humble enough to admit that we don’t know it all.   

So often, when we are naturally gifted at something, and when we’ve had enough time to get some experience under our belts, we begin to get a little too big for our britches.  If you’re a singer or an artist, maybe you think you’re good enough that you don’t really need to practice anymore.  Well…NEWSFLASH…even someone as gifted as Whitney Houston had to practice!  And do you think that Michelangelo would have ever been asked to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel had he not first spent time as an apprentice, serving his teachers and learning his craft from their wisdom?  Natural talent will only take you so far…

Some of us are born with a teachable spirit.  These are the people who have a natural hunger for knowledge, who possess a genuine spirit of humility, and who learn with ease.  Then there are those of us who (like myself) must learn things the hard way.  We don’t listen when we are warned, we buck against authority, and we require big failures in order to truly learn.  Whichever one you are, or whether you fall somewhere in the middle of the two, there is always room to grow — because we are all works in progress.  Thankfully, in my walk with Christ over the years, I have been able to develop a more teachable spirit.  So I promise, it can be done!   There are just a few things that you will have to work on…

First, you must begin with a willing heart.  This is simply acknowledging that  you do not, in fact, know everything! 

Next, slow down and listen to what others have to say.  There are a whole lot of people in this world who have walked a few roads before you, who are willing to share the wisdom they have gleaned over the years through their own trials and errors in life.  Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”  God will strategically place others in our lives to help us learn and grow. 

After you’ve listened, think… and then ask some thoughtful questions.  You’d be surprised by how much you can learn when you simply ask some good questions. Everyone has something that they can teach us if we will just honor them with some of our time and actually engage in meaningful conversation.

Next comes the hardest part of this process…you have to be willing to accept correction from God and from others.  When you’re wrong, you’re just wrong, and though it is no fun to be told so, it’s important to admit it and, in turn, accept it.  Correction allows us to see errors for what they are, and to address them before they become habitual issues in our lives.  It can be painful to open ourselves up to this kind of embarrassment and bruised pride, but if we want to gain wisdom, it is essential. 

Finally, you have to commit to a lifetime of learning.  Our lives are a process of growth and change that never truly ends.  When we are able to develop a heart that is open and humble, ready to learn and be changed by that knowledge, we are then able to see the myriad of things that God is trying to teach us through His word, through His creation, through our life experiences, and through the many people that we encounter over the course of our lives. 

We can always be better; we can always know more; and we are so very blessed to have access to every bit of wisdom that we could ever possibly want or need.  We have only to open ourselves up to it.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I am so grateful for the way that You consistently reach out to me in every area of my life.  I know I am not always the best student, but I pray that You will continue to develop my spirit into one that is moldable, usable and ready to be filled with every bit of wisdom and knowledge that Your word, and this life that You’ve given me, have to offer.  Help me to be humble in all ways, and may it all be for Your glory and honor.  Amen.

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