Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Spots

In the course of writing my Annapolis story, I read through a lot of Poor Richard's Almanack, filled with fun proverbs by Ben Franklin. I had a secondary character who quoted him constantly, and it was a ton of fun to try to weave in my favorites of his adages through the story.

One that I liked best, and which it was tricky to find a place for, was "Clean your finger, before you point at my spots." Love that--such a clever way of saying the "clear the plank from you own eye before you point out the speck in mine" sort of thing.

Not long after I found a way to fit it in, my prayer time brought another scripture to mind that dealt with something similiar--you know the one, it says something about how God doesn't want our sacrifices so long as we bear a grudge against our brother. To go first and settle things with him, then come back to Him.

These two things really got me thinking. How often do we ask God for something, while we're holding a grudge against a brother or sister? How often do we not understand why something isn't working out, yet we refuse to see our own blame? Assuming I'm not alone in the world, the answer is A LOT.

Am I jealous over others' successes, when I ought to be rejoicing with them? If so, why should God give success to me? Am I bitter over a slight or false accusation some made against me or mine? Then why should God iron out the situation? Am I determined to find the flaws in my spouse so that I can better "understand" how I've been injured over the years? Then why should God strengthen my marriage?

Something I realize anew a couple times a year is that I can't change anyone else--but I can, with God, change ME. I can't snap my fingers and have success. But I can pray and rejoice with my friends when they do, and be a good steward of what I'm given. I can't make people treat me fairly. But I can love them when they don't, and work to keep relationships solid so that if a break does come, it's not through fault and blame. I can't make my husband do every little thing I want him to do, and if I look for things to complain about, no doubt I'd find some. But instead I can love him and ask the Lord to change me and my outlook on things. Stop resenting my honey for not getting up early with the kids, for example, and instead ask the Lord to give me the energy to do so and recognize the why of this stuff--that unlike me, my hubby doesn't often sleep well at night.

Get what I'm saying? It's easy to blame others. Very easy. But that's not what God wants us to do. He instead wants us to be aware of our own flaws so that we can seek His strength in our weakness. He wants us to cleanse ourselves until we're blameless--that way, if He does ask us to address the blemishes of others, we do it out of love, not with a filthy finger that will just make things worse when we go poking them in the chest in accusation.

This is perhaps one of the hardest things God regularly asks of me, but I can't deny its importance. Letting Him work on me is an ongoing task . . . but one that has helped me see it's not about what is going on in my life, but about how I react to it. It's not about the spots of others--it's about how clean I am.


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