An important friend of mine came to visit last night. It was a wonderful, refreshing visit. We had good conversations, and I was blessed by her honesty and vulnerability.
And we sharpened each other.
As I was walking back from taking her to the train station, I was thinking back on our conversations, and all the things I had realized about myself. Yes, I have a gift for speaking clear, sharp Truth. But sometimes (make that oftentimes) I just have a sharp tongue that I have been waving around carelessly and pridefully. I have injured people very dear to me many times by the sharpness of a tongue that is not discerning.
I realized the self-righteous pride that fills me. I react to people in irritation or disdain instead of love and mercy. And I learned what it feels like to be on the opposite end of that, and still love and reach out to the person who very clearly disdains you.
A few years ago, at a gathering of our "sisterhood in arms" forged in Japan were we asked the question "What do you want to get out of this time together." (We are very intentional in our time together.) My answer was, "I want to see myself reflected in your eyes." I had been away from these women for so long, I longed to see who I was in relation to them. I guess what I really wanted to see was the affirmation of love from them, that I was a person who was chosen and loved by these women I respected and loved. Only, you really do have to be careful what you wish for. Because I was shown myself reflected in their eyes. And it almost shattered me at the time, the shock was so great. Because true reflections of ourselves are often ugly and deformed. We find our sin staring back at us. At least that is the reflections we will find on earth.
I realized later that what I should have desired was to see myself reflected in God's eyes. God's eyes, while truthful and showing us the severity of our sin, are also merciful and hopeful, showing us the beauty that is still within, and the beauty that should be. They are overlapping. Because God loves us for who we are now, sin and deformity and all. And God loves us, and longs for us, for the people we will become or were intended to become.
So the last time I was confronted with my reflection in the eyes of those close to me, it nearly tore me apart, because I wasn't expecting it. Or rather, I was expecting something totally opposite. I shut down and couldn't bear the truth of my sins.
It was a painful time for us all.
This time was different. So while I was walking home and reflecting on all that was said, I thanked God that he was rebuking me so gently this time. There were no deep gaping wounds, no tears, no pain. Just acceptance. So I joking commented to God that He must be babying me lately.
And the reply I heard was:
"It's not babying. This is what happens when you choose to have a teachable spirit."
I thought about that, and it makes a lot of sense. I mean, imagine trying to teach a young child to do something correctly. Rebuking toddlers can be challenging. Many hate being told no, or being told how to do something only one way. They want to do it their way. And if you interfere, there will be screaming and throwing of feet. (much akin to weeping and gnashing of teeth.) The child hates it, you hate it, the people around you hate it. It's miserable. Because the child refuses correction. But some children have teachable spirits. You correct them once, and they accept it. You smile, the child does not feel condemned or unloved, and you praise the child for correcting their behavior so quickly. Simple, painless, joyful. It's wonderful to teach children with teachable spirits.
And it reminds me that it all comes down to how we choose to accept rebuke and correction. We can scream and gnash our teeth, and it will be painful, and not just to us. Or we can calmly and quickly accept our correction, and it is simple and joyful even.
And I promise, it is a choice. It is a choice I did not make cognitively, but for me it was a process of events that helped me mature to a point where I could allow my spirit to be teachable. But now that I know that's what it is, I can choose it on purpose in the future. When faced with rebuke, I can choose to accept it calmly and with grace. It's my choice.
Choice is a powerful thing, is it not?
But I still think that God is "babying" me lately. ;-)