28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
Why are we so prone to making promises we cannot seem to keep?
Why is there such a discrepancy between the person we intend to be and the person that we are?
I believe that most of us want to put up a good front so that people’s lasting impression of us would be favourable, that we would be respected and liked. We like to be liked don’t we?
But so often the tension between the person others know us to be and the person we know ourselves to be can be overwhelming, often leading us to be liked by everyone but ourselves. It’s difficult to experience peace when that disparity can sometimes be so vast. The only way to close this gap is through absolute honesty and vulnerability with ourselves and before God.
But most often, nowadays, our minds are too cluttered and distracted to have to confront our deepest, most secretive worlds so we continue gliding forward on autopilot, learning to live with the tension within our souls, while our inner peace increasingly becomes our soon forgotten long lost friend.
Living real starts at pausing long enough to be confronted by the things we’re not altogether proud of. That sharp, defensive response to your wife, that angry snap at your kids, the critical comment about the person who wasn’t in the room, that anxiety that wells up every time you open another medical bill.
There’s a Philip Yancey quote that has come to be a defining thought for how I view myself and others. He says,
‘regard people less in the light of what they do or don’t do, and more in the light of what they suffer.’
When you think about it, this is what God did for us when He gave His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He didn’t treat us according to our actions but rather sent a saviour to heal us from the corruption of our sinful condition. It’s only when you deal with the root cause of a person’s condition that you can deal with their symptoms. In the same way, we need to take a look under the hood if we want our most reflexive actions to be changed.
This shapes my perception of my actions by forcing me to think more deeply about them, going beyond the actions themselves. What is going on in my inner world that made me snap like that? What has my view of God, my Father, become if my financial situation is causing anxiety to flood my soul? Usually, I find that the root cause of my various negative emotional responses is that I am seated on the throne in the centre of the tiny universe I have created in my mind. My defences, my anger, my offence, my hurt, my anxiety generally stem from my misconception that I need to be right because I am the one who holds all things together. Now, it goes without saying that this is highly unscriptural, not to mention a little far-fetched. When I reflect on these actions, and then beyond them, to their source of origin, I’m able to see them for what they are. I usually find them standing on a pretty rocky foundation, that’s probably why they often lead to me having an “all – fall – down”.
The more I practice this level of reflection, seeing my reflexive reactions through the lens of what my soul is suffering, my self-righteous anger is disarmed, my desire to be right surrenders and my fears dissolve in the light of the truth. The quicker I can learn to process my responses in this way, allowing a third – party perspective to filter my thoughts, the more naturally my actions will align with my intentions.
The general human failing is to want what is right but to avoid committing to a lifestyle that will produce the kind of action we know to be right and the condition we want to enjoy.
– Dallas Willard
What are the habits that have slithered their way into your lifestyle that contribute to the actions you’re least proud of? Is it a life of haste? Are you over-committed to unimportant things? Are you over-spending? Are you trying to keep up with your possessions? Should you have got that puppy? Is private school absolutely necessary? Have the Jones’ got you barrelling down the street just to keep up? Exactly whose expectations are you trying to appease? Whose stamp of approval is worth more to you than your own?
Simplify. Quieten down. Reflect.
Who are you? Who do you want be?
What are you suffering?
Let the truth heal you.
By Paul Edy