Last New Years’ Day I got hit with news I never thought I would hear. I was told I would no longer be a contributor to a ministry that I had come to love. I was devastated. While I knew the ministry was undergoing some structural changes, I didn’t think I would be asked to stop contributing before the changes were complete. Not only did a professional relationship end but that severing marked what I believed was the end of the solid friendship I had formed with the ministry leader. On the first day of the New Year I received a blow that could have made or caved in my entire year. I had to make a choice.
Don’t you know a blow came my way on the first day of this year too? I was on a phone call when I went to visit relatives. I had returned the call to one of my former mentees who’s trying to get her life back on track and has reengaged me in that process. I wanted to spend quality time with my family so I made the call in route to their home and was finishing up the call as I entered their home. As soon as I got off the phone one of my relatives began to berate me, saying, “Who do you think you are? A movie star? You think you’re so important that you have to be on the phone? You can’t say hello?” My mouth just dropped. How did he get all of that from me being on the phone? I could have been on the phone with someone in a really desperate situation that I needed to tend to or doom would surely come. Though my former mentee was not in such a delicate state, I felt talking to her for a few minutes so I could spend the rest of the evening with my family who loves and knows me (so I thought) so they would understand. His words told a different story, an old story.
My relative had longed viewed me as an educated woman who didn’t know how to handle domestic affairs or anything else outside of the professional realm. One day when I shared with him a meal I cooked and helped my sons with some guy stuff he said, “Oh, you can do that too and that?” He had singularly pegged me and surprised when I didn’t meet his expectations of me. But after having to take him to a series of doctors’ appointments and make calls to his various doctors to get information and check on appointments, his heart softened toward me. He began to greet me warmly and initiate conversation with me beyond inquiring about my latest professional venture. For the last eight years we have had a demonstratively loving relationship. So when he judged my motives for being on the phone, I flashed back to more than eight years ago when I gave too much time to wondering why he thought like he did about me. Like last year, I had to decide if I would allow this blow to make or break my entire year. I chose the former both years.
I knew the enemy was coming hard after me to throw me off in the moment and for my entire year off. Why else would an unexpected blow happen on the first day of the New Year? We have heard the saying, “How you start is how you finish,” but we know this is not always true. Though the enemy started strong in attacking me, I wasn’t going to allow his weapons formed against me to prosper the entire year. In fact, the Bible declares that no weapon formed against us shall prosper and that every tongue that rises against us in judgment God will condemn (Isaiah 54:17). Sometimes the weapons and tongues seem like they are prospering because we have allowed them to continue to beat us and eventually defeat us. We surrender to the pain, disappointment, anger, frustration, or insecurity. We allow the weapons, the words, to define our position and point us to a destination never meant for us. We wallow in self pity and despair and believe we can never do or be who God has called us to. When we get this way, unable to love ourselves enough to say enough, we have difficulty loving others. The command to love others as we love ourselves requires great self love. When we decide to believe God and not allow life’s challenges to negatively define us, we are perfectly positioned to love ourselves and give love the way others deserve because God requires us to.
This year (if you haven’t already) when you get disappointing news or an attack on your character I want you to know 1) this is a weapon that is formed against you but it won’t prosper; 2) you have a choice how you will respond to the blow; and 3) the weapon can definitely make you stronger (Romans 5:3-5).
Last year, I asked the Lord to show me why the severing from the ministry I contributed to was necessary. Over the months as I sought Him with great desperation and passion, He revealed that I worshipped my position and the friendship that I had formed. Those things needed to be taken away so I could focus on Him, the only one that I should worship. So this year when my relative attacked me, I remembered last year, knowing what Satan meant for evil, God meant for good. I asked to Lord to show me if there was any truth in what my relative had said. Understanding that my relative, for whatever reason, still wants to define me though he has seen who I really am helped me conclude that he is just going to have to work out his problem with me. I will not fret over his words and never let them define me. Make sure you conclude the same when others attack you. God will definitely help you.
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:8-10—NLT).
Happy New Year! May 2014 be a year of conquering offenses, using them for your good and God’s glory!
Take a Risk Challenge: As you recommit to loving others in a radical way this year, I urge you to remember that offenses will come. Though they come, we must allow God to do His perfect work in us through them so we can love ourselves in order to love others. This week, take time to examine an offense toward you and see how God intends to use it for your good and the good of others.