Monday, February 12, 2007

Giving orders is not the same as asking. . .

Last week challenged me. What do I do when someone else is silent, refuses to talk to me, treats me as if I am not there? I racked my brain with ‘what have I done’ and came up with nothing. It was not about me; it was about her.

Yesterday we figured it out. Some things, unimportant things (most ‘things’ are unimportant) are missing from our house. Guilt cuts communication. The guilty person will not talk, and even though we continue to be nice, that it simply raises the guilt level and lowers that communication level even more.

I don’t know what to do with that. Confrontation will certainly bring denial. We already told her to ‘help herself’ and write the empties on the grocery list. So why sneak things? Why hide what obviously is okay to have? But some of it should not be taken, such as gifts that belong to us. I don’t understand this behavior, but I do understand what guilt does to communication. When I sin, I don’t want to talk to the person I’ve sinned against, and this includes God.

I think about what God does with me when I’m in that ‘I won’t talk to you’ mode. He waits. He knows that the guilt I feel will become uncomfortable, but even more, that the separation from Him will be more than I can bear. He also knows that I know that He is waiting for me to bring the thing to Him in confession. He knows I know about His forgiveness.

She doesn’t know that about God. Am I supposed to show her? The missing stuff is not the issue; the mixed up heart of a guilty person is a big issue.

Today I look for answers and I’m directed to Isaiah 45:11. My devotional uses the English Revised Version and quotes it: “Concerning the work of my hands, command ye me.” The author concludes from that verse that God has limited Himself to our free will. He could do whatever He wants and move us like pawns on a board, but instead gives us the great responsibility of choice and wants us to tell Him what to do.

My flesh would love that power. Yet something is not ringing true. Yes, Jesus limited Himself by adding humanity to His deity when He came here, but I don’t buy this explanation of God limiting Himself to my choices. What does that make me? And what does that make the person who needs the work of God to change their life? If God’s work is limited to our choices, I know apart from Him I would always choose sin—and He could not do anything with me.

And after reading several versions, I found several that have a totally opposite take on what this verse says. For instance, from the English Standard Version, “Ask me of things to come; will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands?”

The NIV and other versions take the same approach, and this seems to fit in the context. The chapter is God telling His people about His power. He forms light and creates darkness, brings prosperity and creates disaster. He says, “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker . . . Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making? . . . Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?”

This is a rhetorical question. God has the future planned and who are we to command Him differently! We don’t have the power to change the world, to direct the traffic of its people. We cannot change the way others act or how they think. Only God can do that.

My question to God today was “Do I confront this person? Or do I leave her in Your hands?” At first glance, the answer to it depends on the version I am reading. One tells me to tell God what to do, to take charge, maybe even help Him do it. The other says, “Who do you think you are to meddle in the work of God?”

Last week I read three criteria used by a pastor to help him evaluate his sermons. Those three help me decide which direction to take with my question. He asked, “Does it humble sinners? Exalt the Savior? Promote godliness?”

I cannot humble anyone else by confrontation or otherwise, but I am humbled when I admit that this. Changing another person is utterly beyond me. I cannot manipulate or produce change. Only Jesus can, and thinking that way also exalts Him.

As for promoting godliness, again, I can’t make that happen in her, but the fruit of the Spirit includes patient endurance. I can allow God to produce that in me. Taking charge, even trying to get God to push the issue, is not patience nor is it what Isaiah is saying. He is warning me that prayer is okay, but I’m never to think that I can tell God what to do, nor usurp His role as He works in another person’s heart.

2 comments:

darien said...

Wow.

Praying for your courage, your wisdom and your patience!

LC said...

Oh, thank you. How can I pray for you? It seems God wants me on my knees -- lots!