Saturday, April 2, 2011

Do Good

I remember when we moved to California and I started looking for work. Not too long after we arrived I started working with a local college as one of the Admissions Counselors.  I hated it.  Even more than the job itself, I hated the idea of quitting, but it truly wasn't my area of skill or interest, so I did.  The search continued.  After what felt like months later, I was called in for an interview for a position I really didn't feel qualified for, but what the heck? I decided to go anyway.  I was hired before the interview ever ended, and with a higher salary than I'd ever had before.  Wow!  I couldn't wait to start training for my new positions as Project Manager.  Like bubbles floating through the air, my thoughts went something like this - I would be doing something with the nine skilled nursing facilities throughout the state of California and something with some thingy majig computer software something program, and oh - maybe something about managing the entire company's time and labor system that I had never before used...."oh, what was it they said in that interview?" I wondered to myself the weekend before my official start date.  I couldn't remember.  I just knew I had no idea what I was about to start doing.  As it turned out, it was the most difficult job I had ever undertaken, but also the most rewarding, both financially and physically - I even lost 30 pounds! 
My first day on the job, I walked in eager for the extensive training course that I had conjured up in my own mind as an inevitable gift from them to me.  Instead, I was the new employee recipient of barely more than a "hi, hello, and here's your spot go ahead and get started."  Let me pause to say that those who hired me were in no way at fault.  The company was still a baby in its development and had been in existence less than three or so years. Training wasn't available for me anymore than it had been for them.  It was truly a case of one blind man leading another.  Once the realization of self-training sunk into my core, I began to panic.  "How can I teach myself about systems and projects I've never before encountered?" I questioned as I became more flustered.  "They've hired a fraud!!" I wailed inside.  "Surely in the interview I must have misled them in some way because I don't know what to do, much less where to start.  Did I boast of false qualifications?  Did I print lies on my resume?  Didn't they check me out and find that I'm not qualified?  WHAT DO I DO NOW?!" were only a few of the panic ridden thoughts racing through my mind. I started to sweat.  "We need you to do the data analysis and configuration for all nine skilled nursing facilities in the state, implement the system, and map it out within the next three months.  Oh, and when you're done with that we need you to travel north, south,  east, and west, to train management on this new product" was the not so comforting response I got. 

I was only with the company for 18 months, but in that time I went from a scared "newbie" to a seasoned expert in my field.  It wasn't easy. I cried, yelled, and considered quitting all more than once, but I didn't.  Instead, I ended that 18 months as the company's leading ADP product guru, I was allowed to move my work from office to home for over a year, and I was given slightly less than a fifteen thousand dollar raise to accompany my promotion after about twelve months. Hanging in there was worth it.  I don't share this with you to brag or boast; I share it as the groundwork for what comes next. 

We'll hang in there for a high salary paying job, but when it comes to God we're quick to give up when He tells us to do one good thing.  We've all heard the phrase "overcome evil with good" but how often do we actually apply it to our lives and circumstances?  We yell about how someone isn't acting like Jesus but instead of shutting our own mouths and just praying silently for that person who isn't acting like Jesus, we yell about how they're not and insult them because of their behavior.  Now who else isn't acting like Jesus?  Yet, we don't see it as quickly in ourselves as we do in others.  If you don't care about whether or not you're acting like Jesus, then don't talk about someone else when they're not either.  Instead of noting every "un-Jesus" like thing someone does, we need to start noting our own "un-Jesus" like actions and words.  Anything else is just illy placed self-righteous judgment on our part.  "Well, I would never do what he did," we say in our puffed up moment of pride.  Yet, I imagine there's someone else out there who would never do something we would do.   That nasty four letter word you just used?  There's plenty of people who wont ever use those words, but they aren't the ones who are sitting around talking about those who do.  Instead of talking about how "un-Jesus" like that cussing sailor was, they're speaking words of love to counter it.  Don't judge people for doing something you would never do.  Focus on keeping yourself "doing good" and you'll start to see those around you doing the same. 

Well, it's easy to do good when we're in a good place, but what about when we're in a bad place?  Not too long ago my husband and I had an argument.  I was already having an emotional day and I just didn't need anything else to go wrong.  It did.  I know now that God was showing me how much venom I still have in me from the past and that the only way to get it out of my system is to overcome it with good.  Do you know how hard this is when we're at our most angry?  I was ready to spit nails at Sam when he didn't respond to a situation like I had wanted.  Instead of spitting nails or any harsh words though, God asked me to kiss him, tell him I loved him, and get him some coffee creamer on my way home later that night -- all "good things" I didn't want to do because I wasn't in a "good" place.  Well, God has been putting me through some seemingly rigorous training lately in a lot of areas, my heart and mouth being only a couple.

Look at it this way - Imagine a tall, clear glass.  Now, in your mind, fill it half way with chocolate syrup.  Now, start filling it with water.  If you put the water in at the same speed as the choclate syrup went in, how long and how much water do you think it would take before the glass was completely clear again with no signs of chocolate syrup?  It might take awhile if you're not letting the faucet go at full speed, right?  Well, it's a similar process with clearing our spirit and heart.   To fill it with the good God desires us to be overflowing with, He has to flush the junk and venom out of us, and although we like fast results, He rarely uses a full-speed flushing system.  We get trials and tribulations instead, and how we respond determines how quickly we're flushed clean.  It's hard, but if junk comes at you, respond with something shiny.  If someone spits what feels like venom in your face, respond with a hug.  If you feel like you've been swept away in a tornado, let your hair down and let it blow with the wind.  Even tornados end.  No matter what you do, do good. 

Less than a year ago, I responded to arguments with my husband in words like "I hate you," and "I want a divorce," and "oooohh...I can't STAND you."  I was verbally abusive on a number of levels and when we fought, my anger came out in an uncontrolled rage that all started with my mouth.  I was selfish, controlling, and manipulative.  I was mean, downright hateful, sarcastic, and determined to be the victim even if I was who wronged him.  Well, I can tell you this - he's an amazing man to have withstood the blows I've thrown his way over the years.  When I say I'm one of the most blessed women in the world to have a husband like him, I know from my own once foul mouth and hardened, stubborn heart that this is true.  It has been a painful and still ongoing journey with God to un-do my bad behavior, but I can tell you our relationship has flourished since we asked Him in to the heart of our marriage.  Our arguments are now shorter and much less painful, for him especially. 

During our last one, I took out my wrath on the dirty dishes in the kitchen while he went to clean the garage.  I was scheduled to attend a bible study that night but prior to our argument I had decided I was too tired.  As I vengefully scrubbed plates and bowls, I changed my mind.  I was desperate to get out of the house.  I was afraid I would go scream at him if I stayed.  So, I started getting ready to leave.  God wanted me to do something more.  "Go kiss him goodbye as you walk out," I heard Him say in my spirit.  "Not a bloody chance, God," I defiantly responded in my best British accent.  It then came down to a matter of obedience to God.  When we come to a place where it's more important to us to obey Him than it is to satisfy our own flesh, we often find that He asks us to do things that we find very painful.  Kissing him good-bye was only the beginning.  God also asked me to tell him I loved him and buy him some creamer on my way home since he was out.  "Like I care if he gets his stinkin' coffee in the morning, God," I rebelliously said as I reluctantly pulled into the store parking lot. I wanted to do things God's way though because I knew He was looking out for not only Sam, but also me - He was looking out for us.  We didn't resolve our conflict over hazlenut flavored coffee and bagels, but we definitely resolved it in a loving manner completely different from how we once did. 

What's the point?  The point is - we all need to stop taking note of everyone else when they fail to do good and just focus on doing good ourselves.  Did Sam come kiss me?  Did he go out and get me something I needed? No, but God tells us not to worry about what everyone else is doing or how they're acting.  We need to take care of what we're doing and what we're doing needs to be good.   God never promised us this would be easy, and if it was we would certainly not need His grace the way we do.  I can tell you that in situations that seem to be trying my very core, "doing good" is only accomplished in me by God's loving grace.  He's the "good" in me, He's the love in me, and He's the reason I'm able to do anything good at all.

Doing good when we're under fire or in a trial is perhaps one of the hardest jobs we'll ever have, but it's also the most rewarding.   Don't quit when it gets hard, embrace it!  (James 1:2-4)

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