Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stop! Thief!

Galatians 5:16-26 (New International Version)

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

I hate to admit it…but last week I was a bank thief. Yup… I went into the bank and robbed the teller assisting me…I also was able to rob those working near her. After all…when someone is “robbed” in public those nearby are subjected to the same. Mmmm, perhaps I should explain a bit more before you go check to see how you missed this on the evening news…

The other day I went to the bank to cash three small checks…two of the checks had only my name on it and the other was made out in my husband’s name for $12.30. When Brad was alive (and with his permission) I was able to deposit or cash his checks easy enough since both our names were on the bank account. Since Brad and I had held our bank accounts together for years at this bank it did not really occur to me that when I went to cash or deposit this check that the bank teller would not accept it. After all they had proof in their files that we had been married and that Brad had died two years ago…and it wasn’t like Brad would ever be able to cash it himself. Besides…it was only for $12.30!

Unfortunately… the bank teller didn’t see things the same way I did. When she tried to explain “bank policy” I tried to explain “Kathy policy” and neither of us met the other’s specification! Although I did not say anything that may have been considered inappropriate…my attitude and the way I expressed myself was not appropriate as a follower of Christ.

Once I understood we had reached an impasse on resolving our differences, I coldly conceded the one check would be left uncashed and indifferently accepted the funds from the other two and walked away. Before I could even get inside my car... my thoughts and spirit became unsettled. I began trying to “justify” my response to this bank teller on the short drive home. Wanting to overlook my thoughtlessness towards her, I began going over in my mind any “hints” of fault I could imagine in her actions and responses. By the time I had entered my house though I was feeling an over-riding conviction to go back to the bank and apologize for how I behaved. Yet…right there with the Spirit’s conviction was my own strongly felt resistance to returning… I really didn’t want to go back and admit any fault.

“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” Gal. 5:17

I willingly sought the Lord in prayer and admitted to God that I had been “ugly”. As I asked for His forgiveness, I also prayed, “Please Lord…I don’t want to have to go back and apologize...can this just be between the two of us?” As I sought for my spirit to be quieted, I knew with certainty I had received the Lord’s love and forgiveness, but my spirit remained unsettled. So I continued to pray asking God to release me from how I was feeling… yet as I prayed I knew I was also trying to squelch the urging of the Holy Spirit’s instruction to be obedient to what God’s Word has taught me to do.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your mind; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”. Ephesians 4:22-24

It was clear…I needed to go back and apologize.

I’d love to tell you I got up from prayer and went straight to the bank…but unfortunately, “my old self” still has a bit of fight in her…so, instead, I stayed right where I was and gave God my “list of good reasons” why it really wasn’t necessary for me to go back to the bank and apologize. First on my list, I justified my reaction to the bank teller by telling God I thought from the very start she didn’t display any signs that she is all that nice of a person herself. I also gave serious consideration to the notion that she could likely be a horribly mean person to everyone she encounters. Next, I added to my list, she seemed to lack some real compassion. My argument being after all, she never did express to me any kindness in regard to my losing my husband (…well, ok, my attitude towards her may not have given her an opportunity to do so, but…). Sooo, I added she also lacked warmth. By this point I have really warmed up to feeling vindicated in my reaction to not being able to cash this now very important check and what it stands for…so I continue onto my next point. She was cold, I decided…like how she kept annoyingly referred back to bank policy and what I needed to have with me and didn’t…instead of trying to come up with a solution that would have really helped me the way I needed help! And then just in case none of these reasons held to be true…and because I really do know I should not respond to people based on how they treat me…I argued what I thought was my best reason…“Lord, she has likely forgotten my visit already. It wasn’t really that big of a deal anyway, right? It’s not like I said anything wrong….so she’ll never miss my not coming back and apologizing”.

These arguments were not calming my spirit or convincing the Lord …so I pleaded mercy and gave the Lord my one and only defense … “Lord, don’t you care? I’m still hurting from my loss of Brad and his not being here with me. Dealing with stuff like this can be hard for me. Can’t I just have this one time to be excused from ‘doing what is right?’ I agree I may have been a bit “ugly” about all of this to the bank teller…but Lord, it’s only because I’m hurting…you know how when I’m hurting that it sometimes makes me not so nice... Honest, I’ve learned my lesson today. Let me stay home and forget this ever happened.”

The Lord’s compassion and love filled me as His Word also reminded me that His discipline is for my good…not to harm me, but to prosper me. He kindly revealed to me what my actions had really done that day. He let me know that although I may not have intended to “rob” this bank teller, my actions and attitude did indeed steal something of great value. Instead of bringing her the Lord’s goodwill and gentleness …I held her up with my own “disregard and discontent”. I took away her calm assurance and robbed her of the peace which was hers for doing her job well. And while I was at it… I also stole from those who worked with her. Those nearby no doubt heard or saw what occurred and felt her discomfort as they tried to carry on in work…perhaps even fearing that this may happen to them next. My actions robbed all of them of God’s intended blessing my life is suppose to be towards others. My actions also robbed me of the blessing in being kind.

My debate with the Lord ended with my acknowledging and agreeing with God that regardless of how the bank teller would respond to my apology, it was necessary for me to be obedient to my Father’s Will and return to the bank. Not only would I feel better by doing this the Lord assured me, but more importantly, I would be pleasing God. Honestly…to please God was reason enough for me. So I grabbed my keys and headed out the door. And then you know, something else wonderful happened...although I certainly did not deserve it…Jesus went with me to the bank! I did not have to face my “victim(s)” alone…Jesus gave me the courage and confidence I needed to walk up to her with other people close by and tell her I was sorry for treating her so badly on my earlier visit. I really didn’t expect what happened next…her first response was the look of sweet delight followed by a sigh and a big smile…

My apology was not only accepted but gratefully received. She asked that I wait for her to come out from behind the counter to speak with me. She expressed her sincere surprise that I took responsibility for my actions and reaction earlier. I discovered that my actions had indeed caused her to feel troubled enough to speak with her manager for she said she went to ask for advice on how she could have responded better knowing this was a difficult circumstance. Than she quickly gave way from how she had been feeling and expressed concern for me. She wanted to know if I was “ok too”. She thanked me for “caring” enough about her feelings to return. She also said she appreciated that I wanted her to know I found no fault in her actions. I saw blessed relief in her. I felt it too. My returning to the bank…apologizing and than allowing Jesus’ love for both of us to be evident… changed her day I think. I know it changed mine.

As I left the bank…my tears began to stream down my face as I thanked God for the sweet blessing of relief my soul was experiencing… no longer feeling unsettled. Perhaps you have discovered as I have that it is through obedience that we are drawn into a closer relationship and understanding with Christ. God knew I was sorry for how I had acted toward the bank teller and His forgiveness was complete the moment I asked forgiveness…but, all sin has consequences. Had I remained unwillingness to heed God’s direction in my response to His forgiveness, I would have missed out on the blessing of seeing and experiencing the healing power of Jesus. You know…I even heard Jesus’ joyful laugh as He said to my heart… These blessings from obedience to the Father’s Will are always abundant Kathy. Trust and don’t doubt or fear… for my teachings and my love, they are more precious than silver or gold…

Some lessons can be pretty costly… thankfully, this one could be said to have only cost $12.30.

1 Peter 5:8b -9a "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith”,

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your transparency. It brought to mind a simular experience for me at a grocery store. I too was prompted by the Holy Spirit to go back. It was very humbling, but OH how powerful that expirience was. I praise the Lord He loves me so much, He took all my sins on the cross. All my sins before, now and forever, not forgetting one, a complete and finished work. He corrected me for my sake and others involved. He wanted me to have a clear conscious so I could move forward w/o feeling any guilt or shame. He needed to cut through that pride in me too. Isn't it great we have a God who knows us so well. He knows exactly which buttons to push to get us to do what He wants, knowing whats best for us. Such a concerned and loving Father we have!