Recently I heard these words come from my husband’s lips. “You’re an oak.”
They were in response to some thing I had said or done that was particularly stubborn, which is no surprise. At first I had no idea what it meant because I have never heard the phrase used before, but when he explained it to me it made perfect sense. I am indeed one of the most stubborn unbending people I know. He meant it as a compliment to my stout will and strong desire for things to “be right” but to me it was more of a conviction than anything. I didn’t know why at the time but his words kept repeating themselves back to me and something just didn’t feel right.
Fast forward a week. I was in the midst of a conversation with someone close to me and we were discussing faith in Jesus Christ of all things. Now usually I tend to steer clear of having these types of discussions with friends and family members because I find that the words from Mark 6:4 when Jesus says to the disciples, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family,” are especially true in my own life. In spite of this fact I chose to have this conversation with this particular person out of curiosity for how they see their faith and their relationship with Jesus Christ. I had a feeling that on some level they were “missing it” as some would say, and to be honest I was right. This person is stagnant in their faith and completely okay with this fact it seems. Their faith is simple as they put it, and that’s perfectly okay. They told me about how they hated being told anything about their faith by anyone because no one could tell them anything they didn’t already know. They emphasized how infuriating it was to have scripture repeated back to them because memorizing scripture wasn’t as important as all the good things they have done in their lifetime. I knew immediately that this was not the right way to look at a relationship with Christ, but even knowing that I could not find the words to articulate to them exactly what it was they were missing and how they should go about finding “it”. This person is definitely an oak I thought to myself, and I cannot teach them anything.
Well, that’s because it was never my responsibility to teach this person anything. Bring on convicting moment number 2. I walked away from the conversation frustrated not only with the person I was speaking to but also with myself and my botched explanation of something I thought was so important and instrumental to my faith.
Jump forward another week to December 9th, last night to be exact. I was reading Titus, a book from the New Testament, for no other reason than because a friend of mine was telling me earlier in the day how her husband thought that would be a good name for their unborn son. I had spent a few moments trying to find somewhere in the Word that I could find peace and comfort for the tumultuous feelings I have been faced with lately and when I completely drew a blank I turned to Titus. I never expected to be convicted yet again and what’s more, to learn something God has been trying to teach me for over three weeks.
Now Titus is an extremely short book compared to its New Testament counterparts but what I learned from reading it last night is possibly the most important thing I could ever learn about my faith and my responsibility to live a godly life. Titus is written by Paul and addressed to church elders and believers instructing them to teach others how to lead their lives the right way. It places emphasis on things like proper mentor-ship of younger church members, keeping one’s heart pure, obedience, and harmony between believers. What stood out to me the most however was one small line from Titus 3:7, “Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” Nowhere in this line does it say anything about getting to Heaven by doing good things. This is what I had wanted to explain to my family member but I did not have the words for. Good deeds aren’t enough! But now I know that these words were meant more for me than anyone.
BECAUSE OF HIS GRACE.
I kept reading till the end of the chapter and then I read the devotional at the end of the book. Before reading the devotional I wrote what God had spoken to me in the margins of my Bible, “God calls us to do good always, not because we can be saved by good deeds but because our actions reflect Him; His mercy, His grace, and His goodness.” This was such an enlightenment for me but low and behold God wasn’t done teaching me.
The devotional at the end of Titus is entitled “Praying the Scripture” and the first paragraph was all it took for me to be convicted yet again. It reads,
“In coming to the Lord by means of praying the Scripture, you do not read quickly, you read very slowly. You do not move from one passage to another, not until you have sensed the very heart of what you have read. You may then want to take that portion of Scripture that has touched you and turn it into prayer.”
Here it was, outlined in a few short sentences, the very thing that I had been trying to explain to my family member but couldn’t because I had been missing it all along myself. I love the words of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 where it talks about All Scripture being God inspired to teach us what is true and make us realize what is wrong in our lives, because it completely outlines what I was missing and now I think I am starting to “get it.” See, that conversation that I had was not for the other person’s benefit at all, it was for mine. And I am the oak, but not in a good way at all. I was so concerned with making them see all that they were missing that I could not see the plank in my own eye and the lack in my relationship with Christ. Because yes, good deeds are not enough and memorizing scripture is important, but simply memorizing it is not enough. We need to take it further than that. We need to memorize scripture, pray over it, and then apply it to our lives.
For how can we claim to have a true relationship with Jesus Christ if we don’t know what His word says or make a sincere effort to apply His teachings? There is so much more to God’s Word than just a handful of token passages to throw out when we are faced with difficulties in our lives. We need to dive deep into every line of every passage of every book; only then can we begin to know all that it means to have a true relationship with our Savior. Every time I open my Bible I am convicted by all that the Word says and teaches and all that I still have to learn. And boy do I still have so much to learn!
So now I know why for the past three weeks I have been feeling convicted and why a few words spoken by my husband that were meant to be taken as a compliment left me feeling guilty about something I couldn’t place my finger on at the time.
The wonderful thing is that my conviction and guilt are not meant to shame me! I am after all covered by His Grace. Just as Romans 8:1 says, I am not being condemned. Instead I am being taught in the most loving of ways.
BECAUSE OF HIS GRACE.
It may sting a bit as its happens, but I am so glad that my Heavenly Father loves me enough to not let me continue being an oak and stubbornly pointing fingers at other people when I haven’t even begun to address the lack in my own relationship with Christ.
Thank you Lord for all You are teaching me!