That Sunday morning started out good and got even better during church. The Lord allowed another ‘chance encounter’ with someone who needed prayer and counsel. This time a single mother was outside the sanctuary, weeping and distraught. I was so grateful for the words to minister and was elated later when I saw her come inside and join the service.
I was feeling so ‘good’ in fact I prayed, “Oh Lord, don’t let me think I’m anyone special or that it is in me to restore or uplift anybody. Humble me Lord.” The last part of the prayer made me a bit nervous….
That afternoon, at a ministry meeting, the director spoke about engaging troubled and rebellious people, a frequent occurrence in a large urban church. He discussed techniques to verbally disarm and defuse hostile people and lead them effectively to comply. Ah, didn’t I know all this? Hadn’t I practiced these interventions?
Later that same afternoon, in walks a woman with children wanting assistance from church ministry. While she and the kids were treated to a meal at a nearby diner, she returned wanting further assistance. She did not need shelter but apparently money. Someone gave her the impression that she might get such help after the service.
She waited in the lobby as the service went on and, not interested in ‘church’ she grew impatient, disregarding the promptings of ushers and others not to sit on the floor, to supervise her kids, etc. Our ministry was asked to intervene, I took the lead. When I approached and assessed her angry face, all the ‘disarming techniques’ fell to the ground. I explained that she must comply. She refused and dismissed me. I responded with a statement that, not only got her off the floor but unleashed the rest of her pent up fury. While the pastor was preaching in the sanctuary, she yelled out obscenities and curses upon me in the lobby. Apologies were futile as my pointed words somehow broke a floodgate of anger. My husband berated me and the woman stormed out of the lobby, continuing her ranting out on the sidewalk.
Just when I thought I couldn’t feel lower, she yelled out from the sidewalk, “You don’t know what I’ve been through!!” No, I surely didn’t know and would probably never know. Her statement so indicted me, and in front of everyone! I felt like such a loser and to think just that morning….
I was feeling so ‘good’ in fact I prayed, “Oh Lord, don’t let me think I’m anyone special or that it is in me to restore or uplift anybody. Humble me Lord.”
Agh! I was humbled in front of the brethren whose esteem I value. I did not at all feel like ‘anyone special’ but rather especially terrible.
The Lord graciously exposed the pride in my heart, enough pride to feel sufficient in my own capabilities. I had assessed a situation with my own reasoning, without the spiritual discernment or compassion to reach beyond a person’s presenting hostility. James chapter 3 points to the power of our words, so apropos is verse 5, “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark”. Yet, lest the devil tempt us with self-condemnation James assures us that, “We all stumble in many ways.”
Importantly, I truly sensed that while the Lord was exposing and humbling, His promise and purpose for my life did not diminish. In fact, with correction and surrender, I am confident to continue, knowing that in Christ my failures don’t define me but can truly refine me.
I am thankful for a heavenly Father who (painfully) chastises, not at all to condemn, but to refine and mature so that we may move forward and better represent Him. Ultimately however, it is God’s will that we be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29) towards which He will reveal, chastise and humble our un-Christ-like ways.
Has this ever happened to you?
“Heavenly Father, I pray for all of us who have failed in any way, made a wrong choice, or fell into a temptation. I pray that we all receive your correction in love, resist every temptation of self-condemnation, and rest assured of your fellowship and promise . For those who don’t know You and Your loving fellowship, I pray that they enter into relationship, repenting of every wrongdoing and receiving full pardon and new life by trusting in Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose, conquering death. May we all know freedom from condemnation and abundant life through Jesus Christ. Amen.”