2018-03-13 Am I That Mule?

Good Morning!

I have a new keyboard, a fancy, split one, that I am using for the very first time. Therefore, today’s message may be short! Yesterday, I visited a believer who has fallen back into the grips of alcohol. He actually didn’t show up, but his two brothers and a sister did. They are a family of believers. It was touching to see how much this man is loved; and despite the pain he has caused, they are anxiously waiting with open arms for his return. There is a lesson for me here. For all of us. Keep praying for your loved ones. Together.

I’ve also been doing a great deal of thinking about some behavior of mine. I think it’s time to make some modification. Yes, I know that seems drastic, especially since everyone thinks I’m nearly perfect, but I do believe you’re wrong. I’m not nearly perfect. In fact, my attitude that I am nearly perfect causes me a great deal of problems. I wonder if we couldn’t all say the same thing. I’m going to try to explain all this without telling you what my certain behavior is. Try to see if you can relate to a behavior of your own.

Let me start by saying this behavior for me has been with me for a long, long time. It has served me well in many, many instances. So much so, that I spent time mastering it. By that, I mean honing and improving it. While I haven’t taken any specific training for it, I have been intentional bringing this behavior out.

Now, to be fair, I have noticed times that it has not been to my benefit. In fact, there are times that I have hurt people. There are also times that I have hurt myself with it. That has caused me to use a bit of caution. Overall, I would say that most people would view this certain behavior of mine as a good thing, a God-given personality trait. How could that be wrong?

But, it doesn’t always serve me well. In fact, as I look at it, I wonder if people have been honest with me. I don’t want to hurt people with it, but I’m not so sure I see all the times I do. Plus, can I really rely on those who encourage my behavior? Do they have the same behavior? Do they benefit from my behavior? Could they be so biased that they do not correct me, even if they should? Do I have a position of power that prevents them?

We can think of extremes for examples of this. How about Michael Jackson or Elvis Presley? These wealthy, bigger-than-life personalities died at their own hand through drug addiction while being supported by Lord knows how many people, including doctors, who benefitted from money, power, and fame that comes with the life of a groupie. I’m no rock star. But, do I have behavior that fits the pattern in some form or another?

I guess the simple answer is this. Has my behavior caused someone very close to me a great deal of pain? How often? Is his/her complaint legitimate? Do I even care enough to think it through and ask others their opinion? If I do, who do I ask? My buddies? Or, do I ask someone that is knowledgeable and will give me an honest assessment even if I don’t like it? I’m going to be honest with you, I ask people who think like me. Why? Because they tell me I’m right.

And, that, my friends, is wrong.

Let’s assume my behavior trait is a God-given thing, for the time being. Is it possible that I abuse that gift? I’m not sure if you are familiar with the story of Sampson, but he did. I’m not going to get into that other than to say he abused his gift. Could that be true for me? My reaction might be to say, “Too bad!” On the other hand, I might completely stop using that gift in fear of hurting others. I also might stop completely because I am childish. That’s probably more likely for me.

No, I think we are meant to use God’s gifts, but only in the ways God has meant for it to be used. I need to modify things to fit that. So, I must pay attention to the ones I love, the ones closest to me. Have I hurt them? Are they telling me something that I need to listen to? What might others who are not so close say about it? Can I read between the lines? Can I get honest with myself so I can see the problem clearly? Do I need professional help to guide me through this? Am I willing to do something so drastic as that? When I survey my past relationships, will I look for wreckage I have caused?

Most likely, I have behavior that harms loved ones. Maybe it’s not that big of deal. Maybe it’s huge. One thing is certain, I won’t know unless I am willing to honestly listen. Will I get an honest answer? I should hope so, but my loved ones are sinners like me. Even so, I need to be very careful and listen from the heart. Plus, what would be wrong with asking God to show me truth?

Can I honestly see myself not doing this behavior or stop abusing God’s good gift? Can I look back through the corridors of time and see how things might have been different had I acted differently? Can I see how changes may benefit me going forward? What does the loved one I have hurt say? Do I care more about me than that person or is it time to start listening? What might my world look like if I did?

So, what behavior of mine do you think I’m talking about? Before I answer that, let me tell you about my drinking. It’s close to eleven years since I drank, and life has been much better. True, alcohol provided the lubricant that made for many enjoyable social activities. And, yes, it is possible that it advanced my career. Even so, I wonder what life would have been like had I listened to loved ones who first were hurt by my behavior. Trust me, I heard people who cared say things. How might my life been different had I listened to my mother at age 14 or 15? Or 20? Or how about other loved ones that thought I drank too much or too often? Yes, I can think of times that drinking helped my career, but how does that balance with the times drinking harmed it? Ouch!

Alcohol is not necessary. Paul is crystal clear on that. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18). Intoxication is something to avoid. I am not able to drink socially without putting my sobriety to great risk, so I have a zero-tolerance policy. No booze at all.

What about other behavior? I like a good laugh. What about jokes? I used to know a million jokes. Did I hurt people with them? Well, I had to be careful who was in the crowd when I said them, so you tell me. “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” (Ephesians 5:4) Honestly, how might my life have been different had I spent time honing clean, wholesome jokes? Would I be a better person? I think so.

Again, I cannot trust my buddies to give me an honest answer. I need to ask a close loved one. Maybe they aren’t able to give me the right answer. I need to ask God to reveal it to me. If I am sincere, he will. I’m going to keep you guessing on what has been troubling me lately. Does any of this ring a bell to a behavior of yours? What might your loved one say if you asked for a brutally honest answer? Do you dare ask God? Will you listen?

What might some things be? Addiction? Alcohol? Coffee? Food/Weight? Anger? Sarcasm? Resentment? Flirting? Inappropriate friendships? Spending/Money? Pride? Control? Demeaning? Laziness? Workaholic? Inattention? Indifference? Depression? Anxiety? Infidelity? Arguing? Unrealistic Expectations? Nagging? Lack of Intimacy? Lack of Equality? Abuse? On and on.

Folks, big or small, we would serve everyone well if we were diligent to improve ourselves. I’m quite sure we will find biblical support for any behavior modification we need to make. Resolving even small problems will provide great dividends. Man, how I wished I had listened to my mother about drinking! And, the big ones? Well, they need big-time attention, right away! These are footholds for the devil. Don’t tolerate him in your life, not one little bit.

Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that be testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Folks, we all have blind spots. Don’t be the person who has been made aware yet refuses to change. You may find yourself tangled in this verse.

Psalm 32:9 Be not like a horse or mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with a bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.

God WILL correct those whom he loves, will he not? It starts out easy, but the correction gets more and more painful as we refuse to obey. God will not be mocked. Have compassion on your loved ones. Listen to them. You’ll be glad you did.

Father, let these words sink deep into my own spirit. Show me what I need to change. Give me courage to ask my loved ones. Give me strength to change. Eyes to see and ears to hear. Amen.

Copyright © 2018 Scott Powers

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