Snuggled on the couch during my quiet time with God, I sip coffee in the predawn of a winter morning. As I pondered a challenging interaction at work the day before, I think of the many people whom I feel have wronged me over the years. The colleagues who have undermined or micromanaged me in my work. Parents of students who did not value my style of teaching. Friends whose conditional friendship disappeared when the going got tough in my life. Numerous broken promises and frustrating disappointments in a variety of areas of my life.
To distract this train of thought, I decide to turn on the morning news and am plunged deeper into despair. Stories of political agendas where one side blames the other for the problems we are facing. Stories of harm to others, especially those viewed as different or as “less then.” Even those proclaiming to be Christians are acting anything but Christlike in their words and actions.
Clicking the television off, I realize I am on a slippery slope as I allow my anger to grow. Anger that leads me dangerously close to feeling hatred. I’m letting the news and those thoughts and memories of past harm to fester within me. It’s the narrative that leads me to thinking there is no good in the world.
But then I pause and take a step back. I halt the internal narrative driving me down. I consider the ministry of Christ. How Christ came to save the least and the lost. Came to save “them.” The ones not like the ruling class. The ones who have nothing. Even the ones whom I am spending these negative thoughts on. Christ came for all people.
I am convicted as I remember what Johns' disciple had to say about hatred: “Everyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that murderers don’t have eternal life residing in them. This is how we know love: Jesus laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our sisters and brothers.” (1 John 3:15-16, CEB)
The anger and hatred in my heart makes it so I need saving, too. And I am left with a sobering thought: Am I really as bad as a murderer? Does heading down the slippery slope of anger and hatred mean I am not redeemable? I sure hope not.
How can I get myself off the slippery slope that I’m on? Love.
Love is the only way to overcome hatred. Love for my enemy. Love for the colleagues, family and friends who have wronged me. Love for the politicians who don’t share my viewpoint. Love for those who come from a different faith tradition than me.
Included in that love is forgiveness. I know this. And over time, I have forgiven those who have wronged me. Yet the hatred and hurt seems to bubble up when I am feeling vulnerable. And so I once again turn my anger and hatred to love. I forgive them for the umpteenth time. I pray for them. I imagine each person in the presence of God.
But wait. I’ve done that before. Why do I have to do it again? Why do I have to head down that path one more time? God forgives my sins, so why can’t I forgive other’s treatment of me? The answers come to me. It is because I am human. And as a human, I can spiral downward into negative thoughts and feelings if I’m not careful.
What really grounds me day in and day out is my morning quiet time with God. It’s not just reading my daily devotional and accompanying scripture. It's not about checking the box on my to-do list.
There is so much more to this precious time with the Creator. It's about allowing the quiet contemplation and journaling wash over me so that God can speak to my very heart. So God can turn the negative thoughts to love. So that this time I offer forgiveness, I really let God change my heart.
It also means that when I start my day, the first thing in my mind is not the morning news. It’s not checking Facebook or email. It’s not responding to text messages. It’s not online shopping for the daily deal.
It is simply time with God. (And my coffee) This time sets my mind and heart on God so daily news stories don’t unhinge me. So that I don’t shop for things I can’t afford or don’t need. So I don’t head down the slippery slope of social media that makes me jealous or angry of the things I see.
God has to be first.
It absolutely must be that way. If not I will go through my day with anger and hatred, and not love in my heart.
It’s hard not to be influenced by the distractions of others. Unfortunately these distractions push God to the side. They permit things of this world to come to the forefront, ahead of the intangibles that really matter. But I don’t want to live my life that way. I want to be grounded in God‘s love so that my life will be transformed.
How do you start your day? What things do you make a priority? If it’s not centering your heart on the Creator, it might be that you are focusing on things that will not bring you real meaning.
If sitting with God in silence is not your thing, what might be? How about a walk before the day gets started? (And without the headphones playing music or a podcast.) Just listening for the Creator to speak to your heart. Or doing quiet yoga with soft instrumental music playing.
However you start your day, your thoughts are totally under your control. You can let the things of this world guide them: the news, social media, rocky relationships, material things. Or you can let the Creator in first thing each day, and allow your day to be guided by the love of God.
Creator God, Please ground me in Your love and peace. Help me to filter out the negative messages that come at me from all sides. Allow love to be the driving force in my life so that the things of this world won’t send me down the slippery slope to anger and hatred. I thank You for sticking with me, even when I push You to the side. I want to do better. Please guide me. Amen.
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