The “If Then” Principle

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I clearly remember the first time I was bullied.  Some kid wanted to fight me because he heard I thought I was tough.  I was only in kindergarten.  I didn’t even understand why he was saying the things he was saying to me.  Yet all these years later, I still remember how it felt, the shock and hurt of being falsely accused.     

I grew up, as most of us do, believing if I did certain things well, then good things would happen.  In other words, if I worked hard, my efforts would be appreciated and I would be rewarded financially.  If I treated others kindly, with respect, they would treat me that way in return.  I was taught this principle at an early age, and it applied to every aspect of my life: marriage, parenting, health, friendships, etc.  If I did what was right, if I had the right parameters in place, my life would reflect that in a very positive way.  This early encounter in kindergarten was the first time I had an inkling that sometimes you could do everything “right” but still get attacked or put down or made to feel less regardless.

Life shows up.  Stuff happens.  People abuse your principles and minimize your efforts.  There isn’t a  guaranteed outcome.  Doing right doesn’t insulate you or those your love from hurt and heartache and pain.  Intellectually, I think we all realize life isn’t fair, but somewhere inside, we still hold to that belief, even with God.  If I try to follow God, then I will have a smooth road, we think.  Or, If I’m generally a good person, then my life will be good.  

I love that God doesn’t play the “If Then” game.  He simply doesn’t work that way.  He doesn’t look at me through the lens of failure or success, or let me go because of my wrong choices.  He patiently and determinedly reaches toward me, helping me find the path He marked out for me from before I was born.  

When other people come along and try to tear at my spirit (and free will ensures they will), God is right there reminding me He is bigger than the wound, and knows not only how to heal it, but to make me stronger and wiser through it, and to see a depth of His love and understanding few manage to find, though it’s easily available to us all.  

I love that He gives me the courage to still choose to be gracious and kind, to give respect and to hold myself and my actions accountable because of who I am before Him.  It doesn’t matter whether anyone else sees or appreciates what I’m doing.  He does.  I think that’s so cool!     

A life lived in response to what others think or do is a life chained and broken.  You will always be a slave to others opinions and passions, biases and attitudes, just as you will be a slave to your own.  Emotions have the ability to control your destiny without discriminating the worthiness of what it is you feel like doing.  A life that seeks out God’s vision and pathway is one that is free, even in the midst of sorrow and pain, to pursue peace and growth and joy.  Confidence come from that choice, a confidence that allows us to stop hiding behind some empty shell, switching our outward masks as we switch audiences.  You are simply you.  I am simply me.  And there is beauty and power in that space.  

Jeremiah the prophet sums it up beautifully: “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.  But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind.  I get to the heart of the human.  I get to the root of things.  I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be” (Jeremiah 17:9-11).  God loves you.  Not the pretty, shiny you, or the successful, dynamic you, or the outward image of you that you try to portray, but you.  The real you.  The one with the warts and the brokenness and the hurt and the fear and the times of struggle and doubt.  The one that can be genuinely gracious and kind and selfless and loving.  He sees it all, and He’s not afraid or intimidated by your situation.  He’s also pretty awesome at taking out bullies (see David & Goliath in 1 Samuel 17), even when you’re the bully who needs to be set free.  

Live a life unchained.  Dare to be you for there is only one you in this world.  Ask God to guide you toward His vision for your life so you are free to boldly shine!

For Further Thought:  “In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do.  I want you to get out there and walk–better yet, run!–on the road God called you to travel.  I don’t want any of you sitting on your hands.  I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere.  And mark that you do this with humility and discipline–not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences” (Ephesians 4:2).  This week, pray through this scripture and ask God if there is anything in your life that is keeping you from running down His path for you.  Not sure what your path is?  Start by placing all your talents and abilities in His hands, asking Him to use them as He sees fit.  Then decide to walk through the doors He opens for you.  You will be in for quite an adventure!

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