Inward Outward

This is a story told in two acts.

ACT 1: Inward
This past Thursday, I found myself very wrapped up in myself.  My oldest son was trying out for baseball, and an email told us the schedule was from 3:45 to 5:15.  Earlier in the week, at the first day of tryouts, they had gone over by 25 minutes, which really put off my schedule for the rest of the evening's plans.  I want to be a guy who rolls with the punches, but the lack of respect for the families' schedules bothered me.  On Thursday, the same thing was looking to be happening again, so I went to the field to talk with the coach.  He wasn't very keen on talking to me.  I mentioned setting expectation for the parents for the future so we can plan and said I needed to take my son because we had plans that evening, our Redemption Community.  He was not at all apologetic or understanding.  After I got my son, I was pretty upset and stuck in my own little world the entire trip back home.  Even after I got home, it was all I could see in front of me while talking with my wife before our Community family came over.  I was a coach the past two years, and when parents would come to me, I tried to be as apologetic and as understanding as possible.  In this situation, I felt that I was the one stepping on this coach's toes and that there was no meeting of the minds for everyone's mutual benefit.

I find myself fixating on things like this at times.  Issues of expectation or poor communication leading to poor interaction and hurt feelings as well as possible broken trust.  It really bothers me.  I allow it to consume me instead of living forgiveness.  Some people tell me I have the right to feel hurt in situations like these. "It was a real offense," they'd say.  Others tell me that it is my own sin getting in the way of having peace in the midst of strife.  Perhaps they are both right.  This balancing act is a result of the fall, of sin in our world.  The brokenness of iniquity, the twistedness of how things were meant to be.

Even with the best of intentions, we hurt each other.  Maybe I came off offensively to this coach.  Maybe it seemed that I was posturing.  Neither were things I intended to communicate, but I did want to bring the issue of being told one ending time and then practice going on to another to his attention so there could be clearer communication in the future.  I do not believe, by his response, that this was accepted in that light.  And I hate to be misunderstood.  Oh, the depth of my sin!

For years, I was called arrogant.  For years, I tried to reconcile what others said they were perceiving in my words/actions and the perception I had of those same actions.  I tried to discern the intentions of my heart in these circumstances.  I do believe that I have struggled against pride plenty in my life.  I do ask for accountability.  I do want to know how I come across to others, for it is truth in love that will display God's Gospel in the light it was intended.

I have still not fully reconciled all of these things in myself.  Because of these years, I now second guess most of my interactions.  It is hard to live like this.  Most times someone else is offended, I tend to assume that it was my problem, my sin, and accept responsibility.  Sometimes, it doesn't feel warranted, but it seems that doesn't matter.  My wife has even been upset with me from time to time for seemingly being a push-over and not standing up for myself.  "What good would that do?" I ask.  I would likely just offend them more and prove their perspective of me correct, that I am just arrogant and can't accept rebuke/correction.

I had all of these emotions and thoughts that I fixated on.  It was a whirlwind.  I was caught up in it.  I was angry.  I was offended.  I was inconsolable...

ACT 2: Outward
(Eph 2.4-5) But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

And then our Redemption Community came together.  I got to be a host.  I got to remember that I am not here for myself.  The greatest commandment and the second like it: love God, love others.  I am here for others.  I get to love others.  Not only did I get to change my mindset because of hosting, I also got to focus on others through that night being Serve, one of the four rhythms of RCs (Study, Split, Social, Serve).  We planned to take the group out to shop for Affordable Christmas: Redemption Peoria's annual Christmas toy drive where a store is set up at a local Title I school and allows for dignity to remain with the family as they purchase nice gifts at incredibly marked-down prices (because they were donated) for their children when they wouldn't otherwise be able to afford them.  I got to lead the couples and families present that night in why we would take our time and resources to do such a thing.  A couple children from the group helped explain it to the rest of the group, as well.  We went to Target and bought toys, socks, and underwear for the drive.  The kids had a good time and we got to keep in mind why we were there.

It helped to move my focus off of myself and place it upon others.  It reminded me of the greatness of God, how He is in control of all things.  It reminded me of the goodness of God, how He alone satisfies.  I had been stuck in my own head, selfish, made it all about me.  Then the Redemption Community came together to serve others.  I was lifted out of myself and my eyes were re-focused upon God's grace and mercy toward me and others.  I was reminded of the ministry of reconciliation that He has given us.  By the end of our shopping together, I was joyful.  I was excited to be a part of something bigger than me which cared for others deeply, but not by stepping in and giving what we think they might need, but by allowing dignity to reign.

Service tends to do that, it seems.  It takes us out of seeing the world for what it can do for us and gives us an opportunity to see what we can do for others.  I am thankful for our RC which has decided to serve with Affordable Christmas in donations, in set up, and in running it the day of the store on Dec 8th.  I am also thankful for the group of us who have started serving with Habitat for Humanity on a build in Surprise.  I am thankful for a group who is willing to give of themselves in the ways that they can even with all the other responsibilities and constant busyness of life.  I am also thankful that we can share that with the children who are a part of this group, as well.

A helpful reminder
Sola Fide: God's posture toward me is not dependent upon me.  I am not justified, made right before God, by the way others view me.  I am not justified by being understood.  I am not justified by being correct or others believing I am.  I am justified "by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone, for God's glory alone."


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