“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” ~Matthew 23:11-12
Before I get into the heart of this post, I need to just take a second to thank Jesus for some exciting news: I have a new church!!!! I’ve been going to one that’s kind of far away from me, because I knew the preaching and message was great. But, it is huge. Huge. By huge I mean it’s in a former Broadway theater, and every week it’s filled to capacity. And I highly recommend you check it out, if you ever come to New York City and are looking for a good Christian (non-denominational) experience – Times Square Church. It is amazing and humbling to go and feel God move in that many people, and the preaching is always fantastic. However, because it’s so big, I was really missing the sense of fellowship that comes from church. Every time I’ve gone, I’ve never seen the same people twice. And I knew that ultimately God would lead me to a church that gave me both spiritual growth, and a community. I’ve also been praying hard for a mentor here; even my prayer partner lives hours away. So, I’ve been on the lookout for God to answer my prayers. Today, he did!! I went to a different church today on a whim, and not only was the preaching EXACTLY what was on my heart lately, but they even used some of the same Bible verses I’ve quoted on this blog! AND they have outreach groups to exactly the organizations God has been putting on my heart lately. AND, they have ‘growth groups’, which are small groups formed from common interest – each group addresses a topic, and you can meet together to grow in God in that area. For instance, there’s one group called “you can’t walk on water if you don’t get out of the boat.” I ask you – is that not exactly what I have been trying to do more of? Stepping out of the boat? So, even though it is a seemingly small thing (checking out a new church just for fun), God has used it to answer almost all of my personal prayers. How amazing is He??? I’m so excited to have found such a great community in Christ, and even more excited to tell you about it as I start attending regularly. Thank you Jesus, that even the minutiae of my life has Your full attention, and that You know exactly how to reach my spirit. My heart is full of the blessings you’ve given me today.
As exciting as my day was, that’s not to say I didn’t do some self-reflection today. I spent some quality treadmill time chatting with Jesus about some things He’s revealed in my heart (I don’t recommend the treadmill. But if you must run on one, you may as well spend the time with the One who can ensure you make it through the workout in one piece!). Last night, I spent some time with my roommate, and I wasn’t feeling all that great. In fact, I was largely out of it. And I acted like it. My roommate, coming from a long long day himself, misconstrued this for rudeness, and at one point protested it. It was no big deal; there was no fight or anything. He just made it known he didn’t appreciate how I was acting. Meanwhile, I didn’t say anything at the time, but I was kind of thrown. I was hanging on by a thread here. So even though we didn’t get a chance to chat about it, I was a little upset. And I tried to submit that reaction to Jesus, because I knew it wasn’t a big deal (although if it were, all the more reason to submit to Him!) and I wanted to just get over. The cool thing was, every time I spoke the words “Jesus I submit this to You”, He really did take it away. I’d feel better.
The problem was this: I only spoke the words. I said “Jesus I submit this”, but in my heart, I harbored it. Why? I didn’t even fully realize I was doing it at the time. But I kept it in my heart, so that come this morning, as my roommate was headed off to work today, I brought it up and told him how he’d made me sad. Today (yes, on the dreaded treadmill), God had a chat with me about this. Basically, He wanted me to see why I didn’t give my emotions over to Him; He wanted me to see what I thought was so important that I needed to keep it for myself and not give it to God.
So what was so important? Turns out, I wanted vindication. I didn’t think I’d done anything wrong, and I wanted my roommate (who also didn’t do anything wrong), to feel bad for upsetting me. Read that again: at the heart of it, I wanted him to feel bad. Maybe I wanted this for the attention it’d get me, maybe for vindication on some level, maybe it was a bit of both. I didn’t want him to feel terrible; I’d already gotten over it. I just decided that my feelings and my emotions were more important than simply moving on and forgetting it. So, for just a split second, I wanted him to feel bad.
Church today was about humility; putting others above ourselves and seeing ourselves as the least important one in the room. That’s how God wants us to live; if we see other people as more important than us, we will always be looking for opportunities to bless people. Did I do that today? Nope. I put myself above my roommate, and in doing so, I put myself above God. The funny thing is, if you’d asked me outright, I would have said ‘of course he’s more important, of course I want to be a servant and bless him.’ But my actions betrayed my words. My actions were selfish, the exact opposite of humble.
God also showed me it’s not worth it. The verse I quoted today was read at church (pre-treadmill), and God kept putting it back in my head as I jogged. He was telling me that I may have felt a burning selfish desire for vindication, and my calling out my roommate may or may not achieve it. For maybe 30 seconds I felt better, but it resolved nothing. But because I couldn’t humble myself, God humbled me. He gave a lesson. Not only did my bringing it up accomplish nothing, but that’s as much vindication and attention as I will ever get over this. I put myself first, and did a selfish act, and the ball stops there. It wasn’t even worth the words. But when we do selfless things, and trust God to provide our own needs while we spend our efforts helping others, God will multiply the deed. Instead of humbling you and spending time on a treadmill showing you how selfish you are, if you humble yourself in the first place, God in turn will lift you up, to blessings beyond what you even could have asked for.
So I have to ask myself: was it worth feeling better about myself for two minutes to miss out on these blessings and being exalted in God? Of course not. Lesson learned. Hopefully next time I remember this, and actually submit to God with my whole heart, not just with idle words.
I have to say, running on the treadmill and having your shortcomings revealed to you simultaneously is not fun. But God is good and merciful, and kept talking me through. He revealed my shortcomings not so I’d feel bad, but so that I’d grow. So that the next time I submitted to Him, and turned to Him, I could turn to Him in my words and in my heart. So that I wouldn’t just be paying lip service to the idea of serving God, but I could actually do it. I’ve found that our actions reflect what we truly believe, and so often our actions reflect unbelief. God is great at peeling back the layers if we ask Him to, and getting to the heart of where we’re at spiritually. And the best part is, He doesn’t do it for no reason. I might have spent that time on the treadmill self-analyzing, and I might have come to the same conclusion. At which point I would have said “wow what a terrible person you are, Rebekah A”. God though, doesn’t work like that. He showed me my mistakes not to condemn me, but to give me an opportunity to move beyond them. In our mistakes, we see our weaknesses. In our weakness, He is made strong. I hope you take as much comfort in that as I do!