When God decides to improve you…
I was lying in bed trying to get some much needed recovery rest last night…and it just wasn’t happening like I wanted. Oh, I was ‘resting,’ but I wanted to be sleeping and that seemed so very hard to accomplish despite my tasks from the day and the fact that I was still tired from dealing with my “spring fever” episode. (Incidentally, Spring Breaks are great; “spring fevers” are NOT.)
In any case, I wanted the situation to be different, so I began to pray. I’ve found that’s always more conducive to rest than just getting upset about it. I thanked God for having the fever break and I thanked Him for helping me feel so much stronger, for clean linens on the bed, for a husband who has been incredibly supportive this week and for several other things, as well. I told God that I knew He didn’t HAVE to heal me, but since His word says that He’s my Healer, I was really hoping to see that improvement in action—and soon!
It pulled me up short a bit. Oh, not that I doubt His ability to heal—I’ve seen and experienced it often! What made me really stop and think was about all the other ways I’ve seen Him work to “improve me” over the years. One of the first things that came to mind was in the area of temper.
I used to have a pretty volatile one. In fact, it could have been classified as vile. Oh, I was pretty even-keeled most of the time, but then…out of the blue…it might strike. Actually, that last part should read, “I might strike.” When that happened, it wasn’t pretty. I have a pretty extensive vocabulary and I know all about nuance and inflection. At times, I used those gifts as weapons. Unfortunately, for anyone on the receiving end, I was pretty good at it. In fact, I could make Julia Sugarbaker look like Mother Teresa when I really got on a tear. (For those of you who missed Atlanta in the late 1980s-1990s…that is a really bad thing.)
As God began to improve me, He decided that this trait needed to go. He helped me realize just how destructive my speech could be and I began to pray for His assistance in that area of my life. You know, sometimes change comes r-e-a-l-l-y slowly. Along the way, you realize that one of the ways you actually know that you’re changing comes because you keep getting put in situations that would have previously inspired the negative behavior…and it doesn’t happen…as often. Over time, the frequency continues to decrease—something about fruit of the Spirit and self-control…imagine that! (grin)
One of the final nails in the coffin for that particular bit of nastiness in my life was a Bible verse: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6 (NIV)
Oh, goody! Don’t you just love it when God meddles with you and spells things out so you can’t worm your way out of it? Almost like He KNEW we’d have trouble with different areas of our lives and decided to address them before we were even born? (yes, sarcasm…it still shows up occasionally…down here, we call it “sass.”)
In any case, that Scripture verse hit me really hard. It truly didn’t leave me anywhere else to go on the matter. That’s actually a gift, in case you’re still wondering. As I read that verse over and over I realized that in the past, I’d actually done the opposite of what that verse says to do: My speech had often been filled with salt and seasoned with grace. Not what God had in mind at all.
I’m not going to say that it all changed overnight once I realized what needed to be different. It took a lot of time, a lot of prayer, a lot of intentional walking away and some serious assistance from the Holy Spirit for that trait not to be my go-to tradition. I wish I could say that those days are completely gone and that they are never even a temptation for me now. It wouldn’t be true.
There are still days that I struggle with wanting to “educate” some people in just such a way. Thankfully, even those days are much fewer and further between. God has healed–yes, healed!–and improved me in this area of my life to the point where my language skills and vocabulary are more often used in prayer for those who seem to need that “education” and I’ve found that, in His own funny way, God will sometimes allow me to address the issue with much less volatility/anger and still make the point in a way that grants me favor with some of these same people. (Perhaps even because I didn’t react as they would have in a similar situation?!) Imagine that!—using words for influence instead of annihilation; making a point with humor and prayer instead of launching a barrage of words designed to wound or humiliate. What a concept! What a God-thing! What an improvement!
Your challenge for the weekend is to take stock and see if there is an area of your life that needs some God-improvement. If you’re really serious about it, He will reveal it to you and, usually, He’ll also begin to reveal what His word has to say about that same area of life. Who knows–perhaps His word for you will be just as specific as His word was to me about my speech. My God is all about the practical application of His word–you can count on Him to tell you what you really need to hear…and do so in love.