A Lifetime of Learning
Back in June I wrote about the issues I was having with my prayer life and about my inability to read the Bible - basically I felt I was stuck in some sort of spiritual rut. Distracted. Unfocused. (You can read more here: http://linneafayard.blogspot.com/2009/06/stuck-in-rut.html)
After some research and a talk with my pastor, I felt I was still okay, and just needed a vacation. I can say now that it was much more than that.
By the middle of last year I had done a lot of work to make myself a more emotionally healthy person, and had gained a new perspective on my journey through life. At that point I really thought I had worked through feelings of anger and sadness. I thought I had forgiven those who I felt had wronged me. But still, I would open my Bible and read the same passage over and over again, not really understanding what I was reading. And when I tried to pray, the words wouldn't come out. Sometimes I would kneel on my prayer bench for 10-15 minutes in silence. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Then one day, about 4 months ago, I was having a silly conversation with a couple of friends about men. Nothing serious or specific... just about men in general. I don't even remember exactly what I said, but I made some little quip that I thought was funny, and one of my buddies said, "Oh, but you're not bitter or anything!"
She was only kidding, but it caused me to wonder if she was right. Bitterness is not a good quality to have. It isn't pretty. Bitter is the crabby old woman you see in the grocery store who is mean to children and snarls at people when they attempt to smile at her. I don't want to be that person. And if I was indeed bitter, then that meant my attempts at actual forgiveness were not authentic. Not real.
It was at that point I believe God turned the light back on, because I found some things that have made a huge difference for me since then - Bible passages that are not only very specific, but scary.
"If you forgive those who sin against you, then your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins."
Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)
Uh oh. Okay...
"Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you."
Ephesians 5:31-32 (NLT)
"Then Jesus prayed this prayer,'O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding the truth from those who think themselves so wise and clever, and for revealing it to the childlike.'"
Matthew 11:25 (NLT)
"If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give it up for me, you will find it."
Matthew 10:38-39 (NLT)
Now, I'm gonna be real honest here. I am the equivalent of a kindergartener when it comes to Bible study. I've only just begun to really research the Bible, but in my process of learning I've gained a real thirst for the Word. It's fascinating.
But, like I said, it's also scary. After reading the above passages I believe that perhaps God was "hiding the truth" from me because I wasn't truly walking the walk - I still had unforgiveness and anger and bitterness in my heart. And it was growing like a bad seed. Forgiveness is a tough thing to gauge... before my friend made the comment about my being bitter, I believed I had forgiven people. But I hadn't. It took somebody else to point it out to me.
Since that time, my prayer life has been good and my Bible study has left me wanting more. After all, God gave us an instruction manual for life on earth. I think it would be silly not to read it!
God really does move in our lives. But He also gives us free will. If we actively pursue Him, then he can make tremendous and wonderful changes in our lives. But if we choose to ignore Him and leave Him off our priority lists, then we are doomed. I wasn't exactly ignoring Him, but I was choosing not to see the shadows in my own heart. Once I saw them and made the conscious choice to change, then He started working in my life... a life that has, lately, been full of laughter and love.