Yes, God can speak in a whisper or a roar. In this instance He wasn’t waiting long for me to pick up on the subtlety. I want to share a conviction lesson that I received recently with hopes that you can all learn from my lesson.
So, I decide that on my way into the office that I am going to make a stop at my favorite restaurant and grab a bite to eat and sort out the agenda for the upcoming day. Upon being seated and placing my order, I pull out my phone to begin work. Suddenly, I am disturbed by one of two gentlemen sitting in a booth on the other side of the restaurant. Apparently his voice modulator was on the fritz. In a bold and boisterous tone, completely filter-less, he proceeds to unload a barrage of obscenities that begins to fill the restaurant like a dark and ominous cloud. He appears to be angry, not at the man that he is seated with, but just angry. Out it flows, “…and then that %#@*&?! tells me that he’s…what the %#&?%@ am I supposed to do with…does he think I’m some kind of %*#$@%!”
I can feel the hair rise on the nape of my neck. Deep inside me begins to stir that old reliable (but sometimes misplaced) sense of justice. “What is wrong with this guy?” I glance up at the counter where sits two other gentleman, one older Caucasian man with white hair, the other a younger Hispanic man, who, moments prior were engaged in a quiet conversation. Looking around the restaurant I notice another couple, having what they intended to be a nice relaxing breakfast. The peace of their communication is shattered by the bellowing of this cyclone of profanity. And so the barrage continues.
One of my first emotional responses was to walk straight up to this guy and tell him to either shut his mouth or at least lower his voice so that the rest of us don’t have to listen to him. The sarcastic part of my nature (I prefer to refer to it as “my gifting” – that too is sarcasm!) wanted to yell across the room, “It’s too bad that you used up all of your intelligent words when you were younger and now you are scrapping the bottom of the barrel!” Then, as if to justify the anger that was growing in me, I thought, “You are so lucky I don’t have my kids with me…!” I was fully aware that my expression and mannerisms were communicating just as loudly as if I had actually said the words.
Then he utters this diatribe as if to judge the one that he is referring to, “I don’t know what the @%$*# is the matter with her! It’s like she’s some kind of an idiot! That stupid #$@&*! just says the first thing that crosses her mind, she just says it and doesn’t think twice!” In utter amazement I took in the content of what this oblivious man just said. As if unable to control my response, I laughed…out loud. I caught myself, albeit too late, and looked up at the counter. The white-haired gent was looking at me, shaking his head and rolling his eyes as if hearing what this guy had just said and acknowledging in agreement with my response.
Moments later, they got up, paid their bill and left the restaurant. The angry fellow, seemingly unaware of how he had affected the ambiance of the restaurant and, more importantly to me, how he had affected my breakfast.
Then it happened! I felt it! A sudden tugging of a different kind, starting deep and subtle, growing to awareness as it came over me. Mind you, my responses described earlier were in my head (things in the moment that I wish I had done or said), they had not escaped the thought level and ventured into the verbalization phase. It’s true…I had been caught! The conviction cut me like a newly sharpened dagger.
First off, I’m laughing at how judgmental this guy was toward the lady of which he spoke, all the while being totally ignorant of his own bad behavior.
Second, in my head I’m holding this guy to my Christian moral code of ethics. Was he even a Christian? I would doubt it by his behavior (I’m sure you see the personal irony there). If he were not a believer he is not held to that standard…but I am!
Third, in my nonverbal communication and my laughter at this guy, did I encourage the others in the restaurant to partake in my questionable attitude and behavior?
Fourth, although I didn’t verbalize (per se) my emotional responses, was I not guilty of having a critical spirit?
I allowed arrogance to control my thoughts, that’s the long and short of it. Scripture is clear on that topic. I also forgot a very important scripture as I got caught up in the situation.
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. -James 4:17
Ouch! I am not condoning the man’s bad behavior, this lesson was not for him, it was about me! Would I have affected in a positive way the situation had I confronted him? Not likely, he was already angry and that would probably have antagonized him further and no doubt fueled my frustration. There were only a handful of adults in the restaurant, did they require my protection, probably not. I had already assessed the situation regarding the presence of children and there were none. You see, this became about me, my righteousness! I forgot, for the moment, that Jesus Christ went to the cross for BOTH of us. You see, without Him we are not so different.
After some assessment, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I chose the response I should have chosen at the outset, I prayed for the man. We are ALL a work-in-progress, so don’t give up when you give in to bad decisions. Lay it before the Lord and ask Him for the strength and courage (and reminders) to keep it all “in check”. Sometimes it’s tough to take the high road. But remember, choosing to take the Holy road rather than the common one is never about taking the path of least resistance.
P.S. Never be too old to learn and it doesn’t matter who you are. After all, I’m a pastor, NOT perfect. Lesson learned!
©2016 Eric A. Disney, Marriage by Design
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