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I am like a child lost at the mall

Though my eyes can be drawn to the bright and shiny things

And my nostrils filled with the smells of sticky treats

And my ears tickled with the festive sounds

My heart yearns to find my Father

And to abide in the warmth of His presence

 

Exposing the counterfeit is of little value unless we go on to manifest the genuine.

 

Defining Moments

There is no doubt that life is a long journey, made up of a countless number of moments. Most of them, good or bad, eventually dissolve into a mist of vague memories.  But there are others which distinguish themselves in such a way as to become watersheds, where the very flow of our lives can be altered.  These instances ultimately come to define our journey, and often times can significantly impact the way we see ourselves and/or the way we are perceived by others.  Such an occasion is commonly known as a “defining moment”.  Just as significant as the moment itself, is how we interpret it in real time, and the lens through which we choose to view it in retrospect.

 

An example of interpretation can be found in an experience I had in elementary school. As the youngest of three boys, I struggled mightily in school, while my older brothers were both model students.  My beleaguered parents were constantly being called in for Parent-Teacher conferences, which isn’t something they had to deal with previously.  So when I managed to go for an entire 9 week period with no significant issues, and brought home a solid report card (A’s and B’s), they decided to reward me with a new Harlem Globetrotters lunchbox.  All they were trying to do was acknowledge my progress and encourage me.  Unfortunately, I was keenly aware that both my brothers had straight A’s on their report cards, and that they were getting nothing for their efforts.  Thus, I interpreted my parent’s gift as an implicit acknowledgment that I was their stupid child, which completely diffused the virtue of their intent.  Instead of encouraging me, the lunchbox became a symbol of my inadequacies.

 

This faulty reading of my parents gesture was rooted in both my habit of comparing myself to my older siblings, and the conclusion I had already drawn about myself, which was that I was in fact stupid. Because that was the lens through which I viewed the situation, it clearly colored my perception of reality.  Though my parents never openly compared me to my brothers or belittled my intelligence, I felt woefully inadequate whenever I was around them, and thus I came to that judgment on my own.

 

There is no doubt that what we believe about ourselves is far more consequential than what others believe about us, and once we draw such a conclusion, it becomes nearly impossible for anyone else to change our mind. For me, it took becoming an adult, moving away from my family, and learning to stand on my own merits, before I could gain a new perspective.

 

While we are not in control of many of the things which befall us in life, we do bear some responsibility for how we choose to respond, and we do have a choice about which moments will ultimately define us. Remaining focused on the most painful moments of our lives, pursuing people who reject us, while ignoring those who value us, seeing ourselves through the lens of our greatest weaknesses and failures, holding on to bitterness and unforgiveness for those who’ve hurt us… are all recipes for misery.  People will define us by whatever measure they choose to use, but they do not have the power to control how we define ourselves.  When we blame everyone else for our present condition, we have unwittingly forfeited the power to change it.

 

No one gets through this life without some amount of adversity, pain, and struggle. We can see ourselves as a victim, or a survivor, or maybe even an overcomer.  I believe that we have far more control over this than most of us understand.  If we don’t like the moments that have defined us thus far, it is up to us to change our course.  I have a sister-in-law who was once an addict, a convict, and judged by the courts to be an unfit parent.  She made the decision to change her life, and though it took some time, she is now a sober, loving wife and mother, raising her family.  Not long ago she was seen as being beyond help, but today, she is an inspiration.  She is living proof that if you don’t like your story thus far, you can rewrite the ending.

That we are forgiven is a blessed revelation, but it is was never meant to be the final destination. The ultimate goal is genuine transformation.

God certainly loves to use passionate people, but sometimes our passion can work against us. In Matthew, chapter 16, we see Peter go both ways in quick succession.  In 16:17 we see him praised for his discernment of the Messiah, but just a few short passages later (16:23) we hear the Lord say, “Get thee behind me Satan”.  I would like to suggest that the same passion fueled Peter in both instances, but the difference was the source of his information.  In the first instance the Lord said that this wasn’t revealed by flesh and blood, but by my Father.  In the second, the Lord scolded Peter for having his mind on “merely human concerns”.  We passionate followers of God must be mindful of this when our passions are stirred and we have the urge to speak.

We seek His hand to rescue, to protect, to provide and to guide.  We seek His face to know & be known by Him.  (2Chron. 7:14)

Beware of those who come with complicated, layered theologies, which require all kinds of specialized skills and knowledge in order to gain access to the things of the kingdom.  This is a predictable tact that men take to elevate themselves in the eyes of others.  Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  He then added, “whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  Hear your Father bid to you, “come up here”.