I heard a pastor say in a sermon years ago that we’re all like full glasses, and whenever something bumps into us, whatever we’re filled with spills out. That illustration has haunted me ever since. Marriage, parenthood, and living in community means that you get bumped into a lot. I’ve had many spills over the years, and sometimes, I wonder how in the world I can still be filled with so much anger and vitriol. When will the fruit of the Spirit be more evident than an unbridled tongue and a heart not at peace?
I have this image in my head of what I want to be: a loving, understanding husband, a gentle, patient father, a positive, life-giving friend. But after every failure, I look at how far that person is from where I am, and the very little ground I’ve covered and it starts to look like a lost cause at times.
Our friends who just flew in from the US stayed with us for a week until their apartment was ready. Four adults and two children living in our small apartment, and everybody was getting bumped into, figuratively and literally! I was happy to help them and would do it again without question, but being the introvert that I am, I have had some cranky moments. And after a night of arguing with Anna and a chaotic morning of dealing harshly with Eden as she just wouldn’t cooperate with my goal of getting to school on time, I was fed up with myself by Thursday.
A well-known passage from the Old Testament came to mind as I sat at my desk. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8. This struck a chord with me. It’s funny: Christianity is filled with such complexities, and yet it’s the profoundly simple things like this that stop me dead in my tracks and make me want to just stand underneath the cleansing waterfall of God’s wisdom and let all the junk I’ve caked on just wash away.
I decided then, as I repented of the way I’d dealt with the relationships closest to me, that as I spoke with anyone, I’d ask myself if my communication was in line with those three things in Micah 6. Many times already, it hasn’t been. But on many more occasions, I think, it has. I had a difficult conversation with a fellow teacher the next morning, and had it happened only a couple of days earlier, it would’ve ended poorly, and this teacher would’ve felt attacked and would’ve shut down and gotten defensive. Instead, with a desire to honor Jesus, I came in humility, seeking a just and kind solution to the problem that I needed to address. And the problem was dealt with swiftly, with no negative ramifications.
It’s helping my communication with Anna as well, the past few days. When I’m not so bent on defending myself or fighting for my way, I find that things are much more harmonious. (Go figure!) The toughest challenge is with Eden. I struggle not to lose my temper when she isn’t as obedient as I’d like. I often say things that I regret, and I speak in a way that tears down, rather than builds up. But I’m her dad, and I’m the closest thing she has to understanding what God is like with his children, and that’s not the image I want to instill in her mind. The only way I’m going to show her a decent example is to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with my God.
One of the most important things for me to remember in all of this is that applying that verse to my life isn’t primarily about getting results; it’s about doing what God requires. I may, in some incredibly rare instance, perfectly embody this command found in Micah, as I’m trying to correct Eden. And even then, she may very well respond with contempt and rebellion. And I have to be mentally and emotionally ok with that. Jesus managed to live his entire life this way, and they crucified him. This isn’t about utility; it’s about bringing glory to the One who gave his life for me.
I hope to wake up one day and realize that my cup is running over, and that it’s grace that’s spilling out onto those around me.