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Respecting the Gift

Day 23: Respecting the Gift

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Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, — Hebrews 12:1

It works until it doesn’t work. Have you heard that saying before? It is the case for everything. As a teen with a fast-paced metabolism you could probably have eaten whatever you wanted and it wouldn’t have shown up around your waistline. As an adult with a slower metabolism and a more sedentary lifestyle layered with some stress and anxiety, eating the same junk won’t work. It’ll create unwanted weight, health problems and a diminishing feeling of self-confidence.

Why is it then, that some are able to catch the scale creeping up when it’s only shifted five pounds upwards and others wait years until a medical crisis scares them into action? What is the difference? I believe it is the gift of clarity.

Clarity is the brief moment we see the light. We were unaware something was a problem and the next moment we are aware. It can spring up from an internal voice, a prompting of the Holy Spirit, or from an outside consequence. Either will work. Then we have the chance to accept the gift or reject the gift.

I circled the mountain of binge drinking for decades. It was fun. I was always up for a party. I didn’t ever ‘plan’ to drink so much, it just happened. And when it did, I would feel remorseful, but I wasn’t doing anything ‘illegal’ so I would excuse the behavior. Girls just wanna have fun, right? I didn’t count the cost. Until one night when I was driving my van home after another accidental drunk.

The flash of clarity came across the screen of my mind.

“April, what are you doing? You could screw up your entire life in this moment. Suppose you got in an accident. Or pulled over. Or killed someone, including yourself. Is that what you’re waiting for? A DUI? A night in jail? Are you ready to stop?”

These thoughts startled me out of my unawareness. I could no longer assume I was ‘just having fun’. This problem could screw up my entire life and now it was time to take action and so I did. And I have continued to respect the gift of sobriety because often those who don’t end up dead. The costs are too high.

Imagine now the prodigal son we spoke of yesterday. What if he came back home, asked forgiveness with a humble heart, the father threw him a party and then life got good again. He forgot the mercy and compassion the father extended to him and he decided to go back to his wild living again. Do you think the father would have allowed it? Sure. And do you think the son would have had a good time? Maybe. Do you think he would have had a hard time coming back when he once again realized that it wasn’t so fun out there? Absolutely!

Remembering all God has done for us with a humble heart is the bedrock to staying the course. Having a heart full of gratitude is a remedy for backsliding and relapsing. And remember to, Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak! — Matthew 26:41

In John 8 we read of the woman caught in the act of adultery. We don’t know how long she was living this lifestyle only that she was ‘caught’. She had an external consequence. This was her moment to choose a new path. The Pharisees brought her to Jesus and assumed He would want her stoned because that is what the law required. Instead, He knelt down beside her. He extended grace. He brought light to the reality that none of us is without fault. Being compassionate and forgiving we know what happened.

9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

There was a quickening of the spirit within that caused conviction in the conscience for those who were in attendance that day. The woman must have felt the love of God piercing her soul. And the result was a change of heart and a charge to “go and sin no more.” Live differently. Act in a way that you know you have received a gift that is far above rubies and diamonds.  Don’t throw your pearls on the ground and allow them to be trampled by swine.

Have a healthy respect and reverence for the gift of awareness. Be grateful that you don’t have to live in the darkness anymore. The light has come, and you have seen with clarity now. What you didn’t understand was a problem before, you now see for what it is. Choose to accept the gift.

Finally let us take seriously this charge. Surround yourself with people who will motivate you and inspire you. This is why I continue to attend meetings for recovery almost daily. It is why we gather in churches on Sundays. It is what will keep us sane and sober and accountable.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. — Hebrews 10:23-26

It’s up to you. Your moment of clarity can come from an internal quickening of the Spirit and brief flash of insight that the direction you’re headed is destructive. OR you can choose to wait for an outside consequence to wake you up. Either will work. The first will save you some time and trouble, if you want to pro-actively improve your conscious contact with God. The second will create some chaos in your life but the results are what matter most. Respecting the gift and making a change.

Day 23 Lenten Love Prayer:

Thank you so much for the moments of clarity I have already had in my life. For the times you have protected me when I didn’t know it and for Your hand which was on me and patiently waiting for me even when I was completely unaware that my path was destroying my life. I was to remove the blocks and distance I have unknowingly placed between us. I want to see them for what they are. A distraction. A destruction. And also a gift. I know that the crises in my life can bring about good. I don’t want to wait for them though. I want to see them before I crash and burn. Help me to listen to the promptings of the Spirit when I get off course and walk away from you. Help me to turn my feet and return back home. More than that help me to remain home with an attitude of gratefulness for your compassion and love. Help me to see all the ways that You have been so good to me and to respect the gift, holding onto it with my life. Forgive me for the ways in which I have not respected all You have given to me. Let me love You above all else in word, in deed and with a pure heart.

Day 23 Scripture:

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. — 1 Peter 5:6-9