Conviction Comes To Interrupting Chicken


Yup, Little Miss Active Listener went rogue again. Tigger-like, she bounced right over reflective, soft-spoken Joe with her over-eager interjections.

I could say the interrupting words were well intentioned, borne of desire to build relationship and connect. I could say that.

But I know better.

Contrition

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Psalm 51:3

Jim and I were in the kitchen with our friends Sadie and Joe, enjoying some Sunday morning omelettes. Joe was summarizing a new book. I was Interrupting Chicken.

Hon! Stop interrupting, my husband broke after one of my break-ins. Let him talk!

I shut my mouth. Those words about how it’s the fool who answers before he listens (Proverbs 18:3) came to mind.  Guilt- the good kind- moved in.

After an awkward moment of silence, Joe continued, still calm.  I listened to him- and to my wounded ego- without interrupting either. In a few minutes. Joe left to help at early church.

But I didn’t say a thing. Any thing. And I didn’t do the right thing.

Conviction

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17

But I knew the right thing to do.  James 1:19 has been a quote-out-loud verse in this house for years. Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. And I know Proverbs 18:23 pretty well, too: Whoever covers his sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and forsakes them finds mercy. 

Obedience required confession. And not in a vague Sorry-if-I-offended-you way.  Because confession- like thanksgiving- demands particulars. Precision like, Forgive me, Joe because for repeatedly interrupting . Or, sorry I wasn’t a patient listener.  Specific. 

I knew what I had to do. Interrupting was a sin of commission. I was doing the wrong thing. But to go on without confessing, that would add to it a sin of commissionWhoever knows the right thing to do- confess to Joe- and fails to do it, for him it is sin. 

There was conviction. I knew the right thing to do. 

Confession

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. James 5:16

But my pride had kept me from confessing as a first response, before Joe left for church.

And silence when there’s sin to confess wastes away the bones (Psalm 32:3). So the ‘ole bones groaned for the next three hours at church. But when we all got home, I did the right thing.

Hey Joe, I’m sorry I kept interrupting you this morning.

I don’t know if I added Please forgive me, or not. But I know meant it. And what’s more. I know Joe gave it.

That wasn’t the first time I’ve been selfish and rash and had to confess to a friend and I’m pretty sure, it won’t be the last. Because our gracious God reveals convicts us, bit by bit. There are sins we don’t even know we commit. A year or a month ago, I might not have seen Interrupting Chicken as a sinner.

But I do now.  And once we  know the right thing to do, it’s on us to do it.

Ongoing and over and over again.

Continue

And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. 1 John 1:28

In a message on James 4:17, Russell Moore says that confessing our sins is critical for every Christian.

Then he explains why it’s so important to make things right,

Because the Christian life is about the Gospel. Because you and I understand that we are sinners. Not that we were sinners. That we are sinners. And that we are constantly in need of grace and mercy.

So what does the Holy Spirit drive us to do? He drives us to an ongoing confession of sin….

Because this is how God is drawing you near to him by the confession of your sins…The point is, you ask for forgiveness…so that you can be freed and liberated from that…

The most miserable Christian in the world is not the who is aware of his sin and is confessing it. It is the one who does not have his sins being exposed and repented of so [he can] experience the blessings of fellowship and walking in Christ.

It sounds so awful and terrifying. So does a surgeon. A surgeon rips you up to take the tumor out. So does the Word. It’s healing. 

Confess and repent is part and parcel of the Christian life until we see our Lord face to face, and are like him. And it’s not so morbid really, it’s actually, very lightening and relieving, and as Moore said, healing.

Confession, Interrupting Chicken can assure you, is good for the soul. 

Conclusion

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13

So what do you do with conviction? Do you stuff it inside and protect your pride? Or do you confess it and find fellowship?

During a swim at our friends pool this week’,  my 11-year-old, called me over and asked in confidence and with conviction,

Hey Mom, do you think I should say sorry to Mrs. Mills? I accidentally dropped a cheese cracker in the water and she told us kids not to have food in the pool.

You can guess this mama’s answer.

 You know the right thing to do, Son. Go do it.

Grant me never to lose sight of  
the exceeding sinfulness of sin,
the exceeding righteousness of salvation,
the exceeding glory of Christ,
the exceeding beauty of holiness,
the exceeding wonder of grace. 
The Valley Of Vision, “Continual Repentance”

The Cure For My Passive-Aggressive

Pat thought what you wrote was a little passive-aggressive, a mutual friend relayed, her eyebrows raised.

The charge caught me off-guard and I winced. I’d never thought of myself that way- as a sort of silent and brooding, wounded-then-wounding type. Then again, sometimes we are blind.

So I raced off to re-read that post, with a sharp eye for the signs. But try as I might, I didn’t see the backhanded jabs of passive-aggressive. And as much as I can know my own heart, I knew that there was no motive to hurt in those words.

But, like Chesterton said, to have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it. The words came off as hurtful to friend I respect. So I pulled the post.

And that was the end of that.

Or not.

Find The Kernel.

Turns out, I’ve been sitting with Pat’s passive-aggressive charge for  2 1/2 years now. Which, I suppose, might prove the point. Maybe. We’ll sift that out later.

Regardless, I’m learning to look for the kernel of truth when I’m criticized. Because even if the charge is mostly false, there’s usually some truth.

And why, you ask, are you so relentless about this kernel business? 

Glad you asked: It’s because I know that letting hard truth land on me– painful as that is- always propels growth. Because I’m learning that if by God’s strong grace, I can chew on the seed without shattering my teeth, the odds are that its truth will nourish my soul and change me for the good.

What Is Passive-Aggressive?

Passive-aggressive, for the record, describes a type of behavior or personality characterized by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation, as in procrastinating, pouting, or misplacing important materials. 

Passive-aggressive behaviors might include:

  • Putting off responsibilities
  • Carrying out responsibilities late, not at all, or inefficiently
  • Sulking
  • Using forgetfulness as an excuse not to do things
  • Having pent-up feelings of anger
  • Resenting and blaming other people

Avoiding direct confrontation, resenting, sulking– who can’t relate, at least a little?

Not guilty. And guilty.

But even in light of the list, I have a clear conscience about the post.

But what about the kernel? What about me would make Pat think that?

  • Do I sulk and pout?
  • Do I resent those who hurt me?  
  • Am I tempted to hurt others back even when they hurt me unintentionally?  (But only in socially acceptable ways of course- like avoiding eye contact or withholding smiles, or forgetting her special day when she forgets mine?)

I do and I am. Guilty as charged. Pat was wrong about the particulars. But Pat was right about me.

And I suspect I’m not alone. Because passive and aggressive come natural.

Here’s what I mean.

Get past natural.

Once upon a run, a ferocious German Shepherd bit me in the hamstring. It broke the skin. It hurt. At once, I wanted to kick the dog as hard as I could and run away as far as I could.

I think that’s our reflex reaction when someone hurts our feelings, too- fight or flight.  Lash out or flee. Both are knee-jerk natural.

But Christians are called to something more. We’re called to supernatural. We are called to love one another. Loving people like Jesus loved means we have to move past the soul’s passive-aggressive preset.

Some situations might call for boundaries. I get that. But if we cordon ourselves off too tightly to prevent hurt, we might miss out on kingdom blessings (see Matthew 5:1-12) that come from giving love. I’m learning to be  wary of promising in my pain, “I’ll never get close again.”

To Forgive Is Divine

Human love demands risk. There is no safe investment, C.S. Lewis said. To love is to be vulnerable.

Maybe you’re less prone to retreat and more apt to fight back.  Your preset is “To vent,” and “Tell ’em like it is.” When unfair stings you,  it’s up to you to let her know how much she hurt you or let him feel the pain he gave.

These reactions all come natural. In a comment, commenting on ​1 Peter 1:6–7,John Piper explains that,God allows trials in our lives that could make us very angry. If they couldn’t, they wouldn’t be trials. But the reason he does is to refine our faith the way gold is refined by fire.”

 So will we? Will we look through the hurt to the sovereign goodness of God that allowed them? Or do we shut God out and let our passive-aggressive grow.

Only one is supernatural.

The Cure For Passive-Aggressive

There is a cure for every one of our sinful, destructive patterns. They’re not all named and described like in the DSM-V, but our Maker is our Healer and  He wrote the complete diagnostic and treatment book. What’s more, through his Holy Spirit, he gives his children the power to carry out the cure. 

Here it is, the Passive-Aggressive cure. It jumped out at me on another run when I wasn’t being chased by dog. It’s found in 1 Peter 4:19: Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. When I got home, I jotted this down:

1. Passive >> Continue to do good.

2. Aggressive>>Entrust yourself to your faithful Creator. 

3. Passive-Aggressive>> Forgive (and keep forgiving whenever the  hurt wells up) and cover with love.

And remember, If you hold a grudge, you doubt the Judge. Surely the judge of the earth will do right. His eyes see all. The thoughtful, or spiteful, lips and hands and the unforgiving, bitter hearts. 

Do Good.

God will give you opportunities to do good to those who hurt you. I know He will. Years ago, in the throes of some big hurt, I prayed that the man who hurt me would need help, and that I would be able to give it.

God answered that one before I’d prayed it more than a handful of  times. I saw said man with a broken down truck on the side of the road on my way home from work, and I thanked God and stopped to ask if I could help. It was part of my cure.

Do good. Trust God. Cover in love.

Cover WITH Love

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Keep on loving. Stay engaged. Fake it till you make it. I keep coming back to a passage in C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves. Here he explains what it looks like in real life when we cover with love.

A game, a joke, a drink together, idle chat, a walk…-all these can be modes in which we forgive or accept forgiveness, in which we console or are reconciled, in which we “seek not our own. Who would rather live with those ordinary people who get over their tantrums (and ours) unemphatically, letting a meal, a night’s sleep, or a joke mend all? 

It’s supernatural, strong grace when we’re able to  “get over our tantrums” and just get on with it. Sulks come far more easily than doing good and trusting God and proving I do by telling a joke or smiling at the one who hurt me.

But that’s covering. It’s humility. That’s love.

Covered BY Love

The last part of the passive-aggressive, bitterness cure, I think, is to remember that we ourselves are not always so lovable.

I’ll close with a quote from a previous post. Incidentally, it’s a revision of  the post that Pat took issue with. And it’s as true now as  it was then. It’s about covering.

It’s Lewis again: 

There is something in each of us that cannot be naturally loved…You might as well ask people to like the tastes of rotten bread or the sound of a mechanical drill. We can be forgiven, and pitied, and loved in spite of it, with Charity; no other way. All may be sure that at some times…they are receiving Charity, are loved not because they are lovable but because Love Himself is in those who love them.

There’s no other way. You are, and I am, receiving Charity. And it’s not because we’re always lovable, but because Love dwells in those who love us and cover our sins.

That’s it, folks-what Paul called faith expressing itself in love. This is the only cure for my passive-aggressive: trust God means good, leave him your hurt, and do good.

The fix is not fast or flashy. But it works.

“Come Down, O Love Divine”

Come down, O love divine, seek Thou this soul of mine,
And visit it with Thine own ardor glowing.
O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear,
And kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.

 

Let holy charity mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part,
And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.
   
– Bi­an­co da Si­e­na

Croagh Patrick & Confession 46

Therefore I should give unceasing thanks to God, for He has often been forgiving of my carelessness and stupidity.  

The Confession of St. Patrick, #46


Last year, I explained why St. Patrick is my homeboy. He still is. And I’m still smitten by the Irish and in love with the people whose speech sounds like a song. And every St. Patrick’s Day every Irishman (and woman) goes out to find another Irishman to make a speech to, said Shane Leslie. 

Here am I. 

Because I can’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without thinking of Croagh Patrick and I can’t think of Croagh Patrick without thinking of what happened on that holiest of Irish mountains. But my memories climbing “Patrick’s Stack” are a wee bit tainted by a real tragedy.

Which should come as no surprise, Irish daughter of Eve such as I am. W.B. Yeats said the Irish had an abiding sense of tragedy which sustains them through temporary periods of joy.

I share that sense. But I’m not Irish Catholic and I don’t share their long iceberg of guilt. I go back with Patrick and rest in God’s forgiveness. More on that in a minute. 

Back to the tragedy. The one in blue there on the left might have been flanked by two at St. Patrick’s summit. But the third sister didn’t arrive because of selfish, stupid me.  

What happened at Ireland’s Holy Mountain will stay on that mountain. Suffice it to say, it did not involve a shove of treachery on the high mountain scree. 

But there could have been three. There were two because I stole a mountaintop memory from one.

And godly grief produced repentance that lead to salvation without regret. Mostly. Salvation and forgiveness and grace for sure. 

But still a twinge of regret. Because when we met, as the sun set behind the sacred mountain, her blue eyes were wet. And I knew we couldn’t re-do

Dingle Peninsula and Gallarus Oratory and so many more roads to travel in two last days. Then home. And it’s not an easy pilgrimage to repeat, being from across the sea. 

I couldn’t get over or under or around the truth that my stupid sin got in her way. So, as much as I wanted a do-over, a pilgrimage for all three, grace had to be enough

And it was. It always is. 

So don’t worry. Don’t be Irish that way, you know, worried that you don’t have something to worry about. Sister three assured me she can laugh about it now. Which is quite her gift to me


A day will come when joy prevails, even over regret and tears and tragedy. It will all be swallowed up in victory. The Lamb will reign and in his presence will be fullness of joy. Complete and utter joy, untainted by carelessness and selfishness and just plain stupidity. 

St. Patrick’s day is bittersweet. And that’s okay. Because bitter reminds me of my Lord’s scars, wounds borne for sinners such as I, and sweet for God’s forgiving grace. It’s the air we sisters breathe.

When I asked the sister who didn’t summit if I could post this today, she said, Sure-just don’t be too heavy. Make ’em laugh. There’s grace.” 
I don’t know if I’ve succeeded with that. But onward and upward. Joyfully pressing on through Croagh Patrick and beyond.
I pray I tread as Patrick trod, by grace and with unceasing thanks to God who has been forgiving of my selfishness and stupidity.  
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O LORD, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

Psalm 130:3-4

Does It Count?

The real test of the saint is…doing the things that do not count in the actual estimate of men but count everything in the estimate of God. 

-Oswald Chambers

Mom, do these [dishes] count for my work today?

Does this [Monopoly money] count for my math? 

Does this [vacuuming] count for exercise? 

Does this [Fruit Loops box] count for my reading?

No kidding. Our eight-year old asked me each of those in a single day last week. Because at our house summers off aren’t entirely.

We still do work in the summer. We learn to do dishes and sweep floors and fold laundry. We do math and reading, and play piano and exercise. And Gabe, God bless him, doesn’t want to waste his efforts. He wants to be sure reading the cereal box at breakfast and scrubbing dinner dishes and counting play money are entered on his ledger.

He wants it all to count.

In Vain?

We all want to know that our work counts. We crave assurance that our labors are not in vain, that our love is not wasted. We long to know that somehow, in some way our efforts will be rewarded. We wonder:

Lord, do these [dishes] count for my work today?

Does this [meal for a new mom] count for love?

Does this [hard forgiveness] count for faith?

Does this [check to our church] count for some reward?

The worst moments in our lives are those that scream: Wasted! All in vain. They etch themselves deep, these moments. My husband was into balsa-wood building back in the day. Hours, a day and maybe a night was how long a diligent twelve-year-old labored over one little model home.

Finally, exultant, he set the delicate little dwelling on his bed. Dan came in, then, and they bantered as brothers can and Jim flopped joyful back on the bed. And the balsa-wood house was smashed in a second into smithereens. And Jim cried.

Waste feels awful. When hours of dinner prep are lost in a smoky oven and days of writing are lost in a hard drive crash. When weeks of study are lost-one click shy of submitted-and the test is outside its window. When months nursing peach trees are lost to a summer storm, tiny fruits hard on the ground. No counts hurt.

These crushing flash points hit us hard; when work seems irretrievably, irrevocably lost and love looks irretrievably, irrevocably wasted. As if labor was in vain, and love wasted. Lost.

But are they?

Not In Vain

Paul was like us. He wanted to be sure his own work, his ministry, wasn’t in vain. He wanted his work to count.

Fourteen years after Damascus Road, Paul went up to Jerusalem. Why? To make sure [he] was not running in vain (Galatians 2:2). He wanted to be sure he was doing his work right, proclaiming the gospel truly. He told the Philippian church, Hold fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain (Phil. 2:16).

You’ve probably heard it said, You must preach to yourself. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, an English pastor last century, may have coined the adage. The futility of wasted, no-counts are preempted by preaching to ourselves.

We must constantly be reminding ourselves that we are always in the presence of God, that He sees and knows everything and we can never escape his sight. Where can I go to flee from your presence? 

If we were to practice this it would be revolutionary. I am quite certain a revival would start at once. Think of all the pretense and sham, and all that is unworthy in us. If only we realized that God is looking at all, and is aware of it all, and is recording it all. (D.M. Lloyd-Jones, The Sermon on the Mount, V. II, p. 17)

So don’t phone it in because you don’t see a reward. That’s what faith must be. It’s precisely the work no one sees, the hours that no one notices and love that’s not returned that God will reward. It’s just then-when love or labor seem in vain- that God tells us, It counts.

That’s one reason, I think, that the great day of the Lord will be so great. We’ll know that our work of faith counted. That the efforts pleased our Master. Isaiah foretold this day, when They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat…They shall not labor in vain (Isaiah 65:22).

What About Rewards?

The whole issue of rewards troubles people. But reward is central to Christian belief. Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:60). So we make it our goal to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one should receive what is due for what he has done in the body (2 Cor. 5:9-10)

Each believer will receive his own reward according to his own labor (1 Cor. 3:8) and, Whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord (Eph. 6:8). In one span of eighteen verses, Christ spoke four times of reward. He spoke-not to put such talk of reward to rest-but to assure us that it is perfectly good and right to seek it.

Provided, of course, that the reward is rightly sought from the righteous Judge.

The key thing is to remember that rewards come once. If you seek yours from man, you won’t get it from God. So, don’t let your left hand know about the check your right hand wrote.

But, it doesn’t follow that we should be unconcerned with reward. Only be mindful that God keeps accounts. He sees what you do in secret, and one day out in the open will be gathered all the nations. And the King will say, “Come you blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom…For I was hungry and you gave me food, a stranger and you welcomed me.” 

How To Make It Count

1. Beware

If you seek your reward from men you may very well get it, but that is all you will get. You’ve cashed your check. Think, every time you wonder If this counts, of our guiding truth about reward:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 6:1). 

Lloyd-Jones prods us again. Work through your religious life, think of all the good you have done in the past, in the light of that pronouncement. How much remains to come to you from God? It is a terrifying thought.

In an age when it’s so easy to showcase our righteous acts, and reap rewards the instant we post them, it is a terrifying thought. We’d best beware.

2. Let Him Keep Accounts


Leave the book-keeping to Him and his grace. Let Him keep the accounts…There is no need to waste time keeping accounts, He is keeping them. And what wonderful accounts they are. May I say it with reverence, there is nothing I know if that is so romantic as God’s methods of accountancy …The whole world is turned upside down by grace” -D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones*  

Do you live for God’s glory? Do your work and play, your Facebook posts and text threads make God look great? Praise Him if they do, but don’t keep track. Seek the Kingdom first. Quit asking if it counts. Like my NYC sister-in-law says, Forget about it. 

3. Keep Doing Good


To those who by patience in well doing seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life (Romans 2:7). And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matthew 6:4, 6,18). 
So keep right on rocking those babes in the nursery and writing checks to your church and doing dishes after hosting group. Love and labor for God count. He sees and knows what’s done for his sake.

So don’t grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

4. Keep On Trusting

The Hebrew Christians were like Gabe. They wanted their work to count. And since whatever was written for them is for our benefit, too, we have hope. For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints (Hebrews 6:10).

In a sermon on that text, John Piper reiterates this great truth:

The great battle of the Christian life is not to produce merit so that the justice of God will repay with salvation. The great battle of Christian life is to keep trusting God patiently until he freely gives the final inheritance.  

Do you trust Him? That he saw how patiently you listened, how silently you cleaned her kids’ mess? That these checks year after year will bring reward one day? That He saw the smile forced for the man who slandered my man? Can I trust this hard forgiveness He’s helping me do counts for something?

*     *     *     *     *

Yes, Gabe. Your work counts. Scrubbing dishes and counting Monopoly money counts. It all adds up to something good. By God’s accounting, and by his grace, it makes the man.

Yes, Christian, it does. It all counts for something. In God’s economy no labor or love for his name’s sake is ever wasted. He will reward the righteous acts you do for Him. They matter.

In fact, nothing on earth matters more.

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. 
Galatians 5:6

*Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, p. 131