Do you ever just want to be someone you’re not? I’m not talking about the general discontent that is experienced in our lives (or am I the only one that has days where I’m just not very likeable?), but rather the angst to have more than what you’ve got in the realm of talent and abilities. I look at those artists that can create amazing and fun art and I just long to be able to do the same. They make it seem so effortless! But, we all know that it requires lots of time and dedication and effort to make it happen. There are the singers, also, and I marvel at the lung capacity many of them have, the endurance, in addition to their natural ability to bring words to life in song. But, once again, dedication and time spent is required. Practice and seeking out to make things better, to improve on what they can do.
I can relate in the respect of creation in my writing. While I assume that anyone can put pen to paper and create a written piece with little effort, it isn’t necessarily true. I recalled, just now, one of the times my mom and I were queued up in the D23 Expo line and a couple sitting behind us were talking with us while I watched the man draw an amazing Boba Fett. He told me that he was self-taught. Essentially, he found a character and drew the same character over and over again until he perfected it. Work and effort and time. Yeah, that’s where my failing definitely is.
I want to do it right the first time and this leads to the “good enough” mentality of my mind. I think the only thing that I’ve constantly worked at and improved is my crochet hat, and that was only because I make them and sell them or give them away, so the practice is essentially working on the products and getting better through necessity, rather than through desire to improve upon myself and my work.
What does this mean? Well, considering the fact that God has told me many times of late that I need to stop seeking things that I am not called to do and rather do what He’s called me to (teaching, leading, preaching, speaking, writing, and photography). This means that I need to let go of the dreams I have of being a worship leader. I still desire it, truth be told, but I find that the lack of availability makes it easier to move on…or maybe I should say it SHOULD make it easier to move on.
In our discontent, we can find ourselves filled with angst and jealousy and bitterness. I am thinking about how people become offended and leave based on a myriad of reasons. What causes offense in our lives? Well, the Bible tells us.
James 4:1-12 (MSG) says, Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.
You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.
You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.”
So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.
Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?
I can see this so clearly. Whenever I feel discontented, it is usually because I want something someone else has, like an amazing singing voice and the ability to just burst out in song like a Disney Princess. Truly, though, I’d trade the voice if I had birds and bunnies drawn to me. Moving on.
Offenses come because we want what we want and when we are corrected, we become offended. Sometimes, a person can speak out of turn and say something ungodly and that can lead to an offense, but I find that this is moreso resolved by the other person rebuking the statement, discarding the statement for the madness it is, or by a godly person stepping in and remedying the lie with truth and correction. Then, maybe the instigator becomes offended and leaves.
But, the point is that people do leave. The offense is taken, not given, and the person decides that no relationship and no person is worth dealing with whatever inner-battle they wage, and they leave. This, of course, leads to stagnation and death. You can’t grow if you’re not willing to be stretched and corrected and, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. The immaturity that one holds onto when being offended and leaving is not healthy, even if it is easy.
Or, is it easy? That is difficult to say, as well, because how, exactly, do you intend to be a better person if you constantly get irritated and offended and leave situations that are uncomfortable? There can be no growth or maturity there and the race is harder. There can be no real or lasting friendships there and the life is lonelier.
There have been times when I’ve asked God for things that were not mine to have and He hasn’t given them to me. There are times when I’ve asked God for things that were mine to have and He hasn’t given them to me. There are times when correction has come through Holy Spirit and times when it’s come through others. I have taken offense at things and these have been things that God and I have had to work through.
Something very powerful was spoken to me years ago in the form of a sermon on Ruth. The sermon’s main message was to stay in the vineyard you’re in until God gives it to you. When you consider that Ruth worked as a widow in Boaz’s vineyards, gleaning the corners, picking up the leavings of the paid workers, only to marry Boaz and own the vineyard. When we choose to leave due to being offended, it is then that we lose out on the blessing.
Now, Ruth was not offended, but we all know that she was a Moabitess in the land of the Israelites and this would definitely lead to stress and strife. Why? Namely, because God’s Word says, “No Ammonite or Moabite is to enter the congregation of God, even to the tenth generation, nor any of his children, ever. Those nations didn’t treat you with hospitality on your travels out of Egypt, and on top of that they also hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Mesopotamia to curse you. God, your God, refused to listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing—how God, your God, loves you! Don’t even try to get along with them or do anything for them, ever.” (Deuteronomy 23:3-6, MSG)
So, the Hebrews would be fully aware of this mandate and here was Ruth, a widowed Moabite in their midst, taking grain from the edges that they would have for themselves. I hypothesize, then, that she faced some opposition and probably was called some names and treated poorly, though the Bible doesn’t specifically tell us this. Yet, Ruth continued to live with her mourning mother-in-law, supporting her as best she could in a strange land with strange customs, building up a pure and lovely reputation (I wish I had as beautiful a reputation as Ruth had*) and capturing the heart of Boaz, a loyal, honest, hard-working man. Through all this, Ruth finds herself in the lineage of Jesus Christ. Wow.
What if Ruth had been offended and decided to leave and return to Moab and marry a man of her nation? What if Ruth had become offended when Naomi ignored her when Ruth refused to leave her? Where would her blessing be then? There would be no amazing history to tell if Ruth had taken her offense and left.
I feel that God has us on the cusp of growth and, in the process, there will be offense. It is our natural biases and filters that generate the offense and, in so doing, these responses that have worked all our lives are kicked into action and we do what is easiest: we leave. The challenge here is to no longer leave, but rather, to remain steadfast in your walk and to remain in the vineyard where God has placed you until He gives it to you.
Because there is no blessing in fleeing offense, but there is surely blessing in forgiveness.
*[Ruth] dropped to her knees, then bowed her face to the ground. “How does this happen that you should pick me out and treat me so kindly—me, a foreigner?”
Boaz answered her, “I’ve heard all about you—heard about the way you treated your mother-in-law after the death of her husband, and how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and have come to live among a bunch of total strangers. God reward you well for what you’ve done—and with a generous bonus besides from God, to whom you’ve come seeking protection under his wings.” (Ruth 2:10-12, MSG)