Growing in Christ (Part I)
Growing up, everyone agrees that I was Daddy's Little Girl. I fondly remember running in our neighborhood with my athlete dad, our frequent visits to the movie store, the daddy-daughter lunches at a local Chinese restaurant, "take your daughter to work day," and his passion for coaching my elementary track team.
But somewhere in my adolescent years, our bond started to slowly dissolve, I think in part from the strong-will I inherited from my father (ironically). In a sincere effort to obey God's command to honor my dad ("Honor your father..." --Exodus 20:12), I'll just say that "life happened" recently and for the past five months I did not communicate with my dad. I struggled daily with this decision, especially how it would affect my daughter, not having her grandfather around. The reason for this struggle? God calls me to be loving. How could I effectively be a disciple of Christ if I wasn't following His commands? The verses below kept swarming my heart:
During this time I prayed incessantly for my father and often sought out a prayer partner at church to pray for him as well. Last week, however, a prayer partner turned the tables on me. Instead of bowing our heads in prayer for my dad after I spoke this request, he spoke at length about ME, not my dad, and what God has called ME to do: be loving, in all circumstances, as God loves each of us. I tried to hold back my tears while he spoke, but this particular prayer partner had been through my situation and knew exactly what I was feeling, speaking straight to my heart. I can tell you with complete certainty that God was at work in this man that He placed at the alter, just for me, on this particular day.
What this man said was far from easy to digest, although the Holy Spirit has been telling me this message all along. How was I to act loving toward my father when I didn't feel like acting loving? But that's JUST the point. We can't do it on our own, we need Christ to aide us, and with Christ, the seemingly impossible is suddenly possible. The whole time I'd been worrying about my father and our relationship and his health and distancing him from my life, I never realized that God was growing ME. He was allowing me the opportunity to grow in prayer (because I was praying A LOT about this situation), He was teaching me that I need to be loving, no matter what. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). God doesn't see sin like we do; for example, we may think a lie is a little sin and murder is an unforgivable sin. Sin is sin in God's eyes and I was sinning by not honoring my father. I needed to be loving towards him and forgive him, really forgive him, just as God has washed me clean of my sins (1 John 1:7), which makes me think of Matthew 7:1-5:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."
What I appreciated most of all was learning that God was making ME more holy in this experience. My focus was on my father and I neglected to see that I, too, needed to grow in Christ. Now, I had a choice: do God's will and love my father or follow my human nature.
Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow.
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