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“I used to be …”
In the unprecedented times we’re living in, “I used to be” may not be such a strange thought. But what if we could say this …
There are many articles in the news at the moment about how life used to be before social distancing, before the lockdown and the global pandemic. Official government guidelines about how our society will function in the coming months if strict lockdown eases are published daily. Some people are yearning to get back to how life used to be, while others have found a different way of living that suits them better – less stress, more free time and reduced responsibility.
It is not just an altered state of society that can cause us to look back at how we used to live and assess the changes that have come over our lives. It is a normal part of aging that can provoke us to compare the here and now to specific times in our lives.
And, in that connection, my husband said something very significant to me in our kitchen this week.
How I used to be
We had just been reminiscing about our marriage as our 45-year wedding anniversary approaches – thinking about the past, all life’s ups and downs, the good and the not so good, and all the kids, all the grandchildren and how we have had to change how we run our businesses now under lockdown, and he said out of the blue: “I used to be such a harsh person.”
I used to be …
And it is true; he did used to be a harsh person, with principles, and ways things should be done, and certain priorities and household rules. But he isn’t any more.
So, I got to thinking about myself, and what things had characterised me over the years and the biggest one was resentment. I used to be a very resentful person who would mull over and over things other people had said or done, and how it had affected me or upset me. But I am not any more.
I used to be.
It is within our grasp to say these words about each aspect of our human nature that we need to be cleansed from so that we become like Jesus, which is our right and our goal. We will be able to say:
I used to be jealous.
I used to be bitter.
I used to be selfish.
I used to be lazy.
I used to be arrogant.
I used to be fearful.
I used to be …
How I can be transformed
The quickest way to a goal is in a straight line, and it is written that we should “make straight paths for our feet” and we do this by thinking about God’s word and obeying the “doctrine.” Doctrine really means a set of beliefs, and the set of beliefs I follow is that by denying myself and taking up my cross, the sin in my human nature will be destroyed bit by bit. Taking up a cross is a process of denying something human, like resentment, until it dies.
Sometimes, especially when young, this process can feel like it is going on forever and not really getting anywhere. And I felt like that too, but I put my head down, believed God, and just carried on in blind faith.
As well as blind faith, we need to pin our lives on the rock of the word – words like this:
“I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected.” Habakkuk 2:1.
The process is straightforward.
Setting ourselves on the ramparts. Ramparts are part of a system of defence, a fortified defence system – our defence system is the word of God and an attitude of “it is written.” So, from the get-go my position is to reject resentment whether I am in the right or not. I am aware I have a weakness in this area, and I don’t want it to continue. I stand here resolutely.
Watch what He will say to me. I have to be listening and alert. I have to be expecting to hear something and accept it when I do. If I am watchful I will hear the Spirit’s voice when the first whisper of a resentful attitude creeps over me.
What I will answer when I am corrected. This is my response when I am aware the Spirit is nudging me about a quiet festering thought I may have ignored or suppressed, hoping it will go away on its own. It won’t. This nudging is correction and I have to accept it. The quicker I can say, “Yes, I am feeling resentful,” then the quicker I can add, “and I reject it.” This is a conscious decision and a choice, a definite choice. This is the straight path towards becoming more like Jesus and it doesn’t happen if I just try to be nice to people. Anybody can be nice, but that doesn’t make a.
And for disciples, it makes no difference if we are socially distanced or not – the listening for correction is an ongoing process. It works for a harsh person and for a resentful person, for the jealous, bitter, selfish, lazy, arrogant, fearful person. It works for all of us.
In the coming months, I do not know if I will be able to commence face-to-face lessons with my students, or what the guidelines are for patients to attend my office in person, or when we will be able to visit our new baby granddaughter. But I am looking forward to the day when I will be able to say, “I used to be …” about more areas of my life because I am standing with defences, and I am watching.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.