“I am small and despised: yet do not I forget Thy precepts.” (Psalm 119:141)
Shrinking to fit
It’s one thing to actively humble oneself in order that we might serve those who don’t see us as we are–as God sees us. That’s the way, by the way. If you haven’t already, you’re bound to run across people in your church or your workplace, or even your own family, who don’t see you as God sees you. The way to retain your personhood in light of a negative reflection is to keep your vision trained on God. And as God never has any identity crises, He’ll be sure and be that mirror you need to keep being yourself. It’s quite another thing to have to struggle in the face of lies and libel and slander. Libel, by the way, is written defamation whereas slander is something spoken that is intended to sully a person’s reputation or standing. And God hates all of it.
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” (1 Peter 2:21-23)
I find it amusing that slander and libel are punishable with fines and in some cases imprisonment, but the no-less injurious thing called gossip–something that happens with impunity within the walls of a church–goes unpunished. Rest-assured, God hears everything said. And it’s His ears that burn. If there’s one Person out there who is largely misunderstood, it’s Him. There are those who think they know Him but couldn’t be more off-base. And those who assume that He’s a certain way, represented by a church that is acting out of turn or out of order and while inclined to repent and accept Him, miss His true character. It’s a broad spectrum and all Jesus desires is that people walk in love. Which can’t be done unless we walk with Him. We cannot make God in our image. That’s idolatry. We cannot fit God into our mold.
As an aside, the Greek myth of Procrustes tells of a roadside robber who captured unsuspecting victims and cut off their limbs in order to make them fit into his bed. When you hear the word “procrustean”, it refers to the speaker or subject making something mean what they want it to, regardless of facts.
“For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.” (Isaiah 28:20)
When we don’t see God correctly, we will not see others as He sees them, either. This is the truth. God will continually bring you in and among those with whom your disinclined to associate in order for you to further dial in the love and compassion and forgiveness needed to see them grow in His care.
“My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.” (Galatians 4:19-20)
And this is what it takes: pain. Paul, in the above passage admits that he doubts the true character of the Galatians, who, it says, wanted “to be under the law” (4:21). He didn’t pull any punches. He didn’t change the message of Grace in order to fit their skewed definition. And he didn’t “lop off any limbs” in a procrustean manner, in order that they might fit into his mold. No. He’s the one who suffered. And Peter says “For even hereunto were ye called.” Church can be an ugly battleground of misperception (seriously) and misery. You can walk in on Sunday and clash with a brother or sister through no fault of your own. God help you. And if God has you continue to attend, then you may well be the one to hurt and suffer through the birth pains of seeing “Christ be formed” in them. It takes time and it’s something that necessarily gets God’s attention. We get the privilege of feeling a bit of what Jesus went through for everyone–in order to get a few of us back.
As another aside, the word “odin” (pronounced odeen) in Greek is the word for “childbirth pain”. No relation to the Norse myth.
There are vacant rooms in God’s heart. Hollow places that may never be filled. But you’re there. Revel in that. Know that the Father is holding you, even as you hold up your brother or sister in Christ and see that they move in. We must forgive the offense in order to allow the Holy Spirit to begin working on their heart. And the joy that you bring to God more than makes up for the misery we feel from rejection, misunderstanding and lack of validation. If you’re experiencing this or have, my heart goes out to you.