Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Zooming Out

I can always tell it's a good Bible study when it starts stepping on my toes.

Given that fact, I should wear steel-toed boots to the dining room table every morning, because the study I'm doing right now is about speech. I'm on my third week of working through Mary Kassian's study entitled "Conversation Peace." I've always known this is a biggie area for me! Whenever I work my way through my time of confession, the first stop is always "sins of speech." Ugh, ugh, ugh. And of course, the mouth is the overflow of the heart, so it is really revealing what is in my heart. WHY is this such a struggle? And I'm not simply talking about swear words... that would be easy enough to target and eliminate. No, I'm talking about things like...
  • Do you say things about others behind their backs that you would not say to their faces?
  • Do you make the interaction between other people your concern?
  • Do you feel a need to be proved right or to have the last word?
  • Do you respond in anger?
  • Do you talk too much?
  • Do you spend a lot of time on the phone (or texting, Facebooking, blogging, Twittering/Tweeting) ?
  • Do you refuse to admit your error when you feel the other person's error is greater?
  • If someone has failed or injured you, do you feel compelled to tell someone else about it?
  • Do you make assumptions and assume the worst about other people's motives and intentions?
  • Are you sarcastic?
  • Do you fail to listen?
Those were just a few of the many questions in the "diagnostic inventory" in which I had to choose "Never, seldom, occasionally, often, or habitually." WAY too many "often" and "habitually" boxes were checked in my book, I'm afraid.

So, now we're getting to the heart of it. It's not just about a change of speech, it's about a change of heart. And it's not just about eliminating the bad, it's about replacing it (or allowing God to replace it) with the good, as only He can. I remember reading in Martha Peace's book, "Attitudes of a Transformed Heart," about the concept of "putting off" and "putting on" (from Eph. 4:22-24):

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."

I have loved incorporating that concept, and that's what Kassian brought out today in the lesson. She calls it "the power of exchange." I couldn't even finish watching the lesson video today (which I download here from because I'm still thinking through this first part.

I have had a situation in my life for awhile now that simply confounds me. I totally don't know what to do. I have brought it (and the people involved) before the Lord daily, repeatedly, for a long time. I don't know any other way to describe it besides that I remain at a total loss as to what I am to do, how I am to respond, and what I am to say. Now I feel even more hard hearted, frustrated and empty. God ordained that today I would be in this study and that she would teach on Psalm 39, where David was in exactly the same position. I really have always loved this Psalm, and used to even keep an M&M wrapper somewhere near to remind me to "muzzle my mouth!" But it goes deeper than that! David muzzled his mouth and grew increasingly frustrated and empty as well. That's me! She pointed out today that that is because he had weeded the critical words from his heart but hadn't planted anything in their place. Finally he cried out "Show me, Lord", which has been the cry of my heart as well. "God, I don't know how to love these people. I don't have it in me."

According to Kassian, as seen in the life of David, I need to exchange the microscope for a telescope. I must zoom out. A microscope makes things seem bigger than they really are. I have focused on "How does this effect me?" "Look what this has done to my life" for TOO long. It's time for the telescope.

The telescope zooms out and sees things from an eternal perspective. I must look beyond myself and my immediate situation. Life is so fleeting! I should be asking... "Based on God's eternal focus, how should I act and what should I say?

So, here's how I'm trying to trade the microscope for a telescope today (as suggested by Kassian):

Realize that:
  • The situation is not all about me.
  • What I say and how I act have eternal implications.
  • I can either invest in eternity or try to score personal points.
  • My "opponent" is accountable to God, not to me.
  • God's perspective is bigger than mine. He has plans and purposes beyond what I can see.
Maintaining this eternal perspective in every interpersonal communication will help me be motivated to plant the seeds of grace, forgiveness or understanding.

The cry of my heart these past few years has been "Lord, change me!" And this is just another step in that journey...


Much Ado said...

Wow, challenging stuff! This sounds like a book I need to read. I am taking note!

Mindy said...

Msn, it's stepping on my toes. I've contemplated buying that study at lifeway before....looks like a good one!

emily said...

Thanks so much for posting it! I really needed these reminders about some friendship situations. Keep pressing into the Lord... I'm sure it's having fruit in your life as well as in those with whom you share. Love your blog!

Kendra said...

Wow - I am convicted just reading the sample questions. I think this will be my next Bible study I do. Thanks for sharing about it!

Susanne said...

Ouch, ouch and ouch. My toes are now very sore! ;v)

I can so relate to this. So many times I catch myself after the fact. But like you said it's a heart issue. Excellent post. I think I'm going to look into this study even though I know my toes will probably get very much more bruised before I'll be done.

Kristi said...

Wow, that was a lot to think about. Sometimes I really think I go around with a microscope way too much, when I should trade it out for a telescope (my husband would probably applaud that :)). That sounds like a great study.

Sandy said...

I love, love, love your thoughts on your bible study. Thank you for sharing. There is a situation in my life that is similar. I'm going to pass your blog along to another person.

You have been a blessing to me this day, Cyndi.