Christian Self Help
The Line In The Sand
(Part 3) The Line in the Sand - Chapter 13. - Re-organization
How appropriate it seems to move forward through a tale of life-change with a chapter 13 re-organization. Much like a corporation that finds itself in trouble because of mismanagement, so is an individual life, when mismanaged, headed for its ultimate end. With only one person to blame for wrong choices made, each life is headed for the grave.
A corporation will sometimes seek outside help when a failing trend is discovered. Wise counsel will be sought by the board of directors in order to seek out the problems and mistakes that have led up to the present mess. A team of trusted people will be assigned to take on this difficult task. They will sift through countless records to find clues. They will interview all levels of management. As clues are found, these areas will be investigated further until the truth is discovered. As truth is revealed, processes will be changed, problematic personnel will be released, finances will be carefully scrutinized, vision and purpose will be analyzed, and an overall assessment will be made which should result in a positive turn-around for the organization as a whole. The other choice is to fail.
It seems apparent to me, because of all the life-change testimonies I have heard as well as the one I share, that in order to actually be ready to re-organize, most people have to hit rock-bottom! That said, I understand that some companies will file for a chapter 11 re-organization. And, if you look back a couple of chapters, we were still in the darkness, mucking around in the icky part of our lives trying to bring those things out and into the light. There's no way we were ready to surrender to God and completely relinquish control of our entire existence to His will... No way...
No, we are shaken awake while we are still in the darkness. The brightest light is revealed to the eyes of our soul, and we realize that at that moment we are ready. We have been rescued from certain death. We realize in that instant the eternal consequences of all the sin we have committed. And, we are ready and willing to accept His help. That sums up basically every testimony I have ever heard, even though every one is just as unique as the person sharing it.
Wise counsel is sought to provide intelligent insight into the things that need to be dealt with. We all need a wise sounding board to reflect the insane nonsense that we wake up to find ourselves dealing with. If you're reading this and are thinking, "I don't need to go to counseling." then wake up and take a careful inventory of reasons you could need it. As we finally speak some truth to someone, we have the opportunity to discover who we really are, some of us for the first time. Trust in your wise counsel, you will not be led astray, especially if you have chosen with some care.
As we speak the truth to our most likely newfound wise counsel, we are taking the first step toward finding clues to discover why we find ourselves right where we are. The person, or persons, who we begin to trust are going to assist us with those first steps, almost like a mommy and daddy helping their young child take their first steps.
As we search our heart, it is inevitable that all truth is revealed, because we are actually ready to take those first steps and walk out of the darkness and into the light. As we discover one truth and confess it on paper to bring it out in the light, we are making room for the next truth to be revealed. As we diligently press onward in search of those hidden truths, we will systematically be cleaning house. As I mentioned before, this process is different for each person and can take a considerable amount of time to complete, years perhaps. For your re-organization to be successful, you must remain faithful to the task and plan some scheduled time to focus specifically on the spelunking task. Don't give up. Press on. There truly is Light at the end of this tunnel!
I say that processes will be changed because we will discover those things we were doing that brought us to this point in our life. The realization that these choices have brought all this destruction to our significant relationships will inevitably bring about a change of heart. We won't want to push people away any more. We will be able to slowly remove the habitual choices from our lives. We will be able to re-organize the use of our time. We might even get our priorities in the right order after some practice. The order is basically the same for each person: 1. God 2. Spouse 3. Family 4. Everything else.
A corporation will evaluate the performance, or lack thereof, and discover the problematic personnel. Most, if not all, will be released from their service to the company because they no longer provide beneficial input to the outcome of the business plan. We need to adopt this policy, too. If an old friend doesn't accept that you are choosing to quit drinking alcohol or smoking, or whatever, and they are negatively influencing your choice to NOT indulge, they need to be placed at a distance. This is where you choose to draw a line in the sand in the form of a choice. You can choose here to place a boundary, based upon your new character, that will provide you a safe place to be yourself - without inappropriate temptations and influence. It really is your choice.
Finances will need to be evaluated. What was I spending money on in the past that was enabling my negative behavior? Was I hoarding and hiding money just so I could use it to act on my impulses? Was my credit card riddled with the bullet-holes of my insanity? Are the dead carcasses of my stupid purchases filling up my living space and a rented storage space? Is there stuff laying arund that I never use?
Spending habits will need to be brought in line with our new belief system that God provides everything. We should by now be intentionally planning to honor God with the monetary gifts He has given us. If you are looking at the smoldering pile of ashes that used to be your budget, get help! There are many reputable, wise counsel, financial consultants out there. Carefully seek out someone you are certain you can trust. You can do it!
It's time to re-focus your vision and look at life with all it has to offer from a different perspective. There is a need to examine where you've been, where you are, and where you're headed. It's time to be a visionary, while seeking what God's vision is for your life. If you are focused on what He sees, you cannot fail. Write your vision down in the form of a vision statement. Make it real. Believe in it.
What is your purpose in life? Are you supposed to be the man and provide food, water, shelter, clothing, transportation, furniture, sundries, money, and whatever else you can think of, to yourself and all those around you? What a burdensome purpose! Are you supposed to clean the house, have the children, cook the food, pick up after everyone else, do all the things no one else will do, pay the bills, and then obey the man who is providing all the things you have to do - and is rarely there for you, emotionally, physically and spiritually?
These are just two quite familiar scenarios that most people can understand. Countless couples wake up one day resenting just these things... Is there a different way to look at these things that can honor God and each other? I know there is. The golden key rests in the choice to let go of your own agenda and allow God's purpose for your life to be your focus.
Ultimately, our purpose is to simply spread the Word about the Good News of the Kingdom of God. We don't need to be a preacher, we just need to be an example of the Light of Christ. Not that it is through any power we have, but that we allow the power of the Holy Spirit to dwell withn our heart. It is a choice. You can make it or not. I pray you do.
What talents has God blessed you with? What treasures has He given you that you could use to further the goal of spreading the Word about Jesus? How would you use those talents and treasures if you didn't use them for God's purpose? Would you use them for selfish reasons, or in pursuit of assisting others, building them up and through the process shining the Light of Christ through your words and deeds?
It's time to consider your life purpose more carefully and to write it down. Pray for guidance. Write it down. Share it with some important people in your life, so you can be challenged by them to stick to your purpose. Be prepared to re-evaluate and be ready to change your focus if you are called by God in a different direction. Listen to your heart. Listen to God's Word. Spread the Word.
Do you have a plan? Most of us wake up in the morning, a brand new day with no clue what to do today. Oh, we have our lists, and our work, and our routines. However, do you know what meaningful, uplifting, positive things you are planning to do for others today. Do you have a plan for your words and actions? Have you worked out your plan with your spouse or an accountability partner? Does your plan include milestones or success markers so you can measure and celebrate your achievements?
Just so you aren't left with a pile of questions and no answers, I will provide my basic plan. During the weekday, I ride the bus to work. I have 2 approximately 45 minute blocks of time where I could sleep, daydream, read, study or whatever. I have planned to honor God because He provided me this exact opportunity at this point in my life. My plan, to which I have stayed pretty well on track, is to read the bible to and from work. Because I have stayed on-plan, I have read through the bible three times. I have also read several books which helped clarify what a relationship with Christ really looks like. I have journalled through some extremely difficult times where I sought to forgive others for the things they did to hurt me, especially when I was younger. I have wept bitter tears of regret, and amazing tears of joy and gratitude. I have shared the gospel with several people who ride the bus with me. I have listened to countless songs, mostly uplifting spiritual music. I have written this book. All of these things result from a plan. I believe this plan for my current circumstance is God's, and I am following it to the best of my ability.
That's just one idea for a basic plan. You should not only remember, but include and take action upon two specific things:
- Put God first in your heart and mind. Seek after Him with all you are, and with all you have.
(Mark 12:30) "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment."
- Put the needs of others before your own needs. Be sure you are certain that your heart is right with those who have something against you, or you are having difficulty forgiving. Also, love yourself enough to get help when you need it, and be prepared to help others in the same way.
(Mark 12:31) "And the second is like, namely this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these."
I think you can sum up all the commandments in these two. Jesus has provided a very simple answer to the "How should I behave?" question. Honor God above all, love yourself and your neighbor equally. That says it all.
When you seriously undertake these two steps to re-organize your life priorities, you won't fail. What will that look like in your daily life? You will, somehow, create a prioritized place and time to read the bible. You will use that time for meditating on His word. You will use that time to journal your sins, your thoughts, your reflections on what you believe you're hearing God speak into your heart. You'll use this time to pray for yourself. You'll spend even more of this time praying for others, especially those closest to you. Especially those relationships you know are hurting because of your choices.
Your quiet time will be spent in the presence of your Creator. He will listen to your praises, your faults, your confessions, your wailing, your requests for help, as well as anything else you can think of. He will love you unconditionally. He will comfort you when you're feeling any kind of emotional, physical, or spiritual pain. He will honor your humble approach to His throne with His immeasurable Grace and Mercy. He will provide you with strength to get through the day, and provide guidance along the way.
Your quiet time can be a litmus test to how you are doing spiritually. Ask yourself some questions on a daily basis. "When was the last time I spent time in God's word? When was the last time I wrote down some of these icky thoughts I've been having? When was the last time I prayed for my spouse, children, brother, sister, mother, father, friend, colleague, pastor, or anyone else? When was the last time I got quiet and really sought after God's will for my day/week/month? When was the last time I spoke to someone else about my faith? Am I still on fire for Jesus?"
One of the most significant things you will do as you reorganize your priorities is to question things. Don't be afraid to ask yourself probing questions in order to drive out the negative circumstance. Don't be afraid to seek wise counsel and reveal your innermost thoughts to them. Don't be afraid to seek out someone you can trust to be there for you, and to be there for them. Don't be afraid to have people in your relationships ask questions either. After all, you never know the inmost thoughts of someone else. They might actually think to probe into an area that at first seems very uncomfortable to you. It is then that you must search around for the source of your discomfort.
It's time to go spelunking again. Grab your pen and paper, tissues, and make sure you are tethered to someone. Humble yourself and pray for God to reveal the pain and to comfort you, then start writing. Press down into your inner cavern and shine the Light around! You have to get to the bottom of your cavernous heart in order to re-organize what's in there.
When you are right with God, you are ready to place Him first in your heart. You are ready to worship your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength... That's rule number one.
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself." This is the second great commandment. This seems like a simple statement, doesn't it? Lets look closer and ask some questions that will hopefully reveal the true meaning and paradoxical complexity to our hearts. Ask and answer the following questions:
Do I love myself? What does that look like anyway? Do I still feel guilt and shame for anything I've ever done? Or, have I resolved these issues? Does anyone still have anything to hold against me? Or, have I also resolved these issues? Am I still holding on to any resentment for things that have happened to me in my past? Do I have any bitterness in my heart toward anyone else? Or, have these issues been resolved, too?
Back to the first question, do I really love myself? How can I love myself if I have all these issues and problems? How can anyone else love me in the condition I am?
I'll bet that you have more questions than I have written down, because I'll never know your inner thoughts. Lets ask some more questions that will be affected by your neighbor on the other side of the line in the sand:
What is the definition of "neighbor?" Is it just the people next door, or is it everyone else around me? Do I love my neighbor? Do I know my neighbor's name? How do I love my neighbor? How do I love at all?
What if my neighbor does something unlovable? What if they steal from me? What if they physically hurt or worse yet murder someone I love? What if they hit my spouse or children with their car while driving drunk? What if they cut me off in traffic? What if they call during dinner trying to sell me something over the phone? What if they mug, or rob, or rape, or beat me? What then? How do I love then?
"How do I love?" can become a form of prayer when you find yourself hurting because of your neighbors' words or actions. When you recognize that you are in a situation where you begin to feel the inappropriate pressure of someone else's influence on your side of the line, you can ask God for guidance. Seek to have Him answer, "How do I love... this person, in this situation?" How can my response be deeply rooted in my new character that I've been given through being a new creation in Christ? How can I continually show how much Christ loves me even when I'm in some kind of turmoil? What is the unique, special character trait about this person that You, God, have created? How can I discover what that is, and how can I love this individual to the level of Christ, who died for his or her sins, too. "Jesus, how do I love just like You love?"
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Simple words and a very tall order, I think! Since we can never love others to the degree that Jesus loves us, we will never measure up in that area of our lives either. The only thing we can do is to keep on seeking for the answer to, "How do I love?" as we continue to grow spiritually more like Christ. We'll never make it to perfection in this life, but we can keep trying to be more like Jesus! That's to His Glory, not ours...
With a set of reorganized priorities in place, you can press on toward the goal with a clear focus on the vision of the mission. These priorities can be filtered on a regular basis to be sure they are in line with God's Will for your life. Keep in mind that your new focus is not to primarily be on your life, your new priorities, your family, your church, or your work, but on Jesus. This is the new CEO for your life. Make Him your CFO, Controller, Regional Manager, and immediate Supervisor.
When you have re-structured your life and have your priorities in their right places you will be free to regularly assess where you are, based upon where you're ultimately going, and an overall assessment can be made which should result in a positive turn-around for your life as well as your relationships. The first thing to remember each morning is that God is in control. The last thing every evening is to remember that God is forgiving, so give Him all things before He gives you rest. He'll take them and give you His burden, which is Light!