Christian Self Help
The Line In The Sand
(Part 1) The Line in the Sand - Chapter 5. - Pressure
The line in the sand sounds like a gentle breeze blowing on spring flowers in an open field until the steel box crashes in place around you and starts to squeeze the life out of you.
Have you ever seen a pressure cooker in action? The cook places a bit of water and seasonings along with a correct proportion of the food desired to be cooked into the cooker. Then the lid with a gasket is firmly secured in place to prevent steam from escaping. Next the pan is placed over medium-high heat and brought up to temperature. A pop-up gadget in the lid lets you know it is ready, as well as seals that hole, too. By then it is extremely hot inside the cooker. The last step in cooking is a pressure regulator. It is placed over the last remaining hole in the lid and regulates the pressure by floating and bouncing on top of the escaping steam.
Have you ever been inside the cooker? Have you ever been the cook? Now thatís a line in the sand! Being inside the cooker, under extreme pressure, seemingly controlled by the cook. Or, being the cook, controlling the cooker, turning up the heat and controlling the pressure. But, how does this apply to me, you might ask?
Are you a boss? Are you a worker? Did you ever buy a car or a home? Did you ever sell one? Are you a husband or wife? Do you have brothers and sisters? Did your father stay around when you were growing up, or did he leave? Did you ever attempt to get someone to do what you wanted him or her to do? Are you putting the pressure on someone you know right now? Is someone turning up the heat on you in attempt to control you? Do you love, respect or care about, or do you despise or resent this person?
The line in the sand separates you from me, you from them. In the pressure cooker example, when the heat is turned up, the food inside cannot make a choice about how hot the heat is, nor can it regulate the pressure. The food simply takes the heat and pressure and gets soft, very quickly.
Our best choice, when we find ourselves in the pressure cooker, is to examine the heat for what it truly is, and to lovingly communicate to the cook about the pressure. When we are under pressure from someone else, we must look at that person through the eyes of Jesus the best we can, accept him as Godís child and stay on our side of the line.
Pressure is sometimes incoming from another person. What I do with it when it comes in is my choice. Pressure can also be self-induced. Letís examine what that looks like.
I desire to get straight Aís in school. Why? Is it because I desire to honor God and myself enough to excel in my work? Or, am I attempting to gain some acceptance or approval from my father or mother, or some other person?
I desire to have a perfect marriage and family. Why? Do I remember my family life being really great as I was growing up? Or, was it not so great, or even the way I imagined it should be? Am I attempting to control everything around me by managing every detail of my life, and every detail in the lives of those around me? Do I need the house to be spotless? Why? Is it frustrating that I canít find what Iím looking for? Or am I out of control in my own life, so I feel the need to manage and control the things around me?
I desire to move up the ladder at work. Why? Am I attempting to glorify God by using His gifts to the glory of His kingdom? Or, am I attempting to gain approval of my father who said I would never amount to anything? Is work the only place where I am accepted? Does it provide me with a place to be productive, and yet to escape from the reality of my life? Am I in the pressure cooker at home so I desire to escape from there and into my work?
We jump in the cooker, turn up the heat, worry a bit, seal the lid, squirm a bit, and somehow we get the regulator on the lid. Steaming in our self-made cooker until one day we wake up limp and lifeless. Or, we become dry and bitter, burned around the edges. To the chef, God, we are ready, done. God can use us right where we are to create the most wondrous new creation. He re-creates us warm and sweet, tasteful and tender, crisp and colorful, fresh and cool! What really significant thing could we possibly do successfully without Him?
A soft heart is good and can be used by God for good, however an overcooked, mushy spirit lacks in flavor and texture. Just as the food cannot regenerate itself, neither can I fix my mushy spirit. It is only through the recognition of my failure to measure up to Godís standard of perfection, and accepting it, that I am able to start looking for a way out. God has graciously provided the answer through an eternal gift of the death, burial and resurrection of His only Son, Jesus.
Now there is some pressure! Can you imagine Ö taking every sin that has ever been committed, or ever will be committed, all at one time, upon yourself? When I try to comprehend the magnitude of that precious gift, and simply recall the sins only I have caused Him to take on, I canít help but feel a deep sadness for what Iíve done to hurt our Father. And yet, He has freely given the life of His Son to pay the wages for my sin, which is death. He died, not me. It is not fair for Him, being perfect in every way and without sin, to choose to give Himself as a sacrifice to save a wretch like me. What terrible pressure Jesus must have felt as He prayed to His Father in the garden just prior to His arrest. (Luke 22:44) ďBeing in agony he prayed more earnestly. His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.Ē
Our Lord was preparing Himself to take on all of the sins of everyone. Agony was what He felt, to the point of sweating drops of blood! That is pressure. I have never experienced pressure of that magnitude, nor will I ever, thanks to our grace-full Father. We will experience difficult things in our life experiences, but we must remember that His grace is more than we could ever ask for. (2 Corinthians 12:9a) "He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'"
(Titus 3:4-7) ďBut when the kindness of God our Savior and his love toward mankind appeared, not by works of righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy, he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, which he poured out on us richly, through Jesus Christ our Savior; that, being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.Ē
I raise this point to illustrate the reason for Jesus to endure the pressure of the tremendous pain of our sins. The burden of the shame and guilt that I should carry to my death has been lifted from my shoulders, and He has replaced that tremendous burden with an outpouring of, fresh and clean, pure JOY!
Where did the pressure go? The heat is off, and the cook is over there, on the other side of the line. What does it all mean? I am rescued from the cooker and given the free-will choice to respond in love and with joy to the person who might be trying to squeeze the pressure on me. I can choose my thoughts. I can choose an appropriate response to whatever emotions I am feeling. I can choose for myself because Iím the only one who can choose my actions. The pressure is gone. Thank you, Lord.