What’s the true litmus test of our faith, the indicator of what we are really like on the inside instead of what we pretend to be?
I found out in a hurry recently.
I walked up to an event recently, and someone I was not expecting to be there was there. And I made something on my face that looked like a grimace. A grimace that I was not expecting to make but that just came out. A grimace that a good friend caught and just got quiet about. A grimace that exposed what I really thought instead of what I tell others I think on a daily basis.
The friend who caught my grimace is more than just a friend – she is a mentor and someone who walks ahead of me in the faith. So in one way it was good that she caught my look, and in another way, it was not so good.
It was not so good because it was embarrassing. It was embarrassing to be caught doing something I never should have done.
But more than being bad, it was good. It was good to caught in behavior that I should have never done. Because then I could be held accountable to change.
My friend and I had a long talk the next morning. We talked long about how hard it is to love this person, a person that has legitimately done wrong and created hurt – hurt feelings and a hurt heart. We talked about how when I see this person, what automatically comes up in my heart is akin to bitter acid, acid that I can choose to act on, like I did with my grimace and refusal to engage with this person for the rest of the evening, or acid that I can choose to douse with the forgiveness and grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness I am commanded to give and grace I am commanded to extend. Not because Jesus is a sadistic master, commanding us to engage in activities that will hurt us, but because He is the kindest of masters, commanding us to engage in activities that will heal us, dissipate the bitterness, and unlock us from the prisons of pain and anger and justifying bad behavior we lock ourselves in sometimes for years, decades, or even whole seasons of our life.
My friend ended our conversation by praying over me, asking for God to do in me what I could never do in myself, and texted me this verse from Hosea the following morning (you know it’s a friend who loves Jesus and is ahead of you in the faith when she sends you a verse from Hosea):
“Sow for yourselves righteousness;
reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the Lord,
that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.” Hosea 10:12
As I thought on that verse and how it applied to my specific situation, I began to see that I wake up each and every morning with two huge bags of seed slung around my waist: one bag contains seeds of righteousness – seeds of righteousness given to me from the Spirit of God with fruit inside like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. And the other bag contains seeds of unrighteousness available to me through my flesh and demonic forces of evil with fruit inside like bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, outbursts of anger, disputes, factions, idolatry, coveting, immorality, greed, and arrogance. And every day, all day, with every word I speak, with every action I perform, I reach into one of those two bags and sow a handful of seeds.
And most of the time, I find I am sowing seeds unaware. Unaware of what bag I am reaching into, unaware of what kind of seed is leaving my lips or my hands, until someone like my friend…or my husband…or my child…catches me in the act. And the weeds that have grown because of my seed-sowing all of a sudden become evident, and people that I love the most in life walk away hurt. Rebuffed. Saddened. Bruised.
The true litmus test out of which bag of seed we are sowing most consistently is not how we talk to and treat our friends and the people in our lives who like us the most. The true litmus test is how we talk to, meet, greet, and welcome the people in our lives who like us the least. The people who slight us. The friends who hurt us. The enemies who hate us. It is when you see them, cross paths with her, sit down unexpectedly across a table with him, whoever he may be, that will tell you which bag of seed your hand and your heart automatically goes. And it will tell you what kind of field you are going to one day reap.
So stop right now, and think. Think about the last time you saw someone you like the least. Into what bag of seed did your hand automatically go? And is there anything you need to repent of? Any field of weeds you need to pull up through letting the Word of God do its good and deadly work in you? Any acidic bitterness of unforgiveness you need to repent of and release?
By doing so, you will begin, perhaps for the very first time in a long time, to reach into the bag of righteous seed hung around your waist and sow seeds that will yield a field of fruit, a garden of beauty, or an orchard of trees, instead of a field of useless weeds and cursed thorns.
You won’t always feel like reaching into the bag of seed of righteousness. Trust me. I seldom do. But feelings have a tendency to follow faith, faith that when we fling seeds of hope, and grace, and love, despite hurt, or wounded pride, or despair, we will eventually reap…love.
Happy Thanksgiving this week! And happy sowing! Know how thankful I am for each of you who take the time to journey with me each week through all of my imperfections into the fields of God’s covering love and grace.