Today’s scriptures really spoke to me. They spoke to me of holding on to God’s hand and letting go of others’ hands. Of trust and obedience. In Genesis, God tells Abram to pack up the family and head for Canaan. And Abram obeys. God tells 75 year old Abram, "I will make of you a great nation." And Abram believes. The psalmist proclaims, blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own. And in Matthew, Jesus instructs us to remove the wooden beam from our own eye before we attempt to remove the splinter from our brother’s eye.
I’ve always marveled at the trust and obedience of many Bible characters. Pack up your belongings and family and move. Drop your nets and follow me. Take my hand and follow. It seems so simple. Why is it so hard? For me, it’s hard, in part, because I want to be the one holding the hand and guiding. Isn’t it ironic how often people of faith are also control freaks. I’m talking about myself here. I want to be the one holding the hand and I want to be the one leading. Instead of viewing the world with Christ’s compassion, I view the world with judgements and decide just how it should be. I see splinters in everybody’s eyes and I can’t seem to recognize the beam in my own eye. To paraphrase Reinhold Neihbur’s famous prayer. One part is taking God’s hand and submitting my will to God’s will. The courage to change things I can. And one part is letting go of some hands. The serenity to accept things I cannot change. And the wisdom to know the difference.
This lesson hit me recently. We live across the street from a wonderful park where my kids love to play. On a recent warm evening, my wife and I were sitting outside in our front yard. My youngest son, Seth, a recent kindergarten graduate, asked if he could cross the street and play with his brothers in the park. My wife told him to look both ways, be careful and go ahead. My mouth dropped open and I looked at my wife like she had grown a third eye. Excuse me?!? Did I miss the memo? When did the rules change? It is an unwritten rule in the O’Reilly household that until a certain age, the youngest brother must always hold the hand of an older brother or an adult in order to cross the street to the park. I jumped up and told Seth that he would need to hold my hand if he wanted to cross the street. When I reached to grab his hand he immediately pulled away and exclaimed, "But mom said it was okay!" Being the veteran of thousands of father-son skirmishes, I was quite familiar with the divide and conquer tactic and was not about to be taken in. "You have to hold my hand!" Seth leaned in to me and whispered quietly so his brothers would not hear, "but dad, I’m not a baby anymore." I stopped and took a long look at my son. I asked him if he would take my hand and lead me across the street. He agreed.
This was a good lesson for me, but a hard lesson. I think it’s normal to want to be in control. It’s normal to think I know what is best. I have to ask myself quite often, am I offering my hand to help this person or am I offering my hand because I think I can fix this person? Discernment in this area is important. It is a constant struggle. One of my biggest desires in life is to be an ambassador for Christ. When I’m operating in control freak mode I am not an ambassador, but a stumbling block, standing between God and the person. My prayer is for wisdom and discernment in this area and to simply trust in God’s wisdom, love and forgiveness.
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