Guest Post: Take Me With You

Special thanks to my husband, Bert, for sharing the following post.

“If you play the fool and exalt yourself … clap your hand over your mouth!”

Proverbs 30:32 (NIV)

In the late summer of 2003, after spending the better portion of the year since we first met trying to get Cheryl to agree to go out with me, we finally had our first date. Almost from the beginning of our relationship, however, we began to experience conflict at a level and frequency with which neither of us was comfortable. Although I never actually said it out loud, I distinctly recall thinking to myself during those early months of our relationship, “I’ve got way too much going for me for this to be MY fault! Can’t she see how awesome I am?”

As you’ve probably already guessed, the reality of the situation was far different from my decidedly one-sided take on things. The truth of the matter was that I was virtually consumed with bitterness, pride, anger, self-deception and a host of other not-so-nice traits that work together to all but eliminate any possibility of a happy, healthy and productive relationship. So where did my rose-colored self-assessment and reality first begin to diverge?

The answer to that question lies on a crisp November evening several years prior. Aged 35, unmarried and despondent after coming off of a particularly bad breakup, I set out from my apartment for a brisk five-mile jog to clear my head. As I neared the end of my run, I pulled off into the parking lot of a small church on Indian Creek Road, raised my eyes heavenward and said, aloud, “Lord, you said it isn’t good for man to be alone, and, yet, here I am. I’ve followed you, served you, witnessed for you and tried my best to obey your word, and this is what I get?” Although I only see it now in hindsight, it was at that moment that I began my slow, but sure, walk away from God.

As Cheryl has said, time and time again from the beginning days of her blog, the book of Proverbs serves, perhaps more than anything else, to show us the hurt and harm we bring upon ourselves and others when we depend on our own intellect rather than leaning on the true wisdom that God provides. And while all of us are guilty of doing this from time to time, the real damage begins to set in when we set our hearts on isolating ourselves from God as I did in the years following that autumn run.

So, how did it all turn around? While any list of this sort inevitably tends to be incomplete and at least a little subjective, these are the things that helped me return to fellowship with the Lord, and begin walking, once again, in his truth:

  1. First and foremost, believe that no matter what your circumstances are, God is good (Psalm 145:8).
  2. Commit yourself to regular conversation with God through prayer (Ephesians 6:18).
  3. Study God’s word consistently in order to learn what he says about you, himself and the relationship he wants you to enjoy with him (Psalm 119:130).
  4. Engage in consistent worship, discipleship and other activities with fellow believers (Acts 2:42).

Those of you who are closest to Cheryl and me know how the story ends. I confessed the lies I believed, asked God to forgive me for turning my back on him, started attending church much more regularly and, sweetest of all, wound up getting the girl.

Satan is a deceiver and his chief aim, from the time of Adam and Eve to the present, is to tempt us to believe the lie that we know better than the God who loves us, guides our steps and provides for our every need. When we think about all of the wonderful things God does for us, the choice between taking our own path or trusting the plan that God has for us becomes obvious.

 

The Safe Way

“Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety.”

Proverbs 29:25 (NLT)

For the past couple of years I have been faced with thinking about what the word fear means. Every time I read a chapter in Proverbs and consider how I can apply its wisdom to my life and share it here on this blog site, everything basically comes back to fearing the LORD. After all, Proverbs 9:10 tells us that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” In this sense, I think fear means to revere, follow, or seek, so when I apply that to Proverbs 29:25, it helps me understand how I sometimes fear other people instead of the Lord.

Why do we sometimes revere people, or follow them more closely, than God? For me, I sometimes feel that people are more tangible than God so I seek their advice instead of going to God first. Other times, I am afraid to step out in faith to do something because I’m afraid of what people will think. What if I fail? What if I look silly? What if I offend someone and make them mad? What if they laugh at me? I can find myself wanting to please people or wanting praise from them instead of seeking it from God.

The bottom line is this: if I fear man, I am placing myself in danger – because fearing man takes my eyes off of God and results in idol worship (Exodus 20:4, Psalm 106:36) or distrust and lack of faith in him. While God never leaves us (Deuteronomy 31:8), we can find ourselves turning our backs on him when we don’t trust him. I think Noah is a good example of staying in a safe place when it comes to trusting the Lord. He risked (and experienced) ridicule when he built the ark that God asked him to build. Yet, he realized that his own safety and that of his family far outweighed the fear of people and the dangers of not stepping out in faith. His trust in God and his refusal to fear what other people would think, kept him safe.

I am convicted that much of my perfectionism comes to worrying what other people think about me. This is a dangerous place, and the way out is to trust the Lord and believe his promises. He tells me:

He is with me (Isaiah 41:10).

He has a plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11).

He chose me (1 Peter 2:9).

He knows what is best (Isaiah 55:8-9).

He did not make junk (Psalm 139:14).

He is in control (Isaiah 46:10).

He knows all and sees all (Romans 11:33, Psalm 33:13-15).

He is my comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

He is my safe place (Psalm 91).

He is my strength (Isaiah 40:31).

Is there an area in your life where you are fearing man more than God? Renounce that fear, lay hold of God’s promises, and commit them to your heart and memory until you fear the Lord more than man.

 

 

Trusting God Over Your Own Feelings

“Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe.”

Proverbs 28:26 (NLT)

Follow your heart. Do what feels best for you. Life’s really about what you want. Trust your instincts.

Have any of these ideas been a prevailing thought as you were making a decision? Unfortunately, following your heart, or as Solomon puts it in Proverbs 28:26, “trusting your own insight,” is foolish and will land you in a dangerous place. Why? Because our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and God is the only true source of wisdom (James 3:13-17).

Thinking we know what is best is a proud, self-centered, and selfish act. In her book, In His Image, Jen Wilkin says, “Wisdom aids community. It allows us to live at peace with one another. Folly seeks to serve self alone and pulls the community into chaos” (137). While I’ve always appreciated that wisdom comes from God alone, I have never considered wisdom in the context of community. But as I’ve studied Proverbs and its chapter after chapter call to Wisdom, I see it as an absolute.

Wisdom deals with moral goodness, the values we place on everything in our lives, and if we each have our own “wisdom” this is not conducive to a peaceful community. When one person says, “this …. is good for me, but not for you,” we have relative values. When in essence God’s word is the only standard by which we should all live.

Our society is entrenched in a multitude of relative values, and we have indeed found ourselves in a dangerous place. A quick look at the evening news shows people protesting over their rights. A glance at crime statistics shows the lack of regard for human life. The political realm is extremely polarized. There is very little community to be seen.

How can we change this? One person at a time. We should make sure we are seeking God’s wisdom as we make decisions in our lives and resist “following our heart” even when our heart cries out with all its might. Think through your feelings. Talk with a trusted friend. Pray for objectivity to hear God before making any major decision. Be willing to trust God over your own feelings. His Wisdom is a safe place.

 

 

 

Finding Sweetness in Bitter Things

“A person who is full tramples on a honeycomb, but to a hungry person, any bitter thing is sweet.”

Proverbs 27:7 (CSB)

“My chocolate piano is BROKEN! Bring me another one,” said the irate meeting planner as she slammed down the phone in her luxurious downtown Marriott suite. This is just one of many comments I heard when I worked in the meeting planning industry several years ago. All 3,000 conference attendees this particular year received a chocolate piano as their “room drop” gift – a free luxury item placed in guest rooms each evening just for showing up to the conference, and this particular person’s gift happened to have a crack in it.

As a staff member of the association putting on the conference, and someone not accustomed to receiving gifts each night in her room, I was excited every evening just to come back to find an awesome gift awaiting me. In the three years I worked for the Professional Convention Management Association, I enjoyed traveling to large cities, staying in amazing luxury hotels, and receiving gifts galore just for being there. As a staff member, the work was hard, but I was always so appreciative for any gift I received because this Alabama girl did not grow up getting everything I wanted.

The attitudes displayed by the irate meeting planner and myself illustrate what Solomon is saying in Proverbs 27:7 – when we are accustomed to getting everything we want and more, we are not appreciative of anything; however, when we don’t have much, everything, even the “bitter” things (like a broken chocolate piano), can bring us contentment.

In this sense, the “poor” seem to have an advantage over the “rich” in that they can find happiness even in little things, and more so in difficult things. To be “poor” doesn’t have to be a monetary thing. In the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us that the “poor in spirit,” that is those who are humble, will be blessed. They will find true contentment and joy (Matthew 5:3), and God will give them grace (James 4:6).

As I remembered the chocolate piano story, it caused me to think about my life now – my husband is a wonderful provider and I can say I am a “kept woman.” Still, there have been times when something did not go as well as I would have liked, or my expectations in a given situation were not met, and I became mad and complained. But Solomon’s observation that the poor can find sweetness in bitter things reminds me that this life is not all about me, and a little humility and gratefulness can go a long way.

Let us make a pact to always remember, regardless of how much we acquire in this life, that God is the giver of all good gifts (James 1:17) and that we aren’t owed anything. Let’s not let unreasonable expectations create pride and allow a sense of entitlement to creep into our lives. We should appreciate all that we have, even when life is difficult. Even in the most bitter aspects of our lives, we can often find a silver lining if we will only look for it. When we remain humble, and grateful, God gives us the supernatural ability to find sweetness in the bitter things.

 

Driving in the Wrong Direction

“Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.”

Proverbs 26:12 (NIV)

Many years ago when I was attending the University of Alabama, my best friend Tracie and I headed off to a Christian retreat one Friday afternoon. Keep in mind, there was no Siri, MapQuest or any other wonderful digital mapping tools available at this time. All we had was our own common sense (Ha!) and a spirit of adventure, which meant 45 minutes into the drive to Mississippi, we began seeing the outskirts of Birmingham. If you’re from Alabama, you know that the city I just mentioned is not on the way to Mississippi from Tuscaloosa, but is actually in the opposite direction. If we had consulted a map, or even simply checked the directions instead thinking we knew what was best, we could have avoided our foolish mistake!

Solomon’s words in Proverbs 26:12 echo this sentiment. When we rely on our own “wisdom” and refuse to seek counsel, there is little hope for us. I believe there are two key points about wisdom that we find in this verse:

  1. Wisdom must come from God. Proverbs is rooted in the wisdom of God, and true wisdom comes only from God’s word (Proverbs 1:7). Solomon tells us that relying on our own “wisdom” results in foolishness and failure (Proverbs 3:35).
  2. Pride is an obstacle to gaining wisdom. If we act on what we think we know is right without consulting the Lord, or godly people or resources, we will inevitably stumble. It takes humility to ask for help, but the rewards far outweigh the consequences of acting according to our pride (Proverbs 4:5-7, Proverbs 15:22).

The book of Proverbs is filled with descriptions of the wise person and the foolish person. The wise person is humble (Proverbs 22:4), speaks kindly (Proverbs 10:31-32), seeks peace (Proverbs 13:1), is generous (Proverbs 11:25), is faithful to his/her spouse (Proverbs 5:15-18), and is honest (Proverbs 10:9). The only way to exhibit these attributes is to gain godly wisdom.

The fool, on the other hand, is proud (Proverbs 11:2), quick to anger (Proverbs 14:29), dishonest (Proverbs 11:3), stingy (Proverbs 28:22), lazy (Proverbs 13:4), unfaithful (Proverbs 6:27-29) and rude (Proverbs 10:12), all of which result when we plow ahead in our own “wisdom” instead of fearing the Lord and seeking his wisdom before we act.

Solomon tells us that when we believe we are wise in our own eyes, there is more hope for the fool than for us. Consider the traits of foolish people and the hopeless condition their foolishness causes. Then, consider wisdom and the benefits that come when we avoid those foolish traits.

Are you facing a situation in which you could use wisdom? Look to God’s word for your answer. Discuss your situation with godly friends whom you can trust. Pray about the matter and wait for God to direct you, rather than relying on your own wisdom (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Going back to my college story, Tracie and I did make it to our retreat. And thanks to good directions, we made it home as well. We learned that driving in the wrong direction is easy to do when we don’t consult a map. Not seeking wisdom is like not consulting a map when you don’t know where you’re going. It is always best to weigh matters carefully and wait patiently on God before making any decision.