Friday, March 25, 2016

What Standard Guides Your Life? (You might be surprised.)


It's Good Friday. We're entered the holiest weekend of the Church year - the commemoration of the suffering and then resurrection of Christ. I wanted to be mindful about Lent this year, but by the third day, I had forgotten to stay away from chocolate. I don't know what happened. I got busy and lazy at the same time. 

But, other things happened over Lent that kept bringing to mind the question, What is my standard for living? 

In other words, to whom do I answer? (Maybe just myself.)  Am I trying to meet a condition (as in conditional) that I've placed on myself, or someone has placed upon me?  Am I trying to keep someone happy? Am I simply trying to get through life without any conflicts or confrontation? What influence or circumstance has my allegiance? What is the standard upon which I make my choices? 

These things came up this week because I talked with two different friends who have different issues with their adult children. In hashing over who's responsible for what, my friends and I realized we were all a bit misguided in how we're approaching finding peace in our lives. As Christian women, we want everyone to get along, share, forgive, communicate, and be happy. It's a mom thing. 

But loved ones don't always see things our way or cooperate. So, we stew about circumstances and say the wrong things and then backtrack and then lose sleep, only to wake up the next day and do it all again. Women have such vulnerable hearts when it comes to their loved ones. I think it's how God made us. But, so easily, we get off track. This Lent, it was confirmed to me that it's because we have shifting standards

We want to be strong, but we want to be protected. We want to be leaders, but we want to be liked. We want to be independent, but we want a man who adores us. Depending on what we're feeling at the moment...that's the standard by which we make a decision. 

It's kind of nutty really, because life is changing daily, hourly, sometimes by the minute. We all benefit (men too - they have their own vulnerabilities) from having an invariable standard that anchors us, regardless of circumstances or people.

I read this quote today by St. Katherine Drexel: "You have no time to occupy your thoughts with complacency or consideration of what others think. Your business is simply: What will my Father in heaven think?"

It's a solid, fail-proof question. It cuts through all the What does so-and-so think? What will my kids think?  My parents? My neighbor, my boss, my dog, the list goes on forever. Why are we such slaves to the opinions of mankind and fairly mindless to what God thinks? 

I think it's because we really don't know, or believe, we are loved by our Creator. If we really believed it in the depth of our soul, we would be at peace. We would know that no matter what, we are worthy of God's time and attention. He made us. He knows us, flaws and all. He is committed to us, and He will guide us. Always. If we operated from that standard, life would be so different. 

We would forgive more easily, because we would see people how God sees them - flawed, but loved, just like we are. We would free our loved ones from walking on eggshells, or jumping through hoops (whichever they do) to keep us happy. We would free ourselves from repeatedly beating ourselves up over past mistakes. As free children of God, we would trust Him and His plans for us. So much of the confusion and second-guessing would be gone. 

The book of Galatians tells us that Christ died to set us free. Free from the harsh judgment of the Old Testament. Free from the standards of mankind and its opinion. We are even free to make mistakes (we are human after all.)  

The message of Easter week is that we are on a journey to freedom. When we face ourselves honestly, we see our need for redemption. We all have our crosses to bear, our demons to fight, our fears to conquer. We're just human. But with the resurrection comes new life and new courage, and a clean slate. We have the reassurance that just as Christ rose, we too can rise from our own dark tomb and start anew. 

So, Lent isn't always about giving up chocolate; sometimes it's about gaining fresh insight. Remembering that God is big and loving. He cares about what we do and how we live. He's invested in us like no human can possibly be. We will not find a better, safer standard. 

My prayer for you this Easter is that you encounter Christ in a new way, that you experience forgiveness and healing from whatever is blocking peace in your own life. And from then on, consider this question before you make a move: What would my Father in heaven think?

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