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Grace and Good Things

One of the themes that comes up over and over in the chat rooms I participate in at http://www.midlife.com is the importance of asking the question, “What kind of person do I want to be?” The context of the discussion usually involves a loved one who is making poor decisions. We see the danger and devastation these choices are causing (or will cause) and we react with all the best intentions. We point out the error of their ways, paint a picture of how they ought to change, and then react when we don’t see the desired results. We may pout or get angry or desperately pursue which are all actions born out of insecurity. As a result, they usually don’t succeed at restoring the relationship while they train us to be reactionary, manipulative, and short-sighted. To be sure, these situations are hurtful and personally challenging since they are often accompanied by irrational criticism and rejection.
It does, however, create a laboratory for learning one of life’s most valuable skills. We are all uniquely designed by and accountable to our Creator. We all have vast potential for growth and influence. We are also all imperfect and live in imperfect relationships. Some seasons of life lend themselves well to our personal development. Circumstances are conducive and the people in our lives are cooperative. It is easy during these times to ask, “Who do I want to be and what do I want to accomplish in my life?” Other seasons threaten to knock us off course. Conditions are unfavorable and the people we used to rely on become unstable or unruly. The temptation is to desperately focus on, “How can I fix this and end the misery?” which seldom works because life circumstances and the choices of others are out of our control. This is when the question, “Who do I want to be?” becomes a question of character that can withstand any and all situations in life.
I found some insight into this question as I read Isaiah 1. The prophet is writing to the nation of Israel who had been living in reaction to their disappointments. They had grown self-centered and self-sufficient which led to a series of poor choices. They are growing close to the day when God will discipline them by sending them into exile and the prophet is calling them to reevaluate their lives. A couple of the priorities he suggests are:
• Live by grace. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (v. 18) We are all flawed and need to be redeemed. We have all performed well below our potential, harbored resentment and anger in our hearts, and made decisions based on selfishness rather than pure motives. Thankfully, there is a Savior who brought a solution. He settled the matter on the cross and offered us forgiveness and full pardon. To be sure, we need to be humble and repentant in order to enjoy the benefits of God’s forgiveness on a daily basis but God offered his forgiveness long before we got our acts together. Grace keeps this in mind at all times and extends the same opportunity to others.
• Learn to love the good things. “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (v. 19-20) Life’s good things includes a willingness to grow regardless of circumstances, a willingness to look for God’s favor in all things, a willingness to do what God clearly points out even when we don’t understand how it works. Life’s good things includes a commitment to live according to truth even when it doesn’t produce the results we imagine it should, trusting that God will somehow honor us for doing what is right.
This is certainly a short list answer to one of life’s lingering questions but it is a good start for me. Today, I will remind myself of God’s grace and extend that same grace to everyone I encounter.

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