When I was in high school, I remember very clearly some words of wisdom from my home economics teacher. She simply said, "no one can make you mad. Your reaction to someone else's behavior is ultimately up to you." I'm sure my mother had said similar things to me also but, for some reason, that stuck with me. I remember my first reaction being feelings of confusion because I'd been the victim so many times of people making me mad. But, when I paused for a moment and thought of the power I had within me to choose my responses carefully, it was frightening but... freeing.
Over that past couple of months, my choices have been difficult. There have been many things for which I could easily allow myself to become angry and bitter. Choosing wisely has meant turning my own carnal mind over to spiritual thinking. Peace comes with submission and surrender to something higher than yourself. That is where I am these days. Not on God's proverbial leash, but dangling ever so closely from a tiny key-chain. It is the only place I am safe from myself.
What seems to happen when I enter a time of hard choices is that I am drawn closer to God. The older I get, the more I realize that these times are not to break me but to strengthen me. I've become more accepting of these seasons in the knowing that God is simply working on me. He is testing my faith, perfecting me. I used to see it as Jim Carey put it in Bruce Almighty, "God is a mean kid sitting on an ant hill with a magnifying glass". In fact, I've spent most of my life believing that every time some challenge comes my way, God is just pushing me around like a bully. I know I've used this analogy before about the mother giraffe knocking her newborn repeatedly to the ground. We could very easily look at it as cruel when, in actuality, she is merely strengthening her baby's legs knowing that he will need to be able to run. So now, when I feel I'm getting knocked to the ground, I know I'm being prepared for something to come. God needs me strong. He knows I will need my strength for my future battles.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Eph 6:12
So, this is what we are up against. Darkness. Wickedness. How do we fight that battle?
After everything our nation has been hit with over the past few days, I think it is glaringly clear that love is the only thing that will save us from ourselves.
I've watched hours of news and read countless articles about the tragedy in Connecticut. Probably the most compelling thing I've read so far is the choice one teacher made to break school protocol and tell each of her students that she loved them. As they were crammed in a small bathroom and shots rang out nearby, she held their faces in her hands and told each of them, "I love you". That, my friends, is not fighting against flesh and blood, but drawing the sword of love from it's sheath and slicing through the darkness, piercing the heart of wickedness, claiming victory in love. That is behavior that only comes from love. And, God is love.
In a world where we are so bombarded with opinions, where most of us are publicized authors through the outlet of social media, it isn't hard to find something to get angry over. It is rare that I get on Facebook without seeing some sort of argument ensuing over something. The killing of innocent children has certainly spurred a barrage of these opinions. Voices ringing out with grief, confusion, anger, revenge, and simply trying to make sense of it all. I'm not a mental health professional and cannot even begin to explain the why's. I am only responsible for my own reaction as are each of us.
We must choose.
Our choices can seem difficult when we look at them too deeply. But, lying right there on the surface is the choice to love. The only question we need ask is "is this reaction out of love?" Quieting our selfish minds is not an easy task. Choosing love requires humility. It means we don't get to defend our positions with an iron fist. It means we need to listen more and talk less. Even when we know "I AM RIGHT"...it means zipping it up and letting God deal with it. I'm a s-t-u-b-b-o-r-n person and, believe me, it ain't easy for this gal to zip it up. I can feel my chest getting tight just thinking of some of the things I'd like to tell people. Mean people who've deeply hurt my family. I really feel like they need to be told how hideous they really are. Then, I remember. Choose love. It is the only way I will live in peace. Besides, those people who really are hideous and acting out of selfish meanness...they are the ones that must live with their choices. Not me. They can't stop me from loving them. They can't take away my happiness. They can't make me mad.
So, even if it means looking like an idiot, choose love. When it means breaking the "rules", listen to your heart and tell them you love them. The whole world can see you as a freak because you choose to forgive someone who's deeply wounded you, it doesn't matter. Do it anyway. Do the love thing. God is love. The only way to know real love is to know God. If you are a person full of love, you are a person full of God (whether you admit it or not).
Every child whose life was snuffed out this past week will forever be a light for us to remember. They serve to help us to be better tomorrow than we were today. Their tiny lives will not have been in vain. Even the blackest of evil on that fateful day will only serve to bring love out of the darkness.
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4
Let us, in their honor, choose love.