Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dealing with the "Papercuts" in Life

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Are paper cuts not the worst? Ah! Even if it’s just the slightest brush of a piece of computer paper it never ceases to amaze me how much it hurts. Ha, I can recall several times that I would go to lick the flap of an envelope and manage to get cut on my tongue or my lip: cut on my tongue, really—takes a special person to do that right? I mean come on! What about a sliver from a piece of wood? You know what really makes you feel like a champ: Stubbing your toe. Nothing is more humbling then when you stub your toe in front of a group of people and you attempt to be strong in not showing any emotion of pain but inside you’re like wailing!

Even though both of these “injuries” are minor, it’s amazing how quickly we become consumed with them when they occur that for those few moments nothing around us really matters. Areas where you get a paper cut can continue to hurt for a few days especially the lip ones! This morning I feel like I was battling some “paper cuts of life” so much that it was consuming my normal time with God. I continued to “wail” inside up until the beginning of the church service I was at. The pastor shared a short video clip of a missionary over in East Asia who was rejoicing in the opportunity he had had to share Christ with a fellow on a bus. The man came to know the Lord that night after his conversation and the missionary was thanking the congregation for supporting him and his family. The sermon preceded and the Pastor spoke on the meeting the needs of those around us. Shortly after that interview clip however, I had this imagery come to mind: me sniffling over my “my paper cuts” AKA my consuming thoughts of weaknesses and areas I need to improve in my faith and these people surrounding me with critical emergencies—like gunshot wounds (Ha, pretty grotesque for a Sunday morning huh?).

Now I am not trying to be-little the seriousness of weaknesses nor am I attempting to categorize one sin being greater than another but let’s go with this imagery and think about what the priority of injury: a paper cut or a gun shot wound? I feel like at times, I become so consumed with striving to live the perfect Christian life (which doesn’t exist!) that I forget what the Lord has saved me and has commanded me to share with those around me. Paul speaks of a weakness he had as a “thorn in his side” let’s read about it:

Paul's Vision and His Thorn – 2 Corinthians 12: 1-10

1I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. 5I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.

7To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Often your “paper cuts in life” can be used as platform for God to reveal himself more and ultimately how He has transformed your life. I can relate to Paul’s pleas for God to just take them away. Paul describes how much of a reason he has to boast because of the position God has put him in as an Apostle of Christ—apparently “knowing this man” (we don’t really know who this man is—possibly Paul himself--I don’t know) who was caught up in the third heaven. This man knows things that no one else is privileged to know—but Paul refuses to share more details because it would be boasting in something He, Himself really cannot claim as really HIS doing for the privilege of knowing something so great. He then gets this thorn in his flesh as a way to keep him from becoming conceited much like we get the random paper cuts in life. Does Paul become consumed with this to the point of despair? Well, he pleaded with God three times and then God answered him with such an incredible verse:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Paraphrased in Joni’s words,

“Hey! You! Stop freaking out about this, I’ve covered this with my grace. I know you’re helpless and being tormented but you know what, I want the glory in saving you from this weakness---I want to show the world how mighty and powerful-of-a-god I really am! Let me refine you!”

Our response to weaknesses can either show God’s power or show a blubbering idiot consumed with her faults (and I am referring to myself there haha). Again, we are not to belittle the returning occurrence of sin that has already been forgiven by God’s grace through the Blood of Jesus Christ—to be something not worthy of dealing with, but there are emergencies of people around us. That missionary on the clip this morning shared that every 8 seconds an unbeliever in East Asia dies. There are people around you with fatal injuries that are well on their way to dying and you are consumed with your little sliver. Do you get what I’m saying? Does it make sense? It’s a serious matter to sin ---a sin is a sin, but rather than place priority of fixing this area, ask God to pour His grace out on the area and allow his weakness to make you stronger. Ask God to show his power in your weakness and then tend the needs of those around you—they don’t have “all day:” No man-made-band-aid is going to fit over the gunshot wound of your co-workers, friends or family members.

Lastly, I was challenged with this thought along the same lines of helping those around me. It’s really easy to give out of abundance. I know a radio station back home in South Dakota that always does this “buy the meal or coffee for the person behind you in the drive-thru” which is great—but ha, you’re still getting your meal, and still getting your coffee. So often we are safe in the way that we give: we give just enough so it doesn’t hurt. What if Christ would have done that on the cross? I think if it would have been dependent upon our human pain-tolerance Christ wouldn’t have made it past the first lashing of the whip.

Again, I am not standing on a soap box saying, “Quit blubbering with issues in your life. Don’t give anything unless is hurts.” Again, sin is not ranked and neither is our giving but have you asked God what surrendering of your weaknesses looks like? Have you asked God what it looks like to give in such a way that He is most glorified? So often we give out of hearts desiring to get something in return—even if it is just peace of mind that we did something good. Don’t freak out and become all self-conscious about these challenges, but DO something about it! Ask God, what does this look like? Don’t be afraid of the pain involved—the sacrifice that you may have to make because we serve a GOOD God, amen? A God that died for us—that knows our hearts, knows our weaknesses. We say we want to be like our Rabbi, we want to follow Jesus and become like him---Jesus sacrificed his life to save ours so don’t be alarmed if you are asked to sacrifice some aspect of your life from time-to-time. Maybe sacrifice your coffee cup for someone who doesn’t normally get the luxury of Starbucks every morning. Again, all this doesn’t make you any more wonderful or special—but if the Lord leads to use you—even in your humbling moments of weakness, let him do it! Let him use your paper cut to save someone from a gunshot wound and if I recall correctly Christ had some pretty deep cuts (not by choice nor his own doing) as well. He understands a thing or two about using them for God’s glory, don’t you think?

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