I was incredibly blessed to be in a Sunday school class taught by Chuck Thompson. Chuck is an author, therapist, and psychology professor at King University. I had the opportunity at King (College, back in the day) to take a class of his about the book of James, about which he wrote, ”The James Prescription.” (link below). This class was THE class wherein I learned the most applicable knowledge in my entire four years at King. Maybe it was that my heart needed to try to understand my own trials and past. For whatever reason, “James” is always my answer to the best class I took in college.
Having a Sunday school teacher with a counseling background has given me new eyes in which to view people and situations and events in the Bible. Upon dissecting a story or passage, Chuck would encourage us to look more deeply at a situation, at a person’s background, at the culture….and THEN to rethink and speculate on how or why something happened.
Not only did we analyze what was going on in scripture, but we applied it to present day, here and now, and in our own personal thoughts and lives. Chuck often referenced the story found in Matthew (or Luke), when Jesus says,
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
I will be the first to admit that I am loyal to friends and family, and will defend those I love quickly (sometimes too quickly). Sometimes I step away from a situation, and am confident that my defense was in love, and that what I said or my reaction was warranted. Sometimes I step away from the situation, and with some self-evaluation, determine that I have allowed the speck in someone else’s eye to become larger than the plank in my own.
This passage of scripture, when I keep it in the forefront of my mind, humbles me greatly. Number 11 on “Pressed, But Not Crushed,” is a song I wrote entitled, “You See Me.” (I’ll do song stories in this blog soon.). The song addresses how God looks beyond the shell we wear on the outside, often a shell of fearlessness or “everything’s fine” facade. In the second verse, however, I did address the plank in my own eye.
You see my past and my today.
You see the hurt and hurtful things I say.
You want my worst; You want my best.
You love me in my brokenness.
Although I (or close friends or family) had been hurt (and will be hurt) by others, I am also an offender. Jesus loves me in my brokenness, too. Just like He loves those who hurt me, whether I or they hurt intentionally or not. Shew. That’s grace. That’s what it’s supposed to look like coming from us, too.
The Enemy wants us to compare ourselves to one another:
“You’d be better if you looked like her.”
“You’d be a better mom if…”.
“You’d be a better wife if….”
or “You are so much better because______.”
“You’re not as good as __________”
“You’re too old.”
All of these are judgments, against ourselves and against others, and the Enemy loves it. It’s divisive.
When I call one of my kids out for not doing something he/she should have done, I’m often redirected to another sibling who was not doing “the right thing” either. A diversion in a conversation like this makes me bonkers in the moment, and I often respond with “This doesn’t have to do with him/her; this has to do with you!” Oh, I know God says this to me when I feel like I’ve been treated unfairly or when I feel like I’ve been singled out.
The only comparison we can offer ourselves is the “old self” vs. “new self,” not because we have done all of this work, it’s a gift. The blood of Jesus Christ is covering over all of those comparisons, and continues to mold and shape us into His image.
For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:9
When we give grace to ourselves and others, stress and unrest are exchanged with peace and reconciliation. I am working toward that. Sometimes pride gets in the way, but sometimes a simple change of perspective makes a situation absolutely understandable, and forgiveness is so much easier if we can understand why a person would react in a certain way or say what was said.
So, today I pray that my focus would be Jesus, and who I am in Him. Then I will see the plank in my own eye, and the great amount of grace that covers over it….then, the speck in another’s eye isn’t even in my periphery.