Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

This Bible Saturation plan that I am going through during my sabbatical is really kicking up some deep things within me. James 2:13, the title of this blog, is such a simple phrase yet I struggled for so many years under judgment.

Growing up in a home where my critical stepfather constantly judged me I came to believe that I would never be an effective individual. Eventually I didn’t need him to criticize me because I started to agree with the judgments I had internalized as a child. “I am worthless, a failure, a loser, and good for nothing.” There was a war going on within me and I was losing.

What all these feelings of shame and inadequacy produced within me was a drive to prove to others that I was “good enough.” Unbeknownst to me at the time this drive to “prove myself to others” had become addictive. This is one of those addictions that people applaud. And not getting much of that growing up I kicked it into overdrive. By the way, I see this behavior in so many accomplished people here in the Silicon Valley. Their drive to succeed and be recognized leaves many of them exhausted and depressed. Outwardly they are smiling; inwardly they are dying.

Let me tell you it is hard to recognize negative traits that masquerade as strengths.

Eventually I became depressed. I could no longer keep up the pace of proving to others that I was “good enough.” Trying to change the harsh judgments of my childhood into positive ones through constantly proving myself to others exhausted me.

My friend Hal sat with me as I shared with him my pain and exhaustion. He pulled this verse out from 2 Samuel 14:14, “We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.”

Hal asked me if I recognized myself in that verse. I did. My judgments of myself made me feel like I was on the outside looking in. I felt like an outcast every time I gave into temptation that led to sin or whenever I failed in some area of my life. My diseased and broken thought life banished me from the mercy God extended to me to triumph over the judgments spoken over me throughout my childhood.

God has devised a way so that the banished one will not remain an outcast. It is called mercy. I’d love to walk you through how that happened but that will require another entry. Suffice to say over time I learned how to be kind to myself. I learned how to accept the mercy that triumphed over my stepfather’s judgments.

Final Thought: I’ve never considered a tattoo but if I was to get one it would say “Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment.”

Finding Life in a World of Pain

Over my sabbatical I am going through a Bible saturation plan. I felt the need to get back into the scriptures for some much needed insight. Currently I am going through the gospel of John. I was going through John 17 last week and came across this verse that I sat and thought about for most of the day.

John 17:3 (NIV), Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

This is an offer of life. I wondered how many people are searching for the life described in this verse and yet not finding it.

Earlier in John 10:10 I read, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Obviously this theme runs all throughout the gospel of John. Someone once told me “eternal life” is “the quality of the life of the kingdom of God that a person can enjoy right now. Eternal life is exchanging self-worship for God-worship.”

This word “know” in John 17 refers to personal knowledge of God, and experiential knowledge of God, an intimate knowledge of God. As we grow in our knowledge of God, we grow in our enjoyment of this life spoken about in John 17.

The practices of solitude and reflection have helped me “know” God more intimately. I love a good worship night; getting my emotions and feelings all revved up but as I’ve gotten older the practice of quieting my soul to come present to God has allowed me to be real with Him about my heart with all of its fear, anxiety and pain. Yet this just isn’t for my own need for life but also for the life others are searching for in these desperate times.

I’ll close with this story from my time in Rocky Mountain National Park last week. I sat with a friend by a lake and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the place. We were around 9000 feet and the air was wonderful and the surroundings were magnificent. No distractions and thoughts for God were coming in loud and clear. The Spirit spoke a word clearly for me to pray over my friend and he received it with great joy. Having experienced this life I want more of it.

I’ll leave you with this question; how well do you want to “know” God?