Thursday, July 30, 2009

Being Teachable

As I mentioned yesterday the writing that I was really psyched about over last weekend has begun to bear fruit. Thanks for your prayers in that regard and you can begin to read some of the products. In yesterday’s edition of The Sentinel the main newspaper for the Stoke-on-Trent area I wrote the Yours Faithfully article which you can read by clicking here. It’s quite something to see your work in print especially as it’s one of the things to which I’ve aspired since my mum encouraged me in that area when I was a boy. I have been involved in editing and stuff before so it was quite a relief to see my finished article only had one or two minor alterations to what I submitted. Hope you enjoy reading it.

I had an interesting encounter the other day. I met a friend of mine who will remain anonymous for the time being. This friend is a result of the labours of the CSD team at the YMCA and he is a living testimony to me about the power of God to do the amazing in the lives of the unlikely. The friend always challenges me to live from grace and mercy and not a haughty position of pompous piety as if my experience of Jesus made me the expert my friend needed to make progress. My friend, however, is hard work.

The reason why my friend is such hard work is because despite his youth he appears to already have sufficient knowledge of all there is to know to survive in this life. Not to say he’s not open to others having their opinion, more to say it’s difficult to detect whether he is that teachable. What makes all the more heartbreaking is – in that cursed state of most human relations – he means well. He is not intentionally obstructive or off-putting in his self-observed omniscience. He endeavours to be as genuine as he can and as helpful as he can on most occasions. The trouble is, however, he just does not appear to be that teachable. Bad stuff happening in his life is not usually his responsibility; it is the fault of external factors as he is the victim in it all, never appreciating, however harsh or soft a rebuke, that this is the point at which he repents and takes stock of himself.

So for all his good intentions, I hope you can see with me, that my friend is not in a good position if he wants to make progress in life because if we cannot see the error of our own ways and make the changes and learn from others then we’re going to screw up quite a number of chances in life. Indeed life journey is all about character development, but if the character is not willing to be conformed to a better standard (let’s say Jesus to pick a name out of the hat) then really enjoying life can never be a reality.

This is where the grace of God comes more into the light, though, for as I relate to my friend and endeavour to love him as best as I can with the compassion of Christ, what comes screaming to my attention is how much I am like my friend in this way. Am I really that teachable? Do I really take on board the lessons life has dealt? I look at the stuff in my case files and notice how often I have made the same mistakes. I see the apparent willingness to change only to slip into the same habits again and appear completely oblivious to my state. I observe how difficult I’ve found it to seek advice to help me out of my predicament and how slowly I’ve ever taken that advice. In the middle of all that certain people have stuck by me, loved me, gently challenged me and strongly did so when the time was needed. That to me is the meaning of the proverb better are the wounds of a friend than the kisses of the enemy. My friends give me those wounds when they’re needed (sometimes when they’re not, but better to give them than never at all). They’re also there to console and comfort when I get their point and hit self-pity mode so that I can snap out of it quickly and actually do better by … the grace of God.

I would love to say that these are things that happened years ago and now I write before you as a completely reformed man, but the reality is I’m still very much on that learning curve. That makes my dealings with my friend all the more crucial. As a beneficiary of God’s grace in my issues I’ve got to have that ability to extend that onto others, especially my friend. Not in the pompous piety of one considerably more advanced than him, but in the spirit of humility as a co-sojourner on life’s journey, susceptible to those pitfalls of pride that prevent us from contrition, confession and repentance.

So pray for my friend and I as we endeavour to walk after Christ’s example.

For His Name's Sake



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