Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hidden Agendas (Part 2)

Hidden Agenda, image courtesy of John Casey,

One Saturday, I could hear my wife in the basement and when I asked what she was doing, she answered,

I’m cleaning up the bathroom.

As I walked backed to do whatever it was I was doing, I wondered, Why? It was then that the Holy Spirit spoke to me the words,

It’s something which needs to be done.

I decided I would attempt to clean a bathroom.

A few weeks later, I was cleaning that very same bathroom in the basement and my wife came to the top of the stairs and asked,

What are you doing?

I’m cleaning the bathroom.

Silent pause

If you're doing this because you think somehow it will change things then you might as well stop trying because this isn’t going to change anything; so there’s no point in you doing this.

I’m not trying to change your mind; I don’t have any hidden agenda. I’m cleaning the bathroom because it needs to be cleaned.

That could have been the end of our dialog but I realized that I had more to say.

Look, I accept total responsibility for being selfish and arrogant and insensitive; I ruined something good. You’re hurt and angry with me and that’s cool. But I want you to know I still love you and I care about you; that’s not going to change.

Looking back on that moment in time, I realize I could have responded to this as I had so often before. She’d gotten in my personal space and my typical response would have been to vanquish my opponent; complete annihilation and total victory for me. I don’t mean physically, but I required emotional victories to validate my manhood. I was too smart for anyone (including the Lord) to truly get me; I alone could climb the top of my own apex.

Her words echoed in my mind, “This isn’t going to change anything.

Was I doing this to convince her I was now different or had I found a true purpose in doing household chores?

I told myself I was the same selfish, arrogant guy she’d married but piece by piece, little by little, things were being swapped out.

I’m going to break my geek out for a moment to try and explain my concept of swapping. At some point when software instructions are executed (running), they execute in memory. When those instructions are not being executed, they get swapped (moved) to secondary storage. This is similar to you remembering a birthday. The thought of when a specific birthday occurs is in your memory. You may also have a lunch meeting, parent-teacher conference or something else scheduled which you’ve noted in your planner, PDA or post-it on the refrigerator. The reminder of that event is stored elsewhere (secondary storage).

So the Holy Spirit is my task manager, swapping out these long held attitudes and behaviors and bringing into my memory the instruction set of cleaning toilets.

Last night I was thinking about hidden agendas because something in me was triggered and I was concerned that maybe I was still that same guy with just a new coating of paint. I questioned whether I was doing things for the right reason or did I have my own agenda running parallel to the outward things I said and did.

I talked it over with my wife and sought her insight, thinking I was too close to the issue to see clearly. After talking, I asked her to pray for me but I still felt no release from my thoughts. I desperately wanted to acquire the Lord’s clarity on this.

I knew that I had discovered a joy in doing work which I’d previously viewed as the kind of tasks which were menial and beneath me. Questions regarding my motives for blogging were triggered by my historical past attitudes; I was experiencing self-doubt. But it wasn’t the same kinds of doubts I felt when I couldn’t sense the presence of God. I had kept God at arm’s length for so long and when I called out to Him, He was silent. God obviously had His reasons and He definitely got my attention, so that when He responded to my cries, I was overwhelmed by His presence, love, forgiveness and grace.

My thoughts were clouded, I couldn’t discern whether God wanted my attention about my motives or if I was being attacked with doubts about my ability to follow Christ fully.

And then the Holy Spirit came and showed me something which gave me the clarity I needed. I read five verses in the tenth chapter of Luke about two sisters:

...a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said,Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.But the Lord answered and said to her,Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’”1

Two sisters who are focused in two totally different areas:
  1. Martha is busy with the preparation and serving of the meal.
  2. Mary is busy listening to the message of Christ.
Martha wanted Jesus to focus on her concerns while Mary wanted to focus on the concerns of Jesus. I wondered how this applied to the doubts I now grappled with. It would be easy to see myself as Mary, totally focused on hearing the instructions of Christ but I needed to examine Martha’s attitude.

Certainly there was nothing wrong with Martha wanting to be a good host, serving food to Jesus and his disciples. But in carrying out this task, Martha became offended that Mary would not help her fulfill this labor.

Was I seeking favor by doing something for Christ?

I found myself questioning my attitude while cleaning the bathroom.

Did I seek the acknowledgement and approval of my wife regarding my taking ownership of these duties or was I doing them for the joy experienced in the activity?

Do I seek acknowledgement and approval from Christ and others regarding my writing?

Was I doing these things out of a sense of obligation or did I truly find a passionate and spiritual joy in doing them?

This seems like a good breaking point so I'll stop and resume this discussion tomorrow.

"For to a person who is good in His sight He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy..."2

"For you will go out with joy, And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands."3

Almighty God and Father of all,

I give thanks to You my Lord for giving me joy. It may seem selfish of me to say this but I bask in this joy as if I shall never experience this moment again. I treasure the privilege of following Christ. I face challenges for sure, but I rest my confidence in Christ and not in myself. I am reminded by the Holy Spirit that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. My thoughts aren't solely on myself but on the challenges so many others who call on your name face. You are the God who sees me and them. You know the needs and I know you are concerned to the degree that you will perform that which concerns them. Thank You that I have an audience with You through prayer. I bless Your Holy Name and give You all my praise. Amen.

  1. Luke 10:38-42, NASB
  2. Ecclesiastes 2:26, NASB
  3. Isaiah 55:12, NASB
  1. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  2. Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6


Sharon Kirby said...

I have just finished reading your last two posts. Oh, that the Lord would continue to work in me, and mold me more and more into His image. Sometimes I feel so dismayed at the "Martha" in me. And yet, I sense God doing a new work in me - it's been painful at times. He is going into all the "hidden" places, the places where the refining process is difficult. But my greatest desire is this - I just want to KNOW Him, in every aspect of my life - and that means some things need to die. I praise God that He loves me enough to care more about my character than my comfort.

May God bless you in your journey, too.

Faith Imagined said...

I can really relate to how you self-analyze. I think self-analysis is extremely important for Christian writers. I can't wait to read the conclusion to this article!

BTW, I love the entire bathroom intro. I had to stop reading for a few minutes until I stopped laughing!

MTJ said...

Sharon: I think much of what is now happening in my life occurred behind the scenes with the Holy Spirit operating in me. Your recent post on Foreshadowing reminds me that at times there are little subtle things that may by themself seem unimportant but when fully revealed, one recognizes that the Lord was at work in me all the time. The Lord bless you and your family my sister.

Alisa: You know, every time I read something you've written and I see so many responses from women whom you're able to reach for God, I find myself wondering Am I the only guy who reads what she writes? I'm glad you were able to laugh at the intro. Looking back I can see both the humor and the silent cry for meaningful change in me.

From The Heart Online said...

"Did I seek the acknowledgement and approval of my wife regarding my taking ownership of these duties or was I doing them for the joy experienced in the activity"

- I'm right there with you - I'm having this same conversation with myself about singing in church, and the 'selfish' joy that comes with it. I want to sing in church, but why? I enjoy it ... but why? Is this for God? Me?

Thanks for sharing your heart here. I'm excited to read the next one!


MTJ said...

Kim: I owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude for your series, Lies That Rob Me of Joy.

It was when I read Lie #4, that the Holy Spirit helped me reflect on what has been taking place in my life during the past eight months. I can acknowledge that I have found joy in doing something without seeking to gain an advantage; this is an entirely new and welcome experience for me. Thank you so much for being a really encouraging sister in Christ.

Peggy said...

oops I missed this commenting on this one because I went off on a visit to
read Kim's LIES... or JOY!

Blessings MTJ,

I enjoyed this in between post because of your openness and that I could see inside your thoughts for your motivation of ACTing.

I guess it's hard to explain our changes to others when it's a matter of the heart and the spirit at work in us!

It's great to see ourselves as a Mary if our motives are not seeking approval or wrong in other ways! I think often people see Martha as the perfectionist and Mary as the people pleaser, and consider which as the higher road, wanting to identify with sitting at the feet of Jesus, but find themselves either with too much busyness or wrong motivation.

I saw an interesting post today with Lisa Shaw but her links did not work for me to "A Martha Heart" sitting at His feet...coming soon

Peggy said...

It worked now:

do you know how I can link in a comment? like what 'html' I put before 'i' for italics?
I noticed that you have done that!
You seem computer savvy!!! and I could not get an answer on Google that I could understand since I don't have the computer words to ask? Thanks!

MTJ said...

Peggy: The use of HTML tags in comments is limited but three which work are bold, italics and anchor links (commonly referred to as URL) for example Amazing Grace

HTML tags have a start (or opening) tag which defines everything that comes after it and an end (or closing) tag which halts any further use of the start tag which preceded it.

Here is a link which will help you learn the use of HTML tags: bold text, italic text, and anchor links

The HTML Code Tutorial provides an explanation of how to use various HTML tags from fonts, links, and lists to advanced HTML (e.g., applets, CSS, forms, frames, and tables).

If you have questions, they have a forum for FAQs, and you can contact me offline at my email address. I'll do my best to provide you with an answer or direct you to a source.

From The Heart Online said...

I'm amazed at how the Holy Spirit works :) I'm right there with you - learning about this 'new experience' of joy. I'm thrilled to be on my way to freedom in Christ - from religion, from legalism, from fear of what others might think ... I can almost taste it sometimes. Praise the Lord who brings us to a clearer knowledge of Him!!!!

MTJ said...

Kim: There is an amazement in this new realm of freedom the Holy Spirit has ushered me into; enabling me to let go of previously held [mis-]conceptions. I do not believe this experience is unique; it has to be true for many other believers.

Peggy said...

Ohhh Thank you, thank you, thank you MTJ! I so appreciate all the info you gave me on how to do stuff in comments. I knew italics and bold but not even what the URL link was called but had seen that you do it!!!

I did not remember where I asked this or if you'd answer (duh? never thought about emailing you or that it was attached to your comments).

Thanks so much!!! Hope I learn now!