Sunday, August 15, 2010

I Got A New Attitude!

Extreme Makeover, image courtesy of tv.comI found myself reflecting this week about my past; my attitudes and actions. Have you ever found yourself immersed in conflict and
swept away as if you were in a rushing current of flood waters? More often than not, my emotions have led me to the deep end of dangerous waters. As a young man, I found myself following my emotions regardless of the consequences; that is a recklessly bad decision.

Years ago when I first moved from Chicago to Texas, I came face to face with something I didn’t expect. By that time, I wasn’t the Black kid growing up in Chicago, living in a predominately White community. Back then, that kid heard Whites call him some of the most vile, insensitive things a person could say to another human. In school, I had to endure the constant mocking from White students while teachers ignored their taunts. Between classes, I had to always be aware while walking down the stairs because a White student would often spit on unsuspecting Black students.

I learned about hatred at a young age growing up in Chicago.

But when I moved to Texas, I was a professional; I was a software programmer. I felt good about my accomplishments, what I achieved and where I’d come from.

And then one night, I met someone familiar, someone who I’d forgotten about for years; my old enemy hate.

As my wife and I stood inside the doorway of a restaurant, I heard someone speak to me on my right. I turned in the direction of the voice and asked the White man,

What did you say?

It was more a case of me being rhetorical than asking him for clarification because I knew exactly what was spoken, and then he said it again.

I stood there for a moment and then my emotions erupted as I invited the man to step outside. Since he was on his way out of the restaurant, I followed him but he wasn’t interested in fighting; by now though, I couldn’t hold back the roaring tide of my emotions.

As he quickly jumped behind the wheel of his car and locked the door, I began kicking the side of his car. This man, who had uttered a simple word to me, cowered inside his car waiting for his family to get in so he could leave.

I continued kicking in the side panel of his door, shouting for him to get out of the car but I was unable to persuade him. Finally he drove away.

My wife who had been pulling on my arm to no avail stood silent and embarrassed by my behavior. I remained incensed.

When I finally returned home, I sat down, my anger still simmering at its boiling point. It’s strange how the Holy Spirit chooses to speak to me at a time when I want to say,

Not now God.

What do you believe is more important, the truth or a lie?

I still wanted to feel angry, but He had my attention and I replied,

The truth is more important.

And then He asked me,

Then why do you believe a lie?

I was puzzled by this question and I immediately protested,

What lie have I believed Lord?

You believe you are what that man called you tonight.

Lord, I don't believe that!

Here I am, disputing the Omniscient God of all creation that, I know what I know; and then He said something I couldn’t argue with.

You had to believe that you are that word because you went to a tremendous effort to disprove it; only the offendable are offended.

I wanted to tell God that, offendable is not a word but I sat there quietly considering the possibility that perhaps God could be right. I know that sounds so totally arrogant but that was how I thought back then. My thoughts retraced the events that occurred earlier.

Why did I react so strongly? Why did I feel the need to disprove what was spoken to me? Did I actually believe what I heard?

Thoughts of my childhood years replayed in my mind like a video. I could recall those voices of my childhood, angry, insolent Whites shouting at me; reminding me I was unwanted. Voices reminding me I was unwelcome, not good enough, smart enough or competent enough; I just didn’t measure up to their standards.

As I’ve learned to identify with Christ, I’ve seen my ego checked at the door of faith. My life is no longer defined by who I am but by the life of Christ in me. I can no longer be reduced to a shamed example of Christ, I claim my manhood in Christ. I am not defined by the words of man but by the word of God.

There was a time in my life when I felt I was due respect for what I’d accomplished; I’ve done nothing to distinguish myself apart from Christ. Whatever I’ve been able to accomplish in my life is a direct result of the immeasurable grace and blessings of God.

It’s not a matter of what defines me, it’s who defines me.

I choose Christ.

Father God,

You are the Omniscient One, you know all things; You are intimately acquainted with me and my weaknesses. You know the scars I bear and the hurts I’ve felt. I acknowledge that words have a measure of power to hurt but words are not greater than You. I will not allow my life to be shaped by the human depiction of what I am. Your word declares,

…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

I thank You Lord God, that I am committed to renewing my mind daily, I am being transformed by the power that raised Jesus from the dead. I thank You that, ”I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” I seek to demonstrate Your will in my life; Your will is good, acceptable and perfect. Thank You for being the God who heals and restores; Your grace and love are beyond measure. You are worthy of all praise and glory. Amen.


20 comments:

Lloyd said...

Thank you for such an inspiring and heartfelt testimony for the Lord. Just reading this post reminded me of my younger days when I put the Spirit of God down in the basement of my soul and locked the door. Those are days that my Lord and Savior has forgiven me and covered them with His blood.

Isn't it such a wonderful feeling to know that God is color blind and shows no partiality to His children. God's blessings too you. Lloyd

lynnmosher said...

I get so incensed when I read things like this because I cannot believe people are so cruel. I'm so sorry that you have had to endure such mean and nasty whites. There are some good guys around and I hope you encounter some of us. May the Lord fill you with His comfort and presence. Be blessed!

Merana Leigh said...

My dear friend...I cannnot begin to tell you how wonderful this post is to read! You went out on that limb & gave something of yourself, something painful...but most importantly, what Christ brought you to learn from your horrible experiences, and to profess how you've grown. No longer simply reflective, but hopefully somewhat cathartic. I'm really proud of you for that! THIS post is truly a step out in faith for you, I know.

The saying "sticks & stones" is a lie...words DO hurt. That's why Scripture tells us of the power of the tongue.

I SO do value you & what you've been delivered through to become the man you are today...someone who can reach out to all of us to learn not to let hate take root.

I tell my boys all the time (& admittedly, myself too!)..."well, are you ________ (fill in the blank with whatever someone called them)?" Then don't give them power over you to believe about yourself that what they say is true. We already know that it is NOT, so chose to turn your back on it. You will become a greater person for it!"

I will say that I hope I don't offend you, but I believe we've come to know each other well enough that it won't...when I say, I'm sorry for what you endured, but I'm thankful that God allowed it. It's made you a stronger, better man for it, who can stand now as to witness to others of God's precious saving grace!

Fabulous post! I'm really proud of you MTJ!

Hugs, my friend ~ Merana

MTJ said...

Lloyd: I think most of us can reflect back to younger days when we had occasion to lay down our priestly robe but grace got you and I through that period of our life. Just know that since I began reading your blog I have felt a kinship with you: it's all because of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

lynnmosher: Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I must ask you to not be incensed because of what I went through in my youth.

I wrote this post not to condemn racism but to expose a greater problem in my life. At that time in my life, I had not truely surrendered my emotions to Christ (particularly my insecurities, and anger). That restaurant experience brought me face to face with my real problem.

Through Christ, I've learned what surrender means in the application of my life. I will share a passage of scripture with you which has been a constant source of encouragement to me, "And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."

What I'm saying is that even when I didn't know God, He both knew and cared for me to the degree that He extended grace to my life. I could have given up, as many others in my situation chose to do, I could have died on the streets, gone to jail or lived a life dominated by alcohol or drug dependency but God had a purpose for my life and I'm so very thankful. Rejoice with me that I'm saved by grace.

Merana: Yes, I too value the encouragement and friendship you extend my sister. And As I indicated in the previous comment, Genesis 50:20 is the grace I speak of. People can say things and do things to us that really, really hurt but I've come out of a place of pain to that place of healing. The old folks say, "I felt pain and I've been healed; healing's better!"

Dean Spencer said...

MTJ -

I truly believe the Holy Spirit is healing you from past transgressions. It takes a strong person to overcome such obstacles. And what I have learned from you in your posts and comments, you are a man of godly character. God is doing a marvelous work in you. And I couldn't be more proud to call you my brother. Not because of color, nationality, or ethnicity. But because of Christ we're a part of the same family of God. And I see God's character displayed in your words and how you encourage others in their faith.

I do not wish to try to reduce your pain or try to compare my experiences with yours because I cannot fathom what you've endured. But I had been teased, humiliated, and ostracised from classmates as a child and I can say words hurt A LOT! I agree with Merana that there is power for good and evil with our words. Scripture tells us how our tongues bless AND curse.

Please know that my prayers are for you to be enveleped by God's love and His children and for you to be granted grace upon grace. I believe God can use your experiences to help someone who may go through what you have gone through. Romans 8:28 Forgiveness, mercy, and compassion are powerful tools from which God helps us through those kind of experiences.

God bless MTJ. And stay firm in the faith.

lynnmosher said...

MTJ, You're a wonderful example of forgiveness and God's grace in one's life. I'm just very sensitive to harsh or abusive treatment of others. It truly bothers me for we are all made in the image and likeness of God and I don't think we should treat God in others in any way but kind. May the Lord truly bless you! :D

MTJ said...

Dean: Though we've never met, I do appreciate you my brother. I'm thankful that the Lord enabled our paths to cross because I have found you to be a believer who strengthens and encourages. I realize that we all face some measure of adversity in our lives. I survived those experiences through the grace of God and I can talk about them without feeling pain. As the scriptures say, "...one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

lynnmosher: I forgive because I have been forgiven much. I appreciate your kind words. Sending blessings to you and your family.

Teresa said...

MTJ, all I can say is, "Yes!" "Yes!" Yes!" Our God is so amazing. The Testimony of our God through your life story...thank you for sharing this moment that you allowed God's freedom to liberate you! I needed this post today...you have no idea...the part that really provoked me to be reminded was this phrase, "You had to believe that you are that word because you went to a tremendous effort to disprove it; only the offendable are offended." And the other line was, "It's not a matter of what defines me, it's who defines me." Hallelujah!

THE OLD GEEZER said...

MTJ, Thank you for sharing some of your past memories and more importantly how you worked them out with God. Many of us argue with God and want to tell Him how others have hurt us and we have the right to get even. I'm so thankful that God is patient and knows that we are but dust or I would have been made into a pile of dirt many years ago.

~Ron

MTJ said...

Teresa: Thank you for being a Sister in Christ and being an example for fellow believers.

Ron I started writing a post (not this one) last week after reading I Love You But I Don't Like You! I hope to share that post soon. I'm glad there is someone in this community of bloggers that asks tough questions that are seasoned with compassion, not anger. Bless you my brother.

Sharon Kirby said...

MTJ,
How moved I am - your vulnerable honesty touched my heart. People can be so cruel - I suppose that's because "the enemy" is the father of cruelty. He finds every crack in our souls, and then finds a way to wound us with his arrows of abuse, offense, discrimination - sending words that anger us, that hurt us, that defeat us.

We all bear emotional scars - sometimes when I see pictures of whales, they have those white scars all over their skins - marks of previous battles, previous injuries - it reminds me of our hearts. But Jesus was WOUNDED, his skin was SCARRED - all for us. His wounds are the only things capable of mending and healing our hearts.

Praise God for the gift of His Son - our kind and precious Savior - who came to give life to EVERY person on earth!

I take with me today these words from your prayer:
...BUT WORDS ARE NOT GREATER THAN YOU!

GOD BLESS YOU, MTJ! I am so glad that you are my friend...

MTJ said...

Sharon: I thank God for you my sister; I too am glad that the Lord was pleased to allow our paths to cross. You encourage me and you make me smile. I can think of no one else who would mention hitin' a tater. Thank you for extending friendship to me.

Jane said...

Thank you for this testimony. Yes, let not our past define us, nor the words and attitudes of others, we are what God see we are.

MTJ said...

Jane: Thank you my sister for your encouragement and prayers.

Family, Money and Stuff said...

Wow. Powerful stuff, MTJ!! Straight from the heart! Thank you for sharing that!

I love the conversation with God! He does that, doesn't he? He can ask questions that dismantle our emotions and derail our plans - His questions can cut to the soul. Amazing! Praise the Lord! I love it.

I had a bit of a similar epiphany two nights ago - middle of the night, I realized I was passing down to my children an attitude that I was handed as a child. I hated it, and I see it rising up in me...

God IS big enough. Thanks, MTJ.

Thanks, too, for your comments at my place. I'm always glad to hear from you!

MTJ said...

Kim: God does have a methodology of reaching each of us. For me my emotions have always been my protection; I was unwilling to let others know I could feel pain. As a result, I would often lash out; hurting others was not a consideration.

I've learned the importance of surrendering my emotions to the Lord. I'm not speaking as if I'm a finished vessel because I'm not; but I recognize that I'm not the person I once was either. That's a direct result of the power of God working in my weaknesses.

I've said so much but more than anything, I want to say that I appreciate the heart for God that you convey in your writing; you bless and encourage me.

Faith Imagined said...

Thank you for such a powerful post and sharing your life with us in such a transparent way. I loved these lines, "As I’ve learned to identify with Christ, I’ve seen my ego checked at the door of faith. My life is no longer defined by who I am but by the life of Christ in me." Awesome!

BTW, I thought you were a woman. I really relate to your writing! I should have read your bio a little closer! ;-)

MTJ said...

Alisa: Well no one's ever made that assumption with me, so that one is definitely a first! I'm not rolling on the floor but I am laughing.

I'm glad you relate with what I write Alisa. I've found your writing to exemplify what it means to be passionate about Christ. Your words offer encouragement, understanding and inspiration.

BTW: I was meditating this morning and thinking of how many Christian women write and convey that passion for Christ and I found myself asking, "Lord, where are the men?" I have found a few brothers in this forum that I've bonded with and they have that passion for Christ. Still, I would like to see more men writing. Perhaps, I just don't know where they are.

Red Letter Believers said...

Hate is an old 'friend' that comes through the door of my life at the oddest times.

I would like to find a way to keep him out of my life.

Wonderful post

MTJ said...

RLB: Thanks for stopping by and sharing.