Saturday, July 9, 2016

Imitators of Light

Ephesians 5:1...this is where I've been camping out the last couple of days.

Be imitators of God, therefore
as dearly loved children.
Ephesians 5:1

This verse has challenged me this week.  Lately, my heart hurts over negative events and circumstances I have no control over.  I'm sure you feel the same way every day you live your life or every time you watch the news, get online, or scroll through social media feeds.  The events that hurt my heart begin close to home in my little corner of the world, then ripple out further as I learn of new tragedies that are affecting so many lives and families in our nation and around the world.  As much as I would like to stop them from happening, as I'm sure you do too, I know that I am not in control.  I can only trust God to make things right in His perfect time.  Meanwhile, though, I do have a choice.  The only control I have is in the way I behave, react, and respond to life's miseries.  How often do I behave or react from a place of rejection, frustration, anger, hurt, pain, embarrassment, neglect, or some other negative emotion?  Have I forgotten that I am dearly loved by the Creator of the universe, the God Who formed me in my mother's womb by His choosing, and the One Who knows me so intimately??  

This morning, I noticed something about my 5 (almost 6) year old daughter.  When I entered her room to say good morning and invite her down for breakfast, she didn't answer me like she normally does.  Instead, she answered me with a quick, sharp response.  I knew something was off, but I didn't know what.  I didn't know why she responded to me in such a tone of voice.  As I returned downstairs, praying in my heart, the Lord reminded me of this verse in Ephesians that He had shown me only yesterday. He showed me that she was imitating her friend she has been playing with recently.  Then, He gently showed me that we all have the tendency to imitate someone.  Even if we think we are being "different" or "standing out from the crowd," we are still following and imitating someone. 

Just like my daughter faces opportunities each day to be an imitator of God or an imitator of her peers, I am faced with similar choices. Who am I choosing to imitate?  When I feel hurt, rejected, neglected, ignored, unworthy, betrayed, etc., it is very easy for me to project those painful feelings onto others or my surrounding circumstances. Subconsciously, maybe I want others to know my hurt and possibly even feel the same way I do, so it would be easy for me to imitate the ones who hurt me, therefore causing emotional pain to others or responding to situations in pain rather than in love, only causing the cycle to repeat itself and causing bitterness to take root in my own heart.  Repeating the cycle never works.  Copying others' sinful behavior never makes situations right, only worse.  

This verse and passage in Ephesians calls me out of sinful behavior.  It calls all of us to rise above the circumstances and sin around us and to live as children of light, thus breaking the cycles of bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, malice, greed, obscenity,and foolish talk that are destroying our own lives, our families' lives, and the lives of people in our nation and around the world.  If we blend in with the darkness, imitating others' sin, no one will see the light of Christ pierce the dark.  Our enemy loves to use our circumstances, people, events, and anything else he can to distract us from living as children of light and allowing God's love to flow through us and pour out of us into others' lives.  It is easy to fall into harmful patterns of behavior around us, but, as dearly loved children of God, He calls us to higher living.  He calls us to "not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (Eph. 4:29).  He charges us to "be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you," to "live a life of love, just as Christ loved us," and "to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them" (Eph. 4:32; 5:1, 11). This is difficult to do at times, but not impossible, and it is the abundant life Christ came to give us.  When we live this way, Christ's love shines through us, we are refined, and we become more like Him.  

As I have scrolled through social media and read others' responses to devastating current events that are sending shock through our country, I have seen people write, How can I be involved?  How can I help instead of add to the hurt?  How can I participate in helping our nation recover from these events?  Not all of us have the same financial or global platform or following, and not all of us have the same resources.  For me, in my opinion, I believe my way to help and not add to the hurt is to show my children and others around me how to respond as dearly loved children, imitating God, and living a life of love.  Then, they will also be a light in the dark world, drawing others to Christ's light.

So, this weekend and in the coming week, I am presenting myself with a respond, speak, & behave as a dearly loved child of the Most High God.  To react, speak, and behave from a place of love (because His love is perfect and it is enough for me) instead of a place of hurt.  All that matters to me is not what others think of me, but what my heavenly Father thinks of me, and He never created other people to fulfill me anyway.  That's His job.  I am made to be filled with God's abounding, unconditional, and forgiving love, and to walk in that love.