Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In whose image? It's my choice.

Recently I read a letter that I had written to a friend in which I asserted that if I responded to someone who was hurting me with like behavior, I was allowing the hurtful person to transform me into their image. As a christian whose life purpose is to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ, my desire (and His promise) is that by His Spirit, if I choose it, He would transform me into His image. Because I am included in this equation, the process may be bumpy and a bit sporadic at times. Still, when I look at Jesus, my heart is so full of the desire to be like Him, I can barely stand it.

If I allow difficult people to control my behavior, I am giving them the power to make me into their look-alikes. We all know people who have been so hurt and damaged by others that their personalities have actually changed in very negative ways. It may be that one of the people we know like this is the one we see in the mirror each morning. We blame the people who have hurt us, and claim that we have had no choice. We had to get tough, to get mean, to be protected.

Once when I was a small girl on the farm, I ran in a panic into our front porch to escape a bee that was chasing me. Unfortunately, the bee followed me into the porch and when I closed the door, I closed myself into the porch with the bee and it's very sharp stinger. In my effort to protect myself, I locked myself in with the enemy, and got stung for my efforts. When we adopt anger, hate and bitterness as our means of protection from the anger, hate and bitterness of others, we effectively lock ourselves in with the enemy. Instead of the occasional moment of pain when we come in contact with those who want to hurt us, we are plagued 24/7 by the pain that our own anger and bitterness inflict on our hearts. We become what we hate in order to avoid it. We are transformed in the image of our enemies.

We have a choice. In the Old Testament, the notion of discipleship was a life long endeavor to travel so closely with the Teacher that one eventually became just like him. Jesus offers us an advantage in our walk with Him. His Spirit, the great Counselor, Teacher, the Source of Wisdom, the Transformer, lives within us and supernaturally changes us into the image of God, loving, patient, kind, strong, hopeful, gentle,'s a process because it takes a while to convince us that God will take over protection duties if we lay down our weapons. We learn to trust Him as He shows Himself ever present, strong and able. Initially our instincts still drive us to anger and revenge. Once we realize how much power this gives those who want to hurt us, it becomes easier to let go.

Psalm 18 is a passionate cry to God for protection. It is also a powerful, frightening story of God's response. The image is of an enraged father, charging one who seeks to destroy his children. The question is not whether we will be protected. It is who will do the protecting. When we allow God to intervene and to fight for us, we can rest assured that we will be safe, and not just from our greatest enemy, which is the hatred within us.

My body may suffer. My mind may grow tired and confused. My feelings hurt. My spirit, though, grows deeper and deeper in God's love until hurts and persecution simply serve to increase my experience of God's grace and hope. Sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

It's my choice.

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