We looked first at the lessons that Naomi, a widow, and Ruth, a barren woman, teach the church--men and women, young and old, Bethlehem and Central Florida. I loved this part of James's book and it reinforces our study of the hard things God calls EVERY woman to do. The universality of these concepts comes back again and again.
Naomi and Ruth offer a few lessons for us as they lived with, even tolerated, difficult circumstances.
- We never have all the answers and nothing balances out right.
- God meets us in our pain. (I loved this quote from John Wolterstorff after the death of his son: "I shall look at the world through tears. Perhaps I shall see things that dry-eyed I could not see.")
- We understand our impotence and our inability to do anything without God.
- We share in His sufferings and thus are able to reflect His image.
- We are changed by through prayer in our sufferings. Rarely do our circumstances just, poof, change!
As we moved into our discussion about tolerance of people, it was amazing (a total God-thing) how much of what else we've been reading or listening to intersected. The sermon on Sunday on self-righteousness. An excerpt from Blue Like Jazz about the need to ask God for His love for others--moving beyond tolerance to love. Our self-focus and selfish motivation. The concept that our tolerace is based on what motivates you was a concept that stuck out to me. All coming back to grace--our need for it, our call to extend it to others. Grace changes how we see ourselves and others.
I liked the authors analogy of lactose intolerance and our sin. What would our lives look like if we truly tried to reject sin and be unable to digest it? If we hated sin as much as our holy God does? If we didn't "put up with it" and "accept" it, to use some of our definitions of tolerance. What do we simply tolerate in our lives that we really need to look at with God's perspective? Should I be tolerating this?
We observed that the four areas the author mentions, areas of sin that tend to slip by unnoticed, have connections. We are self-focused with a healthy dose of self-pity and that can often lead to fear and tolerance of the status quo resulting in mediocrity. Our tongues, whether through gossiping, complaining, or criticizing, tear others down and whine about our situations. So much trouble in that one little tongue. "Your tongue, when unregulated, is a natural disaster" (52).
For me, the section with the most impact was on being intolerant of mediocrity. I can so easily play it safe, be content with the status quo in my faith, my marriage, my parenting, my witness. I don't want to rock the boat and I'm certainly not about to get out of the boat. But being tolerant of mediocrity can stifle us. God has so much more for us in store.
In our class on parenting a few months ago, Carl Smith left us with an observation that has chilled me. He said (as best I can remember), "I have never seen a deeply committed, sold-out Christian kid come from nominal Christian parents." Nominal. I don't want my kids to be nominal Christians. But that means I can't be nominal either.