In my post 12/31/2009 "Blog More", I wrote ... "And sometimes, if we have not placed a marker on the road, when we get to the place we realize that something significant has just taken place, we don't quite know what random thought, chance meeting, or slight adjustment of course it was that though seemingly insignificant at the time, led us to this significant place." And so today, I want to start a series of posts to set down some markers. The first is a road marker that says ... "No Longer".
This past summer while I was meditating on scriptures with some friends, my attention was drawn to the words, "no longer" in this portion of scripture from Romans (14:13). "Therefore let us no longer criticize one another, but instead decide not to put a stumbling block, or a pitfall in your brother's way."
These words "no longer" grasped a hold of me. My friend encouraged us to explore the emotions attached to the words we were holding before the Lord. I can say that it was a strong sense of anxiety over my inability to do "no longer", cold turkey, full stop, never again.
Additionally, it was to "no longer criticize". I remember a day several years ago when a close friend told me that I was the most critical person he knew. That took me for a loop, 'cause I just couldn't see it at the time. Now I do. I feel like I came a long way from those days, however, there are people I perpetually criticize quietly in my heart. It often was displayed in my attitude and actions. And to receive such a strong word was arresting to my soul.
As I further meditated the Lord began to prompt me to pray for those I tended to criticize. He prompted me with loving things to do for them. He gave me creative prayers to pray and encouraged me to believe in the possibilities of change (for me!). It became easier to imagine "no longer", when I substituted criticism with appreciation, and judgement with humility. Through love the rest of the verse flows naturally, "but instead decide not to put a stumbling block, or a pitfall in your brother's way."
As I have walked this road aware of this marker. it has revealed just how deep criticism is within my soul. Although I have learned to be silent, my heart still speaks an implicit criticism. A voice within speaks up to correct and then judge without even trying. It judges not only the person's statements, but his actions. And not only his actions, but often his motives. It insidiously works against God's command to love our neighbor and to love our enemies.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Cor 13:4-6