Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Journey Heavenward is all Uphill - Chapter V

"Oh, I am so glad I was born into this beautiful world, where there will always be dear little children to love!"

 Katy is taking her first baby steps on this strange and delightful journey heavenward.  She knows she has a Father who loves her, no matter how foolish she may be.  And now she is beginning to taste the joys of serving others.  What was at first a frightening prospect, teaching children when she knew herself to be deficient, has become a bracing challenge.

"Now that I have these twelve little ones to instruct, I am more than ever in earnest about setting them a good example through the week.  It is true they do not, most of them, know how I spend my time nor how I act.  But I know; and whenever I am conscious of not practicing what I preach, I am bitterly ashamed and grieved."

I can certainly relate, here.  There is nothing more sobering than to realize that one is teaching by example, 24/7.  Actions most certainly speak louder than words.  I can sanctimoniously lecture about being kind and gentle and not yelling at one's siblings one moment, and the next be screaming myself at an unlucky offender.  These things ought not to be, but praise God for putting us in these situations where our natural weakness is brought to the surface and we realize just how much we need our Savior!

Katy laments that she had not begun to earnestly serve God as a young child, or else she would not be entangled in so many detrimental habits.  I understand the sentiment here, but I think she is misguided.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  There is a sense that if only she tried harder and earlier, she would be more perfect.  But in God's sovereign will, this was not the case.  His plan cannot be improved upon.  He works on each of us in His time and in His way.  We all have much to lament in our B.C era (Before Christ) but the way forward is not by continuously looking back.

"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14

Katy still has niggling doubts and fears that she is not completely accepted.  She is laboring to please God under her own power and soon burns out.  Anyone would and eventually everyone does.

She soon gets caught up in a whirl of gaiety with exciting and fashionable friends.  She is caught betwixt and between what could be innocent amusements and what are distracting hindrances to her walk with Christ.

"All my pleasures are innocent ones; there is surely no harm in going to concerts, driving out, singing, and making little visits!  But these things distract me; they absorb me; they make religious duties irksome.  I almost wish I could shut myself up in a cell and so get out of the reach of temptation.
The truth is, the journey heavenward is all uphill.  I have to force myself to keep on.  The wonder is that anybody gets there with so much to oppose - so little to help anybody!"  

Poor Katy is weary and heavy laden with this work of changing herself.  She reminds me of myself.  Impetuous, fervent, earnest, but inconstant, easily distracted and - well, let's face it, - a show off.

What?  The girl that writes all her innermost thoughts and publishes them for the world to read, a show off?  Inconceivable!

Yes, alas and alack.  I was the one dancing in front of the camera in all of our home videos.  I was the first to speak, the first to volunteer, the first in line.  Singing, believe it or not has been a secret source of struggle to me.  Every now and then (and I mean ever so little) someone will compliment me on my singing.  For the next six weeks, my worship is ruined.  I'm torn between wondering if I'm on key and if everyone can hear and tormented because I am quite sure this is not what Jesus would have me thinking of when I'm supposed to be singing about Him!

Oh wretched man that I am!

C.S. Lewis provided me with a simple concept that has revolutionized the way I think about pride and accomplishment.

"True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less."

Wise.  Profound.  Absolutely true.
Katy is ready to give up singing altogether if it will help her overcome her love of display.  Dr. Cabot wisely redirects her.  God has given her a talent that can bless many people.  There is no need to hide it under a basket of false modesty.  True humility is so focused on others, that performance value never enters one's head.

What talent has God given you?  Have you ever struggled with secret pride?  What about shyness?  Does fear of what others might be thinking of you keep you from being all that God has called you to be?  Shyness can be pride in another form.  Both bashfulness and brazen boldness are self centered sides to the same coin.  Both are forms of focusing on one's self.  The cure?  Look to bless others.  Seek to enjoy God.  If you have a voice, sing with all your might!  If have a story, take up your pen and write.  Go say hello to the new girl.  Take a Sunday School class.  Visit someone in the hospital.  As you focus on others, your own concerns will fade into the background.

Katy kicks off her twenties by going visiting with her mother.  Her eyes are suddenly opened to the sheltered existence she has been living in.  She is surprised by the joy that overtakes her in the midst of such privation and suffering.  

She is well on her way heavenward.  There is no going back, now.