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Posts Tagged ‘stubbornness’

Photo of Graced with Light art installation by Anne Patterson

Photo of Graced with Light art installation by Anne Patterson

It’s a big deal, the blood of Jesus. The shedding of this particular “lamb’s blood” became the ultimate conciliation of humankind to God.

We had blown it again and again. Symbolically, through the Old Testament stories, one failure after another, whether it was Adam & Eve, or the generation of Noah, or the forty years wandering in the desert. People continued to kick against the ways of God, the very path laid out for them through the Law. But we humans could not follow without failure, missteps, selfish choices, and lies. We had a lousy track record.

So overflowing is his kindness toward us that he took away all our sins through the blood of his Son, by whom we are saved; and he has showered down upon us the richness of his grace—for how well he understands us and knows what is best for us at all times. [Ephesians 1:7-8, Living Bible]

God sent many human prophets to warn the people. And for a season, they would straighten up and fly right, but within a generation or two, we took the stubborn road. God changed his tactics: he went for an inside/out method since the outside/in method did not work.

Change the heart and the actions and righteous behaviors would follow; renew the inner man/woman and they might willingly surrender to God’s way. For this reason, I suppose, we were all offered grace abundantly. Jesus was grace. Jesus is grace personified. Grace is our salvation.

How can I be anything but grateful for this covering? Oh yes, I am grateful for grace.

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stubborn muleWhy did God choose plagues? In Exodus chapters 7-10, we read about liquid plagues, hopping plagues, flying plagues, buzzing plagues, animal dying plagues, skin plagues, weather plagues, lighting plagues, and finally, the straw that broke the Pharaoh’s back, people dying plagues.

But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it. [Exodus 7:3-5]

A cursory look at some commentaries indicates that many of the ten plagues appear to correspond with a particular “god” the Egyptians worshiped and in this way, Yahweh was demonstrating superiority over these gods. And certainly, if these miraculous plagues were intended to make a point, an indelible memory, they certainly did that. Although we may not remember all of the types of plagues or how many there were, most people have visceral reaction to one or more of the manifestations. (I’m glad he didn’t choose rats or spiders as I would be forever frozen at the thought of a teeming swarm of either. I barely recovered from the story of the Pied Piper as a child.)

But perhaps the most important aspect of these plagues to point out is that the plagues were explicitly devised to change the mind of Pharaoh and extract repentance. In this case, it took ten times.

How many times does God act to change me, to draw my attention to poor and selfish thinking, inappropriate behaviors, or simply, to sin? Am I equally stubborn?

In Pharaoh’s case, the letting go of the Israelites would alter Egypt’s way of life dramatically because slaves were cheap labor and there was plenty of it, in essence, the bedrock of that economy. He wasn’t just resisting God’s will, he was resisting change.

I just want to pay attention, that’s all. I don’t want to be a hard heart.

Plus, a hard heart can have collateral damage. In Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, during the course of the two families bickering and fighting, it is Mercutio who is mortally wounded:

No, ’tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a
church-door; but ’tis enough,’twill serve: ask for
me to-morrow, and you shall find me a grave man. I
am peppered, I warrant, for this world. A plague o’
both your houses! ‘Zounds, a dog, a rat, a mouse, a
cat, to scratch a man to death! a braggart, a
rogue, a villain, that fights by the book of
arithmetic! Why the devil came you between us? I
was hurt under your arm.  [Mercutio, Act 3, Scene 1]

Such family quarrels continue in our modern world and who suffers? Stubbornness has no victor.

In Shakespeare’s tale, many more die, but in particular, both Romeo and Juliet lose their lives, choosing out of misplaced loyalty, somehow taught by their feuding families. In Pharaoh’s time, he lost his firstborn son, before he let go. But even that, was not the end of his stubborn, single-minded story.

God works in mysterious ways to bend the earth and its peoples to God’s will. For the best. And unfortunately, it appears we, as a human race, are feeling some of those plagues today. How many more tragedies and how many more deaths will we endure before we respond humanely to one another? Or will we continue to blame one another because of the color of our skin or history of our faiths or the geography of our land?

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Joseph was pretty clear on what to do about the “Mary problem.” Basically a nice guy (apparently), he would divorce her quietly and she could deal with the fall-out on her own. After all, it really wasn’t his mess. But God had another plan. So, how does God get through to us after we have already made up our minds?

Matthew 1:19
Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

I would like to say that I have a list of experiences where I wanted to go one way and God wanted me to go the other way and I had a convenient dream (that I remembered) and then realized, “Oh, God is speaking,” so I changed my mind. There’s a laugh.

I am stubborn and bull headed. Once I decide (and I mean really decide) to do something, it’s like pushing a boulder up a hill to get me to change. In some cases, that persistence has been a good thing. The adoption of our daughter was a two-hear slog and only our dogged faith got us through. We had plenty of people try to change our minds. After all, everything was going wrong. So, in this case, we believed God was actually in the midst of it all.

But, I know, there are many more pigheaded decisions I have made that kept the angels busy trying to break through my iron resistance. Or maybe it wasn’t even those stubborn things but the impulsive ones that caused the most complications and mistakes. I’d get something in my mind: sell the old house and get a new (debt, debt, debt); buy a new car; send the boys to private school; go on a long vacations; accept another pet (and another and another and another); or simply say something hurtful. . . because it seemed right in the moment.

Looking back, I’m sure there was a lot of wing flapping and microphone testing (“Can you hear me now?”).

So, what is the point? My decisions (or mind gripped ideas) should be given time and space to hear from God. The Holy Spirit is wondrously creative and can help work out a lot of dicey situations.

At least I didn’t purchase one of those time shares in Timbuktu.

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