Me ‘n’ Mephibosheth

The last couple weeks around wordpress.com has given cause to some deep thought on my part.

I think. I have as long as I can remember. Maybe I come by it naturally, my parents are thinkers, there are thinking branches in my family tree – so yeah, I probably do.

I excelled as a critic as a young man. I could find the fault, the flaw, the reason to discredit faster than any of my peers. And then one day I realized that I could count all my friends on my fingers and have a couple left over. Fingers, I mean. My critical bent sent acquaintances scurrying and consistently pared down the number of people who considered themselves my friends. I remember standing in the cafeteria line in college, talking as we always did, when Tim said to me, “If you look up and I’m just gone all of a sudden, it’s because leaving is probably a better choice than hitting you.” And he did a time or two. I asked one of my profs if he had any suggestions for me. I was sick of repelling good people.

“Think critically, without being critical,” he told me, “do you understand the difference? Do you know what I mean when I say that? I did. My Master drew all men to Himself (John 12.32) but my critical spirit wasn’t helping things any. From that day forward I set out to think and reason, but not at the expense of another.

So when the topic came up, “Are we afraid of our own greatness?” here on wordpress, the most recent being Sharla’s thoughts (Oct 16) and reference to Alex’s post here on “raindrops of sunshine”, it presented an opportunity to think critically without being critical.

I know my own focus has turned away from my own potential in the last couple of years, but I want to be careful how I express myself. So I’ve been thinking between mile-markers on the expressway, at too-long stop-lights, and when my mind drifts away from the images on the TV screen across the room. “Why do I feel differently than I used to? I used to sing the inner-potential song loud ‘n long. What changed?”

‘Nuff thinking … I’ve boiled my thoughts down to a few.

In a sentence or two it’s this: I’m fully aware of the juxtaposed truths that as one who has accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and am living in the light of obedience, I have the full rights of an adult son before Almighty God. John 1.12 is true of me. So is Hebrews 10.18-25. But so is Romans 7, really, that ever-present awareness that I’m not man enough to live the life God expects of me. I need the promise of Romans 8.1 to breathe life into my hope day after day. I need Him to live the life through me that He would want to see. Colossians 3.1 – 17 needs to be mine in principle and in practice. Galatians 2.20 needs to be a living reality for me. God wants to live through me – the hard part is stepping aside and letting Him.

I guess when it comes right down to it, me ‘n’ Mephibosheth have a lot in common. Do you remember him? He’s not mentioned a lot in Scripture, primarily 2 Samuel ( 4:4, 9:6-13, 16.1-4, and 19:24-30. 21.7-8 too but it’s not as clear).

Mephibosheth received the blessings of being loved by King David because he was Jonathan’s son. It was because of whose child he was, not because of who he was. Me too. God loves me because of His son — not because I’m all that.

By rights Mephibosheth shouldn’t have eaten at the king’s table every day, but mercy and grace brought him in close and right up to the head table. Me either. Me too. (Thank you, m’ Lord)

He had trouble walking. Me too — spiritually. Sometimes cracks in the sidewalks get me too, but mostly spiritually.

The king sought him out. Romans 5.8 says I was sought-out too. Amazing.

Mephibosheth didn’t need to be afraid of his king. Me either. God shows me His kindness because He’s decided to.

My obedience increases the measure of His blessing, true, but He loved first. See 1 John 4.19.

So yes, I have full access to Almighty God, as an adult son, as a joint-heir with Christ, but it’s because of whose I am, not who I am. My alleged righteousness? Nasty. (Isaiah 64.6).

I have hope. I have confidence. I have promise, ambition, drive, dreams and plans. But they’re not mine. Mine are puny and get me in trouble every time I take my eyes off my Savior, Redeemer and Friend. But His? Ephesians 3.20-21 says “Look-out! You can’t even imagine!” He’s able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope, and He (God) is the one we’ll give our honor to when He amazes us all.

Me ‘n’ Mephibosheth — we have a lot in common.

—PLR—


7 Replies to “Me ‘n’ Mephibosheth”

  1. Michelle

    I’d like to hear more about your being critical. I’m quite critical myself. I’ve never had anyone really point that out to me so maybe I hide it well? I do know that I can detect what’s wrong a whole lot quicker than what’s right. I’m at the doctor’s office and notice that the wallpaper is not perfectly lined up. One by one I pick out the flaws of people I know, things they do, etc.

    I’m quite critical of myself too. I know each and every imperfection, inside and out. Well, not all, but I’m always looking for the ones I don’t see yet!

    Anyway, would love to hear more on your “deep thought”. I sometimes feel that my critical eye blinds me to the better parts of what I’m seeing, and that surely can’t be right.

  2. Phil

    Hi Michelle,
    (thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment)

    What things are you wondering about? Anything specific? Let me know, I’ll respond. Hopefully you can tell by the other things here, I always endeavor to be helpful and thoughtful, even if the concepts are challenging.

    One thing that came to mind recently as I was thinking about your words, is this.
    I’ve found that when I think about excellence instead of perfection, it’s easier not to be quite so critical. I still notice imperfections, etc. but it helps when I “pan back” in a way and look at the whole… “By and large, this is really excellent” or “pretty good” or “not too bad”.

    It helps to adjust my expectations depending on the situation. I don’t expect the same level of service from Taco Bell as I do from a sit down restaurant with cloth napkins. I don’t expect the same level of excellence from elementary school musicals as I do from university musicians. Lots of variety in the world!

    Another is to remind myself what things are within the realm of my control and which are not. To get worked up about things outside the spere of my influence or responsibility is a total waste of good energy! 😀

    Anything specific you’re wondering about? … don’t be shy~

    Phil —

  3. Michelle

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    No, nothing specific, and I’m with you on the “panning out” and “adjusting expectations” and “realm of control” and all. It’s not every day I see someone critically assessing themselves and changing as needed, so I wanted to probe deeper and see how far you’ve gotten in your thoughts.

    Say I meet a new person and get to know them a little bit. I’ll size them up (biblically) and make a mental note of every area they fall short. AFTER that I will make a note of any positives. It seems like it should be the other way around as a Christian, don’t you think?

    I am careful to acknowledge and remove the plank in my own eye before I go pointing out anyone else’s, and I’m careful to take into consideration the whole picture, but in my mind I just feel that I’m too critical, or at least critical first when I should see what’s right first. Does that make sense?

    Here’s another example. Say I come to your house for dinner. While I’m eating I will silently critique your cooking skills. Too much salt, not enough cheese, pastry was handled too long… Get the picture? I’ll pick out all the things that were not quite right BEFORE I acknowledge the things that were just perfect. I do that with my own cooking too but it gets in the way of me enjoying the meal and appreciating the fact that you invited me over for dinner.

    That just doesn’t seem right to me.

    I’ve got the outward part down pat. I’ll be sure to tell you that this or that is really good and wow, you put alot of effort into the whatever, and thank you, and I’ll truly mean it. However, inside I’m thinking, “this wasn’t done right and that’s not right and neither is this.” See what I mean? And I do appreciate the whole thing, even more so AFTER I go home and think it over. If my heart was right then it seems that the good things and right things would jump right out at me FIRST, not last.

    Any thoughts on this?

    I’m pretty critical with myself too. I see the good and right in myself too, and in the things I do also, but I see the flaws first and foremost. It just seems that it should be the other way around. What do you think Phil?

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts,

    Michelle

    p.s. I think alot too. Not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse. Depends on the day!

  4. Phil

    Good thoughts, Michelle,
    I’ll collect mine now and reply soon.

    Thinking is never a curse. Unless you forget you’re driving and plow into something :-Þ

    Phil—

  5. Phil

    Caution: Slow-moving thoughts ahead 😀

    Michelle, when it comes to noticing positives before critical thoughts as a norm, I say “Nice idea, pretty idealistic, but I wouldn’t expect it if I were you.” I think it’s more important that your thoughts be balanced than all the positive cut to the head of the line. A day or an hour might look like this : + – + – – +++ – + More positive than negative, but balanced. It seems to me what you do with the negative/critical thoughts is more important than the order in which they arrive.

    Glad to read you’ve got the reins when it comes to what you actually say. I had to memorize Proverbs 21.23 and keep it where I read it often to get over that one. Who-so keepeth his mouth and tongue keepth his soul from trouble. I memorized it in the KJV; it’s what I still remember. Don’t say it, Phil, you’ll regret it later!

    I think one of your key statements is where you say … it gets in the way of me enjoying.. and appreciating… Like a scratch on a CD, this is irritating you.

    But… irritation is frequently the reason to stop and do something about it, and it sounds like that’s where you are. These thoughts may help you turn the corner. I hope so.

    Do you know the phrase in the hymn Come Thou Fount … “Tune my heart to sing thy grace?” It sounds to me like you want to become more gracious in your way with people and the way you look at the world around you. Guitarists sometimes joke “I tune better than I play.” 😉 It’s because those six strings need to be in tune for the things they play to sound right. Don’t be too hard on yourself, but like a good guitarist be willing (even eager) to tune between meetings. Daily for sure. Maybe as you go – right in mid-conversation.

    One possible solution for seeing the flaws first and foremost as you do right now would be to ask God to change a couple things about the way you think.

    * Try this concept on for size. It comes early in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED.” (emphasis mine) I love the way that old translation puts it. “My acceptance – is in Christ? Absolutely. That should help me accept the person across the room then, shouldn’t it ? I really shouldn’t be thinking harshly “just because”. Lord, help me see these people, this situation through Your eyes.”

    * What if you asked God to create a grateful attitude in you from way-down-deep? It could be an awesome, intensely personal act of worship on your part, something your Savior would love to receive from you. The world around us is anything but grateful, so it’s natural for us to take on an outlook that’s less than He desires. Read slowly and thoughtfully through Romans 12.1-2. Do you think the Lord would like to receive a willing heart from you? One willing to let Him transform a thought pattern that’s ready to be transformed from “tends to be critical” into one that’s “gracious and grateful.” ? Me too. There could be scores of little prayers in your future that begin “Lord, thanks for ….” Eventually your mind will look for those instead of the little flaws and irritations that abound.

    * annnd (just one more) Don’t expect perfection. You’ll never see it this side of Heaven. Progress? You bet. Paul said we’re changed from glory to glory… (2 Cor. 3.18) One translation says “ever-increasing glory” like Him. So 2007 should look better than 2006, December better than November.

    God started something here, Michelle, he pointed something out and you’re paying attention. Well-done! He’s got to be pleased that you’ve noticed!

    Keep asking Him to do it (He has a MUCH better success rate than we do!)

    “I’m confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1.6)

    Well, that was kinda long – hope it helps some, what thoughts does all that bring to mind?

    Phil—

  6. Michelle

    I do have a thought, and it’s a big one. 😀
    You’re a musician and talked about tuning strings, and that gave me a thought.
    (I’m no musician but pretend I am for just a little while.)
    I can imagine perfect music. I’ve never heard it in real life but I can hear it in my head. Every fiber of my being wants to hear this perfect music with my own two ears. I eat, drink, sleep, and breathe this desire to not only hear this perfect music, but to also one day play along and be a part of it.
    I don’t want to ruin the sound of this perfect music with my own imperfect playing though, so I strive for perfection. I started out with an instrument that was pretty much trashed. I cleaned it up and repaired it and played and practiced with all my heart. Any time I had money I would go and buy the best quality instrument I could afford. As soon as I was able I would again trade that one in for an even better quality instrument.
    The sound of perfect music filled my head day and night and consumed my thoughts. I would play my instrument and note every flaw and work hard to correct it. Perhaps it was the instrument itself. Perhaps it was my lack of skill. Either way, I would do everything within my power to improve. I’d practice and practice and practice.
    I sought out other musicians, wondering if they had ever heard this perfect music in their head. “Well of course we have!” they said, and we sat and talked about it and my heart felt like it was on fire! Wow, other people can hear the perfect music too! Then I’d ask if they would like to practice with me and some did. Others had this, that, or the other thing to do, but some agreed to practice with me.
    We’d practice playing our instruments and some of it sounded really good, and some of it didn’t. And then they would all say, “Hey! Let’s go do this, that, and the other thing!”. But I pointed out to them, “We’ve only been practicing for 10 minutes. Don’t you want to play some more?” They were already putting their instruments away though and told me, “C’mon! We can practice again next week!”
    I looked for instructors who could teach me how to be a better musician. I searched far and wide. I offered them anything I had except my instrument, if only they would help me be a better musician. Some of them tried to take my instrument away! Some of them watched the clock during the whole lesson and couldn’t be persuaded to stay a few extra minutes, even when I offered them cookies I had made from scratch. Some of them only let me get a few notes out before they would open up their case and toot their own horn – off key – and tell me how I needed to practice and be more like them.
    I was walking through the park one day and I was almost certain that I could hear that perfect music. When I looked around though, I only saw little children running and playing. I heard the wind blow through the trees and it carried their laughter high up along with it. It was a beautiful sound, so I began to go to that park quite often and sit down under a tree there and listen, and practice. A few of the children would come and sit down next to me and I would let them try making music with my instrument. We also plucked blades of grass and cupped them in our hands just so, and blew until we had our own little orchestra going! I told them about the perfect music I could hear in my head too. They would laugh and blow on their blades of grass and sometimes the birds would even sing along with us.
    I still hear that perfect music in my head and I still practice all the time. I hope to someday be a good enough musician so that I can be a part of that perfect music. I still look for people I can learn from and I still look for others that I can practice with. I’ve heard many people play, though I have yet to hear with my own two ears that perfect music that I long for. (I don’t expect to in this lifetime.) Some of what I’ve heard from other people sounds nice and some of it doesn’t, but I’ll never forget sitting under that tree with those children who played their hearts out by blowing on those blades of grass.
    I think those children played a bit off tune but they were happy to practice with me for as long as I wanted, and they always asked when we could play again. They could hear that perfect music even better than me I think.
    That’s what I’m looking for. Not perfection from people, but people who can almost hear the perfect music. People who ache to be a part of it. People who would sit under a tree with me and blow on blades of grass forever, practicing with all their heart and soul so that maybe someday they can hear with their own two ears, and maybe even play a part in producing that divinely perfect melody.
    Even the sweetest sounds are drowned out when the player obviously doesn’t play their instrument often and obviously doesn’t care. I am critical, but not so much because the sound is off-key. It’s because people don’t care. They can’t hear the music and they don’t want to. Even if they did hear it, they wouldn’t want to really practice. They pick up their instrument now and then when it suits their purpose, and then they put it back in its case to collect dust. They do this with everything, never striving to improve, only playing their instruments in life enough to get them by and that’s all.
    So now, the moment I hear someone say, “Listen to me play!” – I tend to cover my ears because it’s so much noise and I don’t want to hear it. Unfortunately, I have my ears covered and miss hearing the sweet sounds of music. How sad is that? How do you hear the beauty first, over the noises a person makes? How can you notice the sweet sounds first, over the clanging of an instrument carelessly tossed into the corner until next time? And how do you acknowledge your own pretty tunes first, over your noises, when you never have a partner in practice who says, “Hey, that sounded pretty good!”
    I do hear the pretty notes, from others and myself, but only after that perfect music starts playing in my head to drown out the noise. It sure would be nice to find those kids and sit under the tree and blow on blades of grass for a while. It would do my heart good. Know what I mean?
    [ This story was brought to you by a tired mind that is done thinking for the day and is going to get some sleep. No musicians were harmed in the making of this story. 😀 ]

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