Nothing! Your first response should not be to leap into action–whether that be in defense of yourself or an offensive means of making changes that will better align yourself with the expectations of the person who is critiquing you. All critiques, to be properly handled, should be patiently evaluated and discerningly digested. These things spell time, which most of us don’t want to give to personal criticisms, but we must not neglect these measures or we will miss the blessing that is it be slowly squeezed out of them.
In most cases of solicited or unsolicited evaluation, someone will bring a criticism with at least a vague idea of what direction you should go in implementing the necessary changes to your problem. But just because someone has an idea of what you should do with their observations and advice, this does not mean the matter is settled. You, the hearer–as well as the one implicated by the information given–have the responsibility to exercise wisdom in weighing the judgment and executing a sound response. Even when someone goes to great lengths to exercise wisdom in what they present to us and how they choose to present it, this does not negate our own need to exercise wisdom in receiving it.
When we make it our goal to not receive the comments others have for us emotionally, we save ourselves from “feeling errors.” We are choosing to not be super-sensitive concerning ourselves so that we may be objective concerning the words and ideas before us. We recognize that the matter is not so much about us. We will not handle admonitions well if we do.
Because of Christ and the covering His blood gives us, we do not have to protect our honor by never messing up, nor do we have to try to avoid being confronted with our mess-ups. Instead, we turn our hearts from their occupation with our honor in order to focus on a higher honor: God’s honor in Christ. We acknowledge that we have messed up. We admit that without Christ we could not stand because of our sin, but with Christ, we stand because of His righteousness that covers us and is at work within us.
This righteousness from Christ does not become our excuse for personal unrighteousness, but rather our only power to confess it and reach out for change. It is our truth for living to Christ and also for dying to self. It allows love to bloom for Christ amidst our guilt, and even enables us to love the one who points out our offense. There is no reason why love cannot rule here: God is at work in the middle of every mistake and He commands every conveyance of correction. When our lives are yielded to Him, we become more distinguished by God’s love. It triumphs in the place of all our weakness. The cross’ shadow is big enough to engulf us in salvation as well as everyday occasions of being straightened out.
I tried using my iPod today, and couldn’t get anything out of it. It wouldn’t work — not even the screen would come on. Now, this has happened to me before, so I knew what to do. It’s not that it no longer operates — its just that the last time I used it I wore down all the battery power without realizing it. The simple solution — which I’m employing now — is to plug it into its power source and leave it alone (let it be still) until it is restored to its original grade of usefulness.
This is also the case for our spirits. They are our life-batteries that must be regularly powered up and kept in good working order. If you looked at your spirit at this moment, would you be able to discern whether your God-capacity — otherwise known as being spiritually on-charge — is full, low or essentially empty?
If you are like me, you may have no idea because you have been so busy and you have learned to rely on other things instead. My low-battery consciousness was dull regarding my iPod because I have gotten used to relying on the music and video streaming capabilities of other things. This worked fine for a while, that is, until the day that I needed it again. I wanted to check my contacts for a friend’s number, and had to wait till it was sufficiently charged. In this case the wait was too long.
One day, you may find yourself in that place. Your personal charge is insufficient, and there isn’t time to bring it up to serve you for the case that it is needed. Either you will face the end of your life here and have no life of your own with which to claim access to heaven, or you will face tragedy that doesn’t wait until you are firmly established in what you believe before it shakes you to your core.
I pray that when each of these days comes for you — as they surely will — that you will not be empty and ashamed. I would hope that you would be strong and healthy on the inside for whatever you face on the outside. Surely the time you have before you has been given that you might learn to diligently charge up and maintain this spirit which is your only access to Life and Love.
Growing in God takes work. Work that comes with the richest of rewards. Yet sometimes we feel like the rewards aren’t worth the work. We see it as an extra expense of time, energy, and commitment. We don’t want to invite anything else into our lives other than what we already have overwhelming us. Focusing on spiritual growth seems to promise the pressure that finally sinks us.
We want a break from all these things that steal our precious emotional, mental and physical resources. We already have a lot going on; who needs more, right?
I know. I’ve been there. And, yet, I’ve since been beyond there too. I have seen God answer prayers for Him to put the life of my spirit on the front burner, while He also made sure that everything else that was simmering in my life wouldn’t boil over and burn me.
Well, contrary to my expectations when I first surrendered my stove top to God, He has been able to do so much more than keep everything going — He has taken care of me and made my greatest needs priority over all the little things I was always harried by trying to keep right. As I relied on Him, He enabled my spirit to grow. As I watched His strength and love on display for me each day, I learned what a joy dependence is when it is known in Him.
An understanding of how life was meant to be lived has come out of this. Every day I learn what it means to live secondary to God, dependent upon Him for everything that I need. I don’t have to rush ahead and make sure I have lined up everything I need for tomorrow. I can rest. I work on what He gives me today, and let Him do all the planning for my tomorrows. After all, tell me who is already there?