The Pharisee Mentality

I have noticed a beautiful change in my spiritual life lately. Just when I stopped striving too hard to perfect my ways before the Lord and acted instead as His child who is loved, cherished, and a constant recipient of His grace and mercy, that was the time I began to feel and really enjoy His love. For years I had worked very hard to deserve His favor, perfecting my ways all day and night even when I felt my mind and body were burning out and my heart was shrinking.

I had been that hard to my sick and suffering self, willing it to do more for the Lord in each and every day perchance He would took pity on me and He would completely heal me at last. Looking back, I realize it now that those years, though replete with tough and precious lessons, were also the ones that were almost devoid of joy, rest, and a nurtured feeling. As I drove myself hard to win God’s favor, I felt I was becoming more bitter and certainly didn’t know how to rest in God’s love.

I would force myself to read chapters of the Bible even between my morning and evening devotions. I’d praise in my mind unceasingly as I rested. I taught the Bible to my children nightly even when I was dizzy and not breathing comfortably. I learned to sing new songs during my idle time. I didn’t socialize via Internet (and since I couldn’t go out, I had zero social life). I only read the Bible or Christian devotional books. I didn’t watch movies or TV. I never learned computer games. I only approved of Scrabble as a game for the whole family. My days were shaped by a great, cowering fear of God and desperate striving for perfection. Because of all these, when I still suffered despite of all that, I questioned God bitterly in my heart. I couldn’t feel His rest, love, and nurturing. There was only striving. I entertained hurts, resentments, and self-pity in my heart. My posture was of one who questioned, or had the right to question. I had these silent thoughts:

Why does God continue to bless him/her though I haven’t seen his/her perfect ways?

Why is he/she healthy, peaceful, happy though I haven’t seen him/her do diligently what I do for God?

I’ve praised, prayed, read the Bible, obeyed Jesus’ teachings, and yet, I’m still sick and suffering.

Yes, I could only see my attempts at perfection, what I did, but only became bitter because of them. Maybe, unknowingly, I had stood before God silently displaying my works and had not known how to rest in His love and receive His grace. Even when I hadn’t been perfect before Him. Especially when I hadn’t been perfect before Him.

This had made me like the Pharisee in Luke 18:10-14:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

When I finally let go of perfectionism and my strivings {I didn’t force myself to sing when I couldn’t; I didn’t force myself to read chapters of the Bible when it was hard to breathe; I slept instead of doing one more spiritual thing because it was what my sick body needed; I socialized on FB and it made me happy and I didn’t feel guilty about it; I read good, clean Christian novels; I watched good, clean Hallmark movies or Dove-approved movies (I also watched novel-made-intomovies like Catherine Cookson’s, though I felt miserable with them); I didn’t terrorize myself in my mind when I failed or committed a mistake} – it was then that I truly felt God’s love working in my life. That I can rest in it. When I loosened myself of the grip of perfectionism and allowed some ‘clean, fun living’ with all the shortcomings, mistakes, and failures that came with it – God’s grace and mercy in my life became more palpable.

When I allowed myself to be just His child with the mistakes that a child makes, my praise and worship of Him became deeper and more soul-felt because then I knew that I was under grace and in need of His mercy. 

Why can’t we be more like little children before God – humble and obedient but fun-knowing, imperfect but loving and devoted to Him?

“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat. 18:3)

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Teaching Kids to Forgive

On Tuesday morning, the two cousins finally met. Tim came near to 4-year old Janica and said, “Hi Janica!” And hugged her happily. It’s my niece Janica’s first time to visit the Philippines with her parents, and Hannah and Tim had been excitedly waiting for their arrival. Tim and Janica instantly hit it off and became friends. Or so we thought. After a few hours of playing, they were already quarrelling. It had something to do with the rules of a board game they were playing. Janica was at once on the offensive. Clutching Hannah’s hand, she said in a slightly angry voice, “He’s a bad boy! Let’s play upstairs but we’ll not include that boy!”

(image source)

My older sister (not Janica’s Mom) and I looked at each other, surprised, as Tim snuggled close to me, shocked and hurt. My sister and I understood that the two kids have different cultural backgrounds and maybe, Janica is used to communicating with kids in school that way. Tim started to cry silently but he was also mad. All three of us (my sister, Hannah, and me) tried to reconcile the two. We were able to convince Janica that Tim was not bad and she needed to say sorry. And she did. Slowly, she approached Tim and hugged him. But Tim remained hostile. Twice, Janica approached him to reconcile, but Tim had made up his mind. He was angry and sulky.

After everyone left for the Duty Free shop, I talked to Tim. I felt there was an urgency that the two young cousins must patch up and become good friends. Janica’s vacation is just very short. I tried again to convince him to accept Janica’s apology. But he answered angrily, “She said I’m a bad boy. She’s not my friend and she can go back to the states!” Huh?

“Tim, you know Lord Jesus, right? That He is Lord and King and He lives in heaven but came down to earth because He loved the people? The people were not doing good. So, dearest Jesus came to save them so that they would not all go to hell. Because He loved them so much. He loves us so much. Jesus was good to them but they crucified Him. They wanted Him to die. They said bad words to Him that hurt Him. But do you know what He did?”

Tim was silently listening.

“He forgave them! He did not get angry at  them. Even if they hurt Him, He still forgave them. And He wants that we must also forgive those who hurt us. Janica hurt you but she was sorry. You must forgive her and become friends again.” Still, he refused.

“If you will not forgive her, the Lord will not forgive you. He will not listen to your prayers and will not give you what you’re asking for. It’s in the Bible. Do you want us to read it?”

“Yes.”

I opened my virtual Bible to Matthew 6:14-15:

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

He read it, twice.

“What are sins, Mommy?”

“Sins are the bad things people do, like saying words that hurt. Would you like us to pray so that dearest Jesus will teach Tim to forgive?” He nodded. So we prayed and Tim promised that he would hug Janica when he arrived from school and tell her he loved her and that they were friends.

When Tim arrived from school in the afternoon, Janica ran to him and said, “I’m sorry I got mad at you!” They hugged. They played all afternoon until night.

If only we adults had the same humility like a child’s, maybe then there’d be lesser conflicts in the world and more reconciliations, don’t you think so? :)

“…Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Mat. 18:3-4)

If you have been blessed by your visit here, please like Our Healing Moments on Facebook and connect with me there. Thank you!

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,