Friday, April 22, 2011

The End of a Matter...

When I first began to follow the Lord, I took as my "life verse" Psalm 69:6

May those who hope in you
   not be disgraced because of me,
   O Lord, the LORD Almighty;
may those who seek you
   not be put to shame because of me,
   O God of Israel.

For eighteen years, I tried to live by these words; I tried to be the best Christian I knew how to be.  A few years ago, though, God knocked me down a few flights of steps (spiritually speaking) and I began to see the audacity of my goal.  At that time, He also gave me a new "life verse," one of His choosing rather than mine: Ecclesiastes 7:8

The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
    a patient spirit is better than a proud spirit.

I confess, until that moment I had never thought of "patience" as the opposite of "pride," but the more I considered it, the more I began to see the truth of the relationship between impatience and pride.  The patient spirit acknowledges God's timing in everything; the proud spirit knows what it wants and wants it NOW.  I've always known that I struggle with pride; I've always known that I struggle with impatience; but until I took this verse to heart, I never realized that the two were actually the same thing.

For a few months now, I've been wrestling with impatience.  Wrestling?  Well, that may be putting it too mildly.  I'm more giving in to it than wrestling with it.  I'm positively sick with it.  I've been waiting SO LONG now, you see.  It's time.  Why can't God see that?

"The end of a matter is better than its beginning."  Amen!  I just want to get to the end.  Now.  NOW.  The beginning has been dragging on too long.

That word -- "too" -- causes me a lot of trouble.  It is definitely a proud word, an impatient word, a judgmental word, a covetous word.  "Too."  Think about it.

That is taking TOO long.
You are spending TOO much time on that.
I want some TOO.

I'm like Goldilocks, wanting what I want and wanting it now, rejecting what I have because it is TOO this or TOO that.  And in the process, I am leaving behind a wake of half-eaten and broken things; the only future I am building for myself is a nap in the belly of an angry bear.

"The end of a matter is better than its beginning."  Why?  Could it possibly be because the end comes in God's timing rather than my own?

My friend likes to eat raw cookie dough.  I prefer to wait until the cookies come out of the oven...and then some.  See, I like my cookies crispy, but not burned.  If I leave them in the oven too long or at too high a temperature, they turn to black rocks fit only for the trash...a MAJOR disappointment.  If, on the other hand, I take them out too soon, they are soft and chewy.  Edible, but not satisfying.  Even when I bake them to within a few seconds of burning, if I eat them before they've thoroughly cooled, they are soft and chewy.  For me to REALLY delight in a home-baked cookie, I have to be PATIENT.  And then, yes, the end is FAR better than the beginning.

According to God, my life is like a home-baked cookie.  I need to be patient and wait for the end of the matter, or I will be less than satisfied.  My biggest problem is that I can smell the cookies in the oven, and they smell SO good that I just have to nibble now.  In my pride, I convince myself that they are ready now.  It doesn't matter how many times I've made the same mistake; I manage to convince myself that THIS time the cookies are going to be crispy, and I worry that if I leave them in any longer they will get burned.  I've missed out on a lot of good cookies through impatience; I wonder how many other delights I've robbed myself of through my proud impatience.

So if you're reading this, do me a favor, please.  Ask God to give me patience.  I can smell the cookies, and they are going to be DELICIOUS if I can just force myself to wait a bit longer.  God willing, I will even be able to share these cookies with my friends.

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