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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Marks and Recreation”

In this episode, the Cutie Mark Crusaders run into a bit of opposition with their idea to run a camp that helps other kids find their true purpose and, as a result, their “Cutie Marks”. A certain colt named Rumble who is forced to attend by his older brother seems to be utterly opposed to the idea of a Cutie Mark. He half-heartedly performs the activities but only to give up on them seconds later, lashes out at the CMCs when they try to encourage him, and eventually incites a revolt against the camp by proclaiming how having a Cutie Mark will just confine you to doing something you don’t want to do for the rest of your life. This earns the ire and anger of the CMCs and causes them to butt heads, obviously, but eventually the girls find out the real reason for his acting out. In truth, he wants a specific Cutie Mark in being as talented as his older brother, even if it’s not what his true purpose is, and fears that if he gets it in anything else he’ll never be able to do anything athletic but be stuck with a talent he doesn’t want. And rather than face up to his personal fear, he shifted to venting his anger on the idea of Cutie Marks as a whole and encouraged others to do the same, even though the whole time it was all about him and his issue.

I didn’t really care for Rumble as a character. I think I even disliked him at certain points. Part of that reason is because I realize now that I myself was “Rumble” at least at one point in my life…and probably several.

You might think it’s a bit odd for someone who writes a Christian blog, but there are a lot of messages in Church I have a hard time swallowing. Part of it is my own odd mentality, as I tend to blow up and exaggerate the wrong things out of proportion. Part of it is genuine character flaws against change that I need to face and resolve. Yet regardless of the reason, I tend to act out from my own personal feelings from time to time. As I thought about this episode, I slowly realized that I had been “the Rumble” in a situation in which I tried to join a Bible study. Like I’ve stated before in earlier blogs, I was suffering (and still suffer) from issues of needing to prove myself to God. That if I am not able to do all these things that I see “great Christians” or “great witnesses” do then I’m not even a real Christian and my own faith doesn’t even exist. Yet when I try to be like them, it clashes with everything I am personally. I feel I have to be a certain way to be acceptable to God, rather than realizing it is the Great Sacrifice of Lord Jesus that justifies me in the sight of God instead of any action on my part. The way I fixate on only certain parts of sermons and messages, I feel like they’re all telling me to specifically be one kind of person, and it leaves me feeling frustrated as well as hopeless as I realize I’m nothing like that.

So…with that sort of mindset, I went into that Bible study. I saw everyone around me who, in spite of their admitting to their own faults and failings, also gave better testimonies about how they were able to reach out to people and act through faith. In spite of their claims to be just the same as everyone there, all that sounded like to me was that they were “better Christians” than me. It wasn’t long before I was as sullen as Rumble. Not able to understand how it was so “easy” for them and so “hard” for me, I began to grow resentful. I ended up starting to nitpick every line people preached with sarcasm, bitterness, and downright anger. I would throw handouts they gave me over my shoulder, glower and grimace at people, took up using profanity, and finally I stormed out and left it all together.

The problem was never the Bible Study group. It was always me. It was always the way I saw the world and my own reluctance and refusal to change or try to adapt to what I was hearing. It was my own personal feelings of being an inadequate failure who would never meet their standards. But I misdirected that anger. I deflected it off myself and attacked them instead. So as much as I dislike Rumble in this episode…in a sense, by doing so, I also dislike myself.

I imagine there’s a lot of “Rumbles” in this world. Some, like me, might only be damaging to ourselves and disruptive when we vent. Others, like Rumble in this episode, might be worse; not only fabricating an external cause for them to displace their anger on but misguiding others by manipulating their own fears and insecurities to follow after it. In this episode, it merely led the group of foals to find themselves unable to do anything but sit around for fear that they would get a Cutie Mark in something. In reality, it could lead to something much worse.

King Saul, for example. In the first book of Samuel, after the people of Israel begin to praise David more greatly than they praised him, King Saul conceived an intense jealousy for him. Rather than face up to his jealousy, he got the idea seated in his mind that David would never rest until he had overthrown his house and taken the throne of Israel for himself (1 Samuel 18:6-9); even though David saw himself as nothing more than one of the king’s own servants (1 Samuel 18:22-23). In the end, he led all of Israel in a campaign against David that drove him from the country under this false pretext, and murdered innocent people under the “crime” of trying to usurp his reign by aiding David (1 Samuel 22:6-19)  Another was in the secession of Israel. As a result of King Solomon’s sins, the unified Israel was split into the northern kingdom and Judah, raising up Jeroboam as the king of the northern kingdom in the place of Solomon’s son Rehoboam (1 Kings 11:29-39). Yet rather than acknowledge the Lord in having given him this kingdom, Jeroboam thought only of how if his people worshiped God in Jerusalem they would eventually revolt against him. Hence, he set up a new cult of worship to a pair of golden calves and directed Israel to worship them as their “true gods” (1 Kings 12:25-33). As a result, all Israel gave itself over to idolatrous worship and never fully returned to God, instead only getting one incompetent and wicked ruler after another…eventually leading to its destruction.

There are a lot of people in the world who might cause political and religious upheaval for the sake of their own selfish desires, including Christianity. I think of how I could have taken my dislike even farther. The things that I fixated on that I expressed my anger against I could have easily used as a rallying point against the entire Church the Bible Group was based out of, as reason to say they were going against the Word of God and encouraging a lifestyle based on works rather than faith. I might have tried to lead others to break off from that Church and either go to others or abandon it entirely. Such has happened at least one time in history, where an entire new branch of Christianity was created under one individual’s selfish premise (the Anglican Church…although in all fairness I consider this case doing the right thing for the wrong reason, but that’s a whole other story).

There’s a cautionary tale to be had in two parts from this. One, as stated frequently, is to always strive for personal honesty with yourself and with God. It’s always a good thing to focus from time to time on what makes you upset or angry, or what drives you in your life, and ask yourself and God: “Why am I doing this?”

The second is to be on the lookout for individuals displacing their own feelings into false causes, for there are many in the world. Many of them have crafted very well-sounding arguments while having hidden ulterior motives the whole time, and have learned to appeal to the fears and doubts of others.  Part of responsible Christian living is to be on the watch for false teachers and guides, of which we will always be subjected. That is yet another reason to never neglect your devotional life, as the Bible gives us a concrete anchor with which to judge what we are hearing against. Just be cautious that, as the Devil once did (Matthew 4:5-7), deceivers are fond of only quoting their “favorite parts” of the Bible and ignoring all else.

In short, be watchful to never be deceived by anyone…yourself most of all.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for granting wisdom and guidance to me when I am willing to be open and honest with myself to receive it. If I am committing the sin of self-deception in ignoring one of my own faults or personal issues, instead redirecting those feelings toward others, please forgive me for this grievous fault. I repent of it now and ask your help in making amends toward anyone I may have impacted as a result. Please grant that I will always strive to be honest with you and others, no matter how painful it may be. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

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