This is part of a series: I’m taking a moment in the lives of people in the Bible to see how it might be relevant to our lives, today. That moment may be just part of their story, or it may be all we’re told about them. Either way, you should read it directly from the source. This week’s story comes from 1 Corinthians 4:3-5:
I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
If you’re very attentive to detail (or read my first intro), you might have noticed that I do these posts Sunday and Wednesday, and that today is neither, no matter what time zone you’re in.
On Friday morning, with several assignments for last week still undone, and 30 emails in my inbox requiring action, I took off for a 4-hour drive to see a friend who’s only briefly in California. After a 2am turn-in, I got up for a 7am Skype, went running, responded to five personal emails and no work emails, patched together a page on my website with freelancing rates so I could respond to a work email, drove several more hours with friends to an incredible waterfall, walked a couple of miles into the forest before we decided we probably weren’t on the 1.2 mile loop, and drove another hour to search in the darkness for hot springs and discovered only cows.
We got back into town by 9pm, in time for me to leave for the 4-hour drive back home, where I needed to be for the arrival of my parents the next morning. Thanks to their handy GPS, they arrived in the late afternoon (just in time for me to miss a meeting), giving me time to clean the house, do some laundry, further ignore work and think of run-on sentences for blog posts. By the time they left this morning I had missed/cancelled two more meetings (of the four I had today, and which I was up at 6 to cancel), the actionable emails in my inbox had amounted to 57+, and my ability to recognize much less create run-on (or any) sentences had diminished greatly.
I was overwhelmed, not by a rallying GIT-ER-DUN cry, but by curiosity . . . how long I would have to sleep to just make it all go away?
The difficulty with that plan of action was that it’s reasonably hard to get fired from a job you’re not getting paid for, and all of mine fall into that category right now (no matter how decent the rates I put on my website are). One of the non-actionable emails I’d received, which were of course the ones I gave first attention to, contained two parallel lists that made me laugh aloud.
This first was a recount of my friends’ last several weeks, “we’ve had sickness, injury, vehicles breaking down, appliances not working, insomnia . . . ” And the second was a list of Paul’s own experiences recounted in 2 Corinthians: “ . . . as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger . . . ”
My friends acknowledged the same thing I felt, that reading the two lists together they felt that, though worn-down, they still had a lot to be grateful for.
The next email, now getting down to business, was a first-look at a blog post from one of my bosses on taking every thought captive, most particularly the thoughts we have about ourselves. This idea also comes from 2 Corinthians, in the same chapter which Paul condemns as unwise those who “measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves.”
It struck me that “measuring yourself by yourself” is exactly the motto for our modern, busy, driven world: Beat your own high score. Try harder. Run faster. Work smarter. Fail. Fail hard. Fail better.
Paul writes, almost with a shrug, “I don’t even judge myself.”
Not that Paul was against running fast, running to win. I don’t know if Paul was an athlete, but he sure seemed to understand what it takes to be a competitor. I recently read a great book by an Olympic and World champion on the mindset required to win in extremely intense sports. One of the things he says is winners don’t count their score while they’re still in the game.
Paul had good days and bad days, ups and downs. Like that time he was mistaken for a Greek god and had to stop the people from making sacrifices to him, and then the same people (on the same day) stoned him to death (apparently, but he revived/resurrected). Through all that, and everything he mentions above, he never becomes weary in well-doing. He’s not judging himself.
I’ve become weary in the two times my browser has frozen since I started writing this blog post. I became weary the three times Skype crashed at 6 this morning before I could get a simple message across, and I’ve basically been weary every moment in between. And all the while, I’m making judgements about myself.
Before I’ve begun on days like today, I’ve decided I’ve failed. Before I’ve even seen if I will succeed, I’ve labelled myself unsuccessful.
The problem with this kind of accounting is it doesn’t, well . . . account for everything. It doesn’t matter that I finished the novel ahead of time because the revision’s taking twice as long as planned. I’m not content with the organizing that’s done for the conference, I’m only concerned about what I have left to do. Well sure I posted to the blog, but it was A DAY late . . .
And beyond all those things I’ve failed to see is the leisurely breakfast spent with my parents who I haven’t spent time with in months, and what the roar of a waterfall and the laughter of good friends can do to my soul. And there are other things I know I don’t see, things only God sees. “He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.”
And Paul doesn’t say, “And He’ll disparage you.” Only we do that. Paul doesn’t say anything at all about God mentioning our faults or failures.
We each will receive our praise from God.