“Where’s the line between reading and doing, learning and putting into action?”
(My Journal, March 2009)
Just under a year into my recovery journey, I expressed in writing a worry common throughout my life: waiting vs doing. My “motto” has ever been passively waiting for something to happen, to which I could/would/should react. It would be fair to say I did not consider passionate proactivity much – until God truly took hold of me about nine months before the above entry. (I do not think it was coincidental that that was when I started journalling, and why I am now a blogger.)
My actively chosen motto since then is “and with Him, making something good happen.” I still have to remind myself of the difference.
But, to the question at hand:
John 14:21a ERV
Those who really love me are the ones who not only know my commands but also obey them.
Another form of the question could be, “How do I know what is the right thing to do?” It is possible that my doubts about the answer are partly to blame for my delay in acting. But that is just another reason I encourage Bible reading for everyone: to learn about our Maker and what He does command (versus ‘recommend’) for each of us.
(And the rest of verse 21 is sort of a selfish reason to read and do- for the reward of knowing Christ:
My Father will love such people, and I will love them. I will make myself known to them.)
One of the earliest Bible verses in my journal appears at this same time:
Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Looking back, I believe what struck me about this verse was that it was about the how I was to do (strongly and courageously, without fear or discouragement), and not so much the what I was called to do. I was still working my personal recovery, and was not quite ready for the ‘giving back’ steps (12 Steps, Step 10-12).
A few days after this verse, I entered another:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
Very simply, study of The Word leads to self-examination. Steps 4-9 deal with our “searching and fearless moral inventory”, and completing the amends/forgiveness it brings up.
Galatians 6:4a NIV
Each one should test their own actions.
In short, you have to “know thyself”, and God is the guide.
The why of this (leading to the what to do) is expressed in Galatians 6:1:
… if someone is caught in [under] a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore them gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.
This is a big, big verse in the 12 steps, because it is at the center of giving back; of giving to others. It’s the key to loving others. I find it necessary to be very careful with the language of this verse, because “caught” or “trapped” in a sin could mean “exposed or found out in doing wrong”. I do not believe that is what the verse means to say. This interpretation implies judgement by another – by the one doing the ‘catching’, not the one needing help.
Hence, the title for this post, An “Under Wonder”. What is described here is the imagery of a soul being “under” the influence of a sin. Those who live by the Spirit are to come alongside and help those captured against their will (see Romans 7), under the power of sin.
In addition, I think this definition fits better with “watch yourselves, or you may be tempted.” Being tempted can then include judging or failing to be patient, gentle, or kind with the sin’s prisoner, as well as being tempted by the same sin.
All this leads to the what to do. Robert Gelinas interprets Galatians 6:1-5 as describing our burdens being either backpack-sized or boulder-sized:
“…if we spot someone whose [backpack] load has become a [huge boulder], [use] our free shoulder and lift a corner…” [so that they can stand up again].
(Living Sacrifice, excerpted in Men of Integrity magazine [my paraphrasing]
Galatians 6:2 NIV
Carry each other’s burdens. (original language indicates “huge boulder”)
For each should carry their own load… (original language indicates “backpack”)
When we are ready to give back in our recovery journey, we will see when another is helpless under the power of sin, and we can come alongside them and lift a corner of their boulder so that they can stand up in their own recovery. We will do this without judging them, without failing to be patient, gentle, and kind, and without ourselves falling to the same temptation. They, in turn, will complete their own personal study, guided by God’s word, and God will reveal to them what they need to do/change.