Sunday, March 29, 2020

Keeping Your Wits When Others Are Insane- Day 7

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides forever.

2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people,
from this time forth and forevermore.

3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest
on the land allotted to the righteous,

lest the righteous stretch out
their hands to do wrong.

4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,
and to those who are upright in their hearts!

5 But those who turn aside to their crooked ways the Lord will lead away with evildoers!
Peace be upon Israel!

“If you can keep your wits about you while all others are losing theirs, and blaming you. . . . The world will be yours and everything in it, what's more, you'll be a man, my son.” RUDYARD KIPLING "IF"

 The opening of this Psalm is so interesting to me. If you think about the climb to Jerusalem, there were so many unknowns. For an ancient Hebrew seeking to travel that path, everything posed a life changing hazard. A sprained ankle, or robbers, or severe weather, or illness all meant that the journey might not end well.

As they are walking precipitously, with the mountains in full view, the goal also becomes a symbol. A symbol of security and strength.

How do we act when all chaos breaks out?

Notice two different Biblical dispositions:

I Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Ephesians 4:14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.

How steady are you?

If there is a lost virtue in our culture today, it seems to be what the Fathers called 'fortitude'.

Here is how C.S. Lewis defined it:

Fortitude includes both kinds of courage—the kind that faces danger as well as the kind that ‘sticks it’ under pain. ‘Guts’ is perhaps the nearest modern English. You will notice, of course, that you cannot practice any of the other virtues very long without bringing this one into play.  
So how can we 'keep our wits', while everything else seems to be spiraling out of control?

I think it is developed, over time, as we continue to sing and continue to climb. You learn that trials fester in a hurry and flash a bright fire of panic- but they do not last.

The Psalm here says it so well- God is so committed to justice and the security of His children that He will destroy the destroyers. We just have to stay steady and patient. Justice delayed in NOT justice denied.

The more we learn to wait- the more we become strong in the waiting. The more we trust in His strength, the more we acquire His strength.

I am quick to share many of my faults- but here God has given me a strength. He has given me a calm demeanor that has served me well in the fires of life.

God had to give me that disposition. Most of my professional life has put me in the midst of conflict. Teacher, student, parent issues can create quite a spark and intense fire. I have been on the phone with people blistering me with criticism and anger and I have been in meetings where it looked like two parties may come to blows with each other.

My calm in the midst of chaos (most of the time) helps to diffuse the emotions and then begins the process to find common ground.

What have I learned from years of practicing this:

1) People vent, and in the venting there is an addition of drama that MOST people later correct when the emotion subsides.

2) If you take the venting without reacting, most people will settle down more quickly than if you bow up and fight fire with fire.

3) Really listen to the complaint and try to see their point of view.

4) In your measured response, try to communicate a sense of understanding their position and empathize with their emotions. Sometimes I say, "If I understood the situation as you see it, I would feel the same way." At that point you can begin to sort through the details.

5) Be willing to own up to mistakes and admit wrongdoing. There have been times I have looked a parent in the eye and said, 'Mr. Smith, I am sorry. I did not handle this well at all' and if I am sincere, it is amazing how quickly it disarms even the angriest of people.

Now, all of this sounds good- a list of what to do- but not much help as to how to do it.

There is an ultimate winning edge is in this Psalm. God is my refuge, my help, my strength. He is more secure and steady than even Mount Zion. And if I abide in Him, I begin to take on characteristics of the mountain itself. I become like the thing I am pursuing. And if it is God I am climbing to, I actually begin to reflect His countenance.... though it be imperfect and fleeting at times.

Because I KNOW that he is good and in control... I NEVER have to push the panic button.

There is a dark side to this Psalm. The evil doers will be destroyed. We don't wish it- we don't rejoice when it happens- but trust God's promise here... It will happen.

It may not happen for days, weeks, months, or years... but there is sudden destruction for those who continually do evil, especially those who are hostile to God's people.

And peace can reign in that quiet confidence in God's authority and power. This becomes a great fortress of security and builds fortitude within.

Walk upward today in peace and strength my friend!

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