OnFire Encouragement Letter
Onfire #195 Wrong Turns and Open Doors
We’re back from our summer stuff and looking forward to settling back into our somewhat normal routines.
It was an adventure filled vacation. We had a flat tire on our camper the first day of vacation. Then we waited seven hours for a ferry to Grand Manan because the main boat was broken down. Once there, we spent a few days visiting friends. Then we spent two weeks on PEI visiting family.
On PEI we took our Japanese student to Anne of Green Gables house. We also went to the Prince County Exhibition, where we watched the strongman competition and horse-pulls. My father treated us to the tractor pulls at Crapaud for a louder version of the pulling contest.
For an overnight adventure, Mark, Ian and I paddled about two and a half hours to an island and set up camp. We were eaten alive by the mosquitoes and horse flies, and our aging tent half-collapsed in the wind and rain, but we have lots of memories. All in all, it was a memorable vacation. Check www.onfireletter.com for a powerpoint show.
For the next little while we’re going to look at conflict in the Bible. One of the things I like about the Bible is that it doesn’t hide real life. We see the ups and downs of characters’ lives and discover that they weren’t perfect. At times I think it would have been a lot easier to hide these things, to let them be buried in the depths of time, but God did not let this happen. We are the richer for it and learn lessons we can apply in our own experience.
Last week we visited a friend whose house we had never been to. I got the directions from him, but didn’t write them down because I thought I understood them. Off we went, but as we got closer I began to realize that things didn’t quite look like what I had thought they would. Finally we arrived at an intersection and at this point I was confused. Thankfully we found someone nearby to ask directions and they set us on the right road. Soon we arrived at our friend’s house.
We don’t have to read very far in the Bible before we see the first fight. In Genesis 4 Cain murdered his younger brother because he was angry that God accepted Abel’s offering and not his. We should note, too, that since the fight was about something religious, it was also the first church fight!
Cain was angry when God did not accept his offering. Choose any one of a number of expressions and they fit: Ripping mad. Seething. Boiling over. Ticked off.
God talked with him about this and told him how to make things better. It was nothing personal. It was not that he liked Abel better. Cain just made the wrong sacrfice. To make it right, all he needed to do was bring the proper one. "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?" (Genesis 4:6-7*)
We gain some important insight into conflict. We often aim our anger at someone who is not responsible. Cain pointed the finger at Abel, when he was actually upset at God. This is the proverbial kicking the cat. Something goes wrong at work, and we take it out at home. We’re worried about a situation and blow up with our children or spouse. We have a problem unrelated to the person we’re dealing with, but we take it out on them anyway.
We see offense where none was intended. Cain was offended by Abel, when all Abel did was offer his sacrifice. This happens to us all the time. When we’re hurt, or worried, or being chewed up inside, we hear insults where they don’t exist. This is what was going on when God spoke with Cain, and it happens with us, too.
God gave him some advice we can also use. "But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
What a picture of sin - as a hungry lion waiting to pounce and devour us if we act on our anger. To go through the door of our anger is to go in the wrong direction, like turning onto the wrong road. Only later do we regret that we did not listen to the voice of calm and reason. By then we realize that we have been devoured, and that we have devoured in turn. If only...
But we do not have to take the wrong turn. We do not have to go through the door to where sin is crouching, waiting to devour us. Often we convince ourselves that we don’t have a choice, especially when someone hurts us. We feel we have to make it even. But we do not have to go through the door. This is one of the lessons for us. If we give in to our hurt and anger, we will be devoured and so we must avoid acting on these impulses.
I spent significant moments on this past vacation biting my tongue, keeping my mouth closed to avoid saying something stupid out of anger or frustration. As much as I love my boys, it drives me nuts when they interrupt me, or when they butt into an "adult" conversation. Aargh! There are times it is better not to say or do anything to avoid falling victim to sin.
There is good news. We can overcome these reactions. "It desires to have you, but you must master it." We can master these things. We’ll be talking about these things in the upcoming weeks. In the meantime, take heart - sin does not have to master us.
I hope this helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character by Troy Dennis. This letter published Aug 26, 2009. *Bible references taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives are located at www.onfireletter.com Blog located at http://onfireletter.blogspot.com/