There’s an old Jewish tradition that God sends each of us into the world with a special message to deliver and a special act of love to bestow, and each of us is uniquely equipped to do it; which is why comparing ourselves with others is pointless, as well as futile. Best selling author John Powell talks about a special piece of God’s truth being put into our hands. That special piece of God’s truth is who we are at the very core of our being, energised by God’s own spirit.
Sadly, many of us never get to see it because we are encrusted with so many layers of self doubt or self delusion. There are few things more important than looking again for the person God created us to be and asking Him to help us become it. So, as the Bible says, “Put on your new self; the one being renewed in the image of its creator.”
The American Internal Revenue Service reported the case of a taxpayer who wrote to them saying, “I have not been able to sleep well for two years so I am sending my cheque for twelve hundred dollars in back taxes.” He then added a short P.S. “If I don’t sleep better in a week, I will send you another twelve hundred.” It was a case of wanting to do something to relieve his guilt, but not wanting to do too much.
Unfortunately, tokenism doesn’t work when dealing with problems of the conscience and the soul. One of the great texts of the Bible is where God says “You will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart.” That’s why repentance – facing the truth about ourselves and doing a complete about turn – has always been the required first step to peace.
Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Propagandist, dismissed Mahatma Gandhi as a fool and a fanatic, certain that Gandhi could never bring about independence for India following a path of non-resistance and peaceful revolution. Yet as history played itself out, India won her independence peacefully while the Nazi military machine was destroyed. What Goebbels regarded as weakness actually turned out to be strength, and what he thought of as strength turned out to be weakness.
It reminds me of those words of Scripture that say “The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Life’s real winners, in whatever aspect of life are always those who abandon the discredited philosophies of power and prestige and follow the teaching and example of Jesus.
There’s an old saying that no matter how long you nurse a grudge, it won’t get better. It reminds me of an American wildlife expert who claimed that a rattlesnake, if cornered, will sometimes become so angry it will bite itself. Someone else remarked that that is exactly what happens when we harbour resentment; it’s like biting ourselves. We think that we are directing our bitterness against the people we dislike, not realizing that the deeper harm is to ourselves.
A modern translation of the Book of Proverbs in the Bible says, ‘Better a bread crust shared in love than a slab of prime rib served in hate.’ But what if want to get rid of bitterness but don’t seem able to do it? Well, my experience is that Jesus was right when he said, ‘Pray for those who treat you badly’; and you’ll be healed too.
There are few things that cause greater misery than bitterness of spirit. It can even destroy those who understand human behaviour best. Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology died a bitter and disillusioned man. Despite his knowledge he had little compassion for ordinary people. He once confessed: “I have found little that is good about human beings on the whole. In my experience most of them are trash, no matter whether they publicly subscribe to this or that ethical doctrine or to none at all.”
Freud died bitter and friendless, having broken with each of his followers. He could have learned something from the comedian Buddy Hackett who said, “I’ve had a few arguments with people, but I never carry a grudge. You know why? While you’re carrying a grudge, they’re out dancing.”
When taking an exam it’s important to come up with the right answers to the questions; nearly right answers don’t count. Here are some of the answers that English schoolchildren gave in a Religious Studies exam: Noah’s wife was called Joan of Ark; a myth is a female moth; sometimes it is difficult to hear in church because the agnostics are bad; the Pope lives in the vacuum; the Fifth Commandment is “Humour your father and mother;” and Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt by day and a ball of fire by night. Knowing the right answers are important, but not so important as knowing the right questions. And the biggest question of all is why are we here and where are we going? For the answer to that one, Jesus said, ‘Seek and you’ll find, knock and the door will be opened to you.’
Mac Anderson, in his book The Road to Happiness, tells of the wisdom he picked up from an immigrant taxi driver. He said, ‘I asked him a hypothetical question: “If you could live anywhere in the world, and if money was no object, where would you live?” Without hesitating even for a second, he replied, “I live in my heart. So it really doesn’t matter where my body lives. If I am happy inside, then I live in Paradise, no matter where my residence is.”‘
Of course he was right—happiness is an inside job. He had reminded me of something I already knew, but had forgotten. If you can’t find happiness inside yourself, you’ll never find it in the outside world, no matter where you move. Wherever you go, there you are.’ And that’s exactly what Jesus says to us, ‘The Kingdom of heaven is within you.’