Philippians 3:1 Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.
This gives the strong impression that there was an earlier letter that has been lost, but we can be very grateful that this letter has been preserved for us. The section from verse 7 through verse 14 is very personal for me, because I have many parallels with Paul. I too was raised in a very religious home, and I too fell into the trap of pride, not seeing the depth and the totality of God’s grace. When God very kindly tapped me on the shoulder and showed me a mirror, I was devastated. I thought I was one of the best Christians walking around, when actually I was ignoring God in practical terms in almost every area of my life. I have repeated the story of that encounter many times, but just like Paul says here, I don’t consider that any trouble, and if the story of my stupidity helps keep someone else from falling into that trap, I am glad. We are not to dwell on past failures, but neither are we to hesitate to share what we have been through, be-cause we are never the final target for the grace God pours out on us. We are to rejoice in what we experience of the Lord, and rejoice even more when He flows through us to touch others. None of us are in isolation, whatever we might feel like at a given moment. There is a hymn that sings about being a “channel of blessing.” That is indeed a joy that is like no other, and it is one we do well to set as a primary goal in our lives.
One of my “set phrases” is that being self-centered never leads to true happiness. It has become that because I say it so often in every counseling/coaching situation I encounter. I am by nature as self-centered as anyone, if not more so. By the Lord’s great patience and mercy, I have learned what a negative thing that is. I know that I am personally, individually, responsible and accountable for my actions, but I have also learned that my actions always impact someone else, just as their actions impact me. I have learned that relationship is absolutely central to our existence. As a child I tended to be a “loner,” but that wasn’t always by choice. When I felt rejected, I built up a shell and pretended I preferred being alone. I have had to learn what a lie that is. That’s not at all to say that solitude is bad in itself, but it is to say that God created us for relationship, first of all with Himself and also with other people. That’s why the first and second commandments are to love Him and to love our neighbor. (Matthew 22:36-40) Right now is a strong reminder of that, with my wife in the hospital and me at home. It’s not at all that we spend all day every day in each other’s presence when she’s not in the hospital, but rather the enforced separation. Some people are frankly irritating to be with, but I’ve got to remember that they too are part of the relationship matrix God has prepared for me, and rejoice to be an agent of His blessing to them as well.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Cathy’s encountering some pleasant and some not-so-pleasant relationships with hospital staff. I ask Your overwhelming grace and anointing for her, so that even those who respond poorly to Your presence in her may be overcome by Your love, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!