Devotional – Goopy, Messy, Yucky

Acts 11:17 “So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?”

Man. God is so amazing. I know that. Sometimes it just bowls be over though. Last week I felt totally convicted and spoken to by 1 Corinthians 12. The whole chapter. I did a blog on a particular scripture from it, but really – the whole chapter just jumped off the page at me. I read it several times because it was just such good stuff. Last night at small group, the passage of scripture we had for our “assigned” group reading was 1 Corinthians 12. What?!! Yeah. How cool is that.

Today’s devotional reading from Acts 11 gave me just another layer of what God has been talking to me about for the last week. Peter is dealing with the coming together of two groups of people (Jews and Gentiles) that, in his culture, absolutely were not to have anything to do with each other. Gentiles were considered unclean. In Acts 10:28 Peter actually talks about it being against the law for him to associate in any way with a Gentile. He had some major hurdles to overcome – but he believed what God was showing him, that he shouldn’t be calling anyone impure or unclean. That the Lord’s gift of salvation and forgiveness was for everyone…not just the chosen few.

I think sometimes in life we insulate ourselves inside our own little christian world. We don’t want to get dirty. So we don’t associate with people who have a little mud on their jeans. Even for those inside the body of believers, we have classifications. There are those who don’t drink, don’t swear, don’t watch certain kinds of movies or listen to particular varieties of music. We have the “good christians” who are regular church attenders, the tithers, the prayer warriors etc. I think there’s always the danger of thinking somehow you’re better than others. Don’t have as many issues, problems or struggles. That in some way, your behavior means God didn’t have to save you quite as much as the next guy. Really we’re all fooling ourselves if we compare our “bad stuff” with someone else’s. Bottom line, we’re all complete failures in need of a savior.

Like God showed me last week in 1 Corinthians, and again today in Acts, who am I to say I don’t need another member of the body? Who am I to disparage those God has called me to be connected to? I’m nothing. Nothing without the saving grace of Jesus. Just like you. I have no claim to being more pure than you. Because underneath the outter layer I keep clean and tidy for everyone else to see, God sees the yuck, mire, goopy mess that is my heart. He knows my thoughts. The ones I wouldn’t want to share with anyone else. The harbored resentment, the ill wishes, the parts of me that are very vindictive and spiteful sometimes. Parts of me I don’t want to admit exist, not even to myself. So what right do I have to distance myself from another goopy, messy, yucky human? None. Zero.

Like Peter asks, “Who am I to oppose God?”. The Lord has given me relationships. He has put me in the world. Being a Christian doesn’t somehow exempt me from having to deal with all the yuck. Thankfully, God didn’t leave me here to figure it out on my own. He gave me the Holy Spirit as a guide. When the going gets rough, the road gets muddy and I’m getting dirty, I’m thankful the Lord is always there with a clean towel. So let’s dive in and yucky it up.

Devotional – The Pinky Toe

1 Corinthians 12:20-22 & 26 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Two weeks ago, I injured my pinky toe. Badly. I was thrown from a mechanical bull and very gracefully landed wrong on my foot, smashing my baby toe against some concrete. Yeah, I know – I live an amazingly exciting life to have an injury like that. Not as great as this story from Seinfeld (a classic), but pretty good for me. Sorry, you’ll have to click on play and then on to youtube, cause the embeding is disabled for this clip.

Anyway, my foot was horrifically bruised for about a week, too swollen to put into any kind of shoe for 5 solid days and has been causing me pain with every step for almost two weeks now. Actually, it was getting better, un-swollen, almost all the bruising gone when I kicked it hard against the corner of my parents couch leg a couple of days ago. Today it’s pretty much just as bad as the day after the bull incident.

It’s really amazing to me how God can use even a mechanical bull to demonstrate His point to me. Are you ready for the connection?

As I was limping around today, I remembered a passage about the body suffering if any part of it suffers. I couldn’t remember where it was located, but thankfully, I live in the era of Bible Gateway and it only took me a few seconds to find it. Bam. 1 Corinthians 12. The whole chapter is amazing and perfect for the a relationship situation I’m currently struggling with.  Apparently I don’t listen properly to God because He always seems to need to use an object lesson to drive home the point to me. I guess I’m just thick-headed. Really Lord, next time can you find a different avenue to ingrain your idea into me? There’s got to be an easier way than to pick on my poor little toe.

So here goes my epiphany. My whole body is suffering because of a one-and-a-half inch piece of skin, bone and muscle. My baby toe seems totally unnecessary most of the time. I’m sure I could stand, walk, run etc without it. And yet, the pain radiating from that little nub is causing me to walk differently, which is making my knees and hips kind of ache. I tried running on it the one day it started to feel better and woke up the next morning in spasms of muscular soreness because my stride was all messed up from favoring that toe for three miles. Pretty much the smallest, least important part of my body is causing the rest of it to suffer.

It’s the same with relationships. Especially family. Super especially the family of Christ. We’re all a part of the same body. This chapter in Corinthians could not make that any plainer. We need all the parts to make it work, this chapter says there should be no division in this body of believers, that we all should show care and concern for each other. If the pinkie toe in my relationships with others is bruised – it’s going to affect more than just the toe next to it. It’s going to impact the foot, the ankle, leg, hip, back etc. There is no part of my body that has been spared the discomfort caused by my silly little toe. Likewise, to believe our relationships are some kind of vacuum, that they are individualistic and don’t impact others just makes no rational sense. Nor is that what God’s word says.

The other thing I found fascinating when reading this passage is that chapter 12 is the lead-in to the famous 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians. You know, the one about love that gets quoted at weddings every single day. Reading both chapters together made me realize something. I wouldn’t look at my hand and say, “I love you so much, but I really wish you were an eye in the back of my head. You would be so much cooler then.” Before I can get to the business of love in chapter 13, I need to realize the perfection and beauty in each member of the body. How can I love others if I’m wishing they were all mouths like me? What good would it do if every part of your body was an ear? If I’m not accepted for the part of the body that I fill, the whole body suffers. If we spend our time as Christians picking apart the foot for not being an elbow, we’ll be hard pressed to get anywhere. Get it? Cause the elbow is hard…and feet take you places? Yeah, ok. I’m not funny.

For the next few days, or until my pinkie toe stops being painful and swollen, I’m going to remember this lesson with every step I take. When one member of the body suffers, we all suffer with it. The relationship of mine that is wounded is bleeding that pain over lots of other relationships as well. The ramifications of my toe are far-reaching. Even after the toe is better, I’ll probably still be dealing with whatever I’ve done to my hips by walking wonkey for two weeks. So, unless I focus on the multiple effects of a single relationship, none of the other members of the body will be able to rejoice with me at the healing. Because they’ll all still be suffering.

God, help me to see the unique way my relationships fit together to form one body in you. Be with me as I struggle to right any wrongs I’ve committed that have led to my relational broken toe. Bolster my conviction to rely on your word as my backbone, rather than rationalizing my own hurt feelings. Amen.