Romans 14:22-23 (MSG)
22-23 Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.
Many years ago, Saint Ignatius developed a spiritual discipline to evaluate his growth in relationship with God. During my four years in seminary, I read many things about this amazing man of God. At the end of each day, Ignatius shared about meditating (visualizing himself at the scene of the Gospel story) to examine his moments and choices; to look at how he responded to the work of the Spirit that day, how he interacted with and treated people, as well as evaluating how he handled challenging situations in light of Christ’s love. This was not to make him feel prideful nor inadequate, it was to celebrate his small victories, as well as ask God to help bring correction and help as needed. Spiritual maturity was his goal: to have the resurrected Christ freely live, move, and have his being in him. In other words, for Jesus to be Lord of his life.
On August 30, John, Jimmy, Whitney, and I traveled to the Grand Teton range (WY) to take a horse tour of this beautiful mountainous area God created for humanity. The horses where necessary, because ATVs, motor vehicles, etc., could not pass through much of the area and hiking the trail would be too much. Two miles into the ride, we came to an open range and remained mounted while waiting for further instruction. Quite unexpectedly, my horse made a very fast turn to the right and began to gallop into the field; I held on trying to stop the horse, but was thrown off. I hit my lower back and just laid there trying to examine what had happened; I could not move my legs and my vision was filled with flashing lights. Jimmy was first to my side and began to assess my condition, but it was clear I was way too hurt to move or proceed. I laid in the field amidst the sagebrush for three hours before EMTs (called runners) could get to me and medically triage my injuries. Even in pain, I laid there examining my thoughts, physical symptoms, and looking for the loving care of God that I knew was coming. The owner of the horse range—young man in his early thirties—arrive shortly after the accident and stayed with me the whole time. He was so troubled and my heart just connected to him. He kept saying, “I am so sorry, Pastor Mary! Is there anything I can do?” I looked at him and said, “This is not your fault; nor do I hold you responsible. Please know that God has always and will always take care of me and he will use even this accident for my good. Don’t be afraid!” I was also preaching to myself; encouraging my faith. As I laid there, I spent the next two hours trying to share the reality of Christ with him; sharing about God’s love for him and helping him see my heart. I know God was working in his heart, because he had such tenderness and concern for me. He was with me until a rescue team arrive and carried me on a special gurney back two miles to an area where an ambulance could gain access.
No matter what goes on in a day, the attitudes, words, and actions of believers must be consistent with what we say we believe. And, when we are obedient to represent Christ even in our suffering, we have seen glimpses of the work of Grace and the power of God sustaining us and moving through us for his glory. We can take no credit for this miracle; it is the work of the Spirit. Every day I physically improve and the pain lessens. I sit quietly at night and look at how far God has brought me in two weeks and just how amazing his Grace and strength can be in all things. I am more concerned each day that the totality of my life be consistent with what I say I believe. May you be challenged to do the same.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the wonderful wisdom I find in your Word and for how it challenges me to grow up in Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen.