His Word Hidden in My Heart…Alongside my Pride

If you are taking the time to read Every Square Inch, then you are more than likely aware that memorizing God’s Word is essential for those who claim a relationship with Christ. The idea that we should be reading our Bible and memorizing Scripture is not new.

While many Christians will approach this as “a requirement” or a “task,” something we do for God, a recent event in my life helped me more clearly understand how memorizing the Word is a gift to be unwrapped, not a duty to be performed. God’s Word works in our lives to make us different people.

Mother's Day 2014And, of course, I’m going to use my all-time favorite illustration, our obnoxious dog Calvin.

Calvin is an incredibly pampered Golden Doodle. He became a member of our family three years ago – the week of Kids Club 2013 – and he’s been horribly doted on ever since. If you were to scan through my phone, the number of pictures of Calvin rivals those of my own children and grandchildren. (This revelation actually disturbed me.) Calvin goes to the doggie salon regularly for a bath and trim; I spend more money on the upkeep of his hair than I do my own. He prefers ice in his water and lately, more often than not, will not drink at all unless we throw a few cubes into his bowl. While he’s not supposed to be up on the furniture in our house – anywhere – he’s regularly found sleeping on our bed during the day. Though this behavior is strictly forbidden, my husband and I both shrug our shoulders and let him be wherever we find him sprawled out.

Yes, I know; any dog trainers reading this are surely rolling their eyes by now. Given how badly we spoil Calvin, you can only imagine how surprised I was just a few weeks ago when I was confronted by Animal Control for endangering my beloved pet.

Calvin Going MobileI forgot to mention that Calvin loves to be out and about in the city, riding around with one or the other of us as we run errands or pick up our son from school. Back in mid-March, I decided to take Calvin with me on one of my tours of Columbia, Mo. We picked our boy up from school, stopped for an after-school snack and proceeded to get a few things done. We made good time running in and out of stores and doing what needed to be done. So, at our last stop, when my son wanted to linger in a few aisles looking at books, I agreed.

We’d been in the store nearly 30 minutes before we left. We walked out to find a woman and two men near my car. My first thought was that Calvin had made some new friends…again. (It happens often enough; he attracts people.) Slowly, though, it dawned on me that the two men were dressed alike. A well-meaning older woman had watched me go into the store and apparently decided that my dog was in danger and called Animal Control. Within that 30-minute window while we were perusing books, the authorities had time to arrive and inspect the evidence. 1) There was indeed a dog in my car. 2) He was indeed alone. I can only wish that I had a photo of his smiling face and wagging tail as he attempted to greet the visitors through the mostly-rolled-up windows. (Calvin is very much not a guard dog.) He seemed delighted by the attention; the humans on the scene seemed far less delighted.

“Ma’am, don’t you know it’s dangerous to leave a dog locked in a car on a hot day?”

Vigilant CalvinAt this point, it was about 6:30 p.m on a March evening. The sun was nearly setting, it was about 60 degrees (I checked later), breezy and cloudy to boot. My gut reaction was to look around for the cameras; I thought surely this must be a joke. Was I the only adult able to notice that we all had jackets on to protect against the chill?

No, it wasn’t a joke. The woman who turned me in was incensed, and you could see it on her face; in her eyes, I was the worst sort of villain. As it began to sink in that these strangers were all quite serious, I started to get angry. Or rather, indignant. How dare they judge me and stick their noses into my business? I felt a powerful itch to respond out of my righteous indignation.

By God’s grace, though, His Word came to my mind: “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.” (James 1:19) “A soft answer turns away wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1) Verses like this floated into my consciousness long enough to remind me of Who I represented and had the effect of slowing my tongue. Anger squelched, I was also able to appreciate that my young son was standing there, as well, taking in the entire scene: “How’s my Mom going to respond to this absurdity?”

Though I couldn’t dampen the raw emotion that welled up inside me, I was able – mostly – to bite my tongue, to say as little as possible about the situation and to accept the stern admonishment in the middle of the store parking lot. We drove off with nothing more than a bruised ego to show for it…and perhaps some fodder for a future ESI blog.

I was glad that, in the moment, I remembered who I am – a child of God. I was glad that – again, by God’s grace, not my own ability – I allowed my identity as a Christian to inform my response at least to some degree.

But later, upon reflection, one truth hit me in a deeper way. It’s exactly in those surprising moments in life – when someone says something hurtful you don’t expect to hear, or a trial comes suddenly into your life – when we need to allow God’s Word to shape our interpretation of what’s going on and, therefore, our response.

CalvinIn that way, I’m not sure I was as successful as I felt in the moment. Certainly, remembering a few verses mitigated what I could have said. There was a time when I would have responded with a razor-sharp tongue and felt zero regret afterward. I felt unjustly judged, and I think my body language and my clipped words probably sent that message. I suspect I didn’t drive off leaving the Animal Control employees scratching their heads and thinking, “Wow, that woman handled the situation in such a gracious way. I wonder what’s different about her?”

But it was my opportunity to do so. It was a chance to be someone so different in a challenging (albeit small) situation that Christ shone through me, and to that end, I could certainly have done a better job.

Every time we Christians are out and about in our city, we run into other people who may or may not know Jesus. We can share the truth and beauty of our Savior most consistently by living it out in how we speak to the inattentive teenager checking us out at the grocery store, how we wait patiently in line at the stop light, and how we respond when “injustice” – however small – visits our doorstep. (Or our car.)

The presence of Christ in our lives should change us. The Holy Spirit softens and sanctifies our heart responses – and, over time, our words and actions – such that the light of Christ shines through us. This change should flow out of us and onto those around us; God’s grace changing us and then blessing others through us. All this work is God in us (Galatians 2:20), but we obviously have a role to play as well. I find that God’s transformation happens most consistently when we commit to studying His word and putting it into practice. The more we believe and put into practice what God’s Word has to say about how we are to live our lives out faithfully – here in Columbia or wherever God has you – the more He works in us to give us the grace to actually do it. You can’t live what you don’t know. May God give me more grace the next time I run into over-zealous dog lovers and Animal Control.

Psalm 119:9-16
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.

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