My friend Brittany (not her real name) and I are in God's remedial education class.
Brittany is a godly woman, exceeding every woman I know in qualities of humility, submissiveness, discretion, gentleness, kindness, and longsuffering, and having raised her children in the fear of the Lord. But whenever we have gotten together over the last 28 years of our acquaintance, our conversations have sunk like lead balloons to lamentations about our weaknesses, depression, and defeat.
Oh, we have been sure to say, as prolegomena, all the proper and doctrinally sound things about the greatness of God and His love and His power in us---but then we always get down to how it really is with us: not much joy and not much victory. Except for the gradually graying hairs in the photos, you could probably substitute in the scrap book of our friendship any scene from 1981 till 2008.
Boy, is God patient. These past few years, He has been showing me the unrighteousness of my negativity---and a gap between my theology and my life that's big enough to drive a Buick through. So in my last phone chat with Brittany, I made a conscious effort to steer clear of the well-worn furrow of our familiar conversational habits. And then I sent her a piece of writing that encouraged me, and I suggested she and I make a deal to only talk the talk of faith from now on.
This was followed by an email from Brittany affirming that it is good to be accountable to Christian friends and relating a sermon she heard about the importance of submitting to God. She also said her favorite verse is Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." And then she said, "But I am a coward . . . always have been. . . ."
Normally I would let that last comment slide. In fact I would do her one better. But this time I replied in words to this effect: Look, we even have to cut that out. No more calling ourselves cowards---deal? That kind of self-characterization has the outward appearance of humility but just keeps us in our bondage. Negative self-talk is harmful. Can we both commit to today being the last time we ever call ourselves cowardly or weak? Let's not merely have Philippians 4:13 as a favorite verse, let's actually believe it, think it, say it in public. How about we practice this till we get it right.
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