See Today Through Tomorrow’s Eyes

This morning’s Drash falls somewhere between spiritual maturity and anger management.

The other day I was praying and began to wonder why I, a person who knows Messiah, who knows God’s plan, and who knows the wonderful future I have to look forward to basking in the glory and love of the Lord, get mad at anything. Especially the stupid, little things that get under my skin, like, oh, let’s say, USERS!!!!

Sorry. If anyone reading this is one of the people my company supports, it’s not you I’m talking about.  🙂

So, as I was thinking about the future, I also started to think about how it always seems to take forever when looking forward to something, but when you look back it seems that life happened at supersonic speed.

That’s when it hit me- stop looking forward and only look backwards.

I don’t mean we should ignore the future, or never plan for anything- that’s silly. We all need to have something to look forward to because without a future there’s no hope. What I mean is that we need to look at what is happening to us today with tomorrow’s eyes, as if we were remembering this current event instead of living through it. That way the immediacy of the emotional impact is lessened to a large degree.

It does take practice, it takes retraining your own reactions, and it ain’t easy. I have not mastered it…not by a long shot!

But I am certain that if I can just stop for a second, remove myself from this moment’s feelings just long enough to force myself to believe it is days or years later, and I am looking back on what is happening at this very instant, what memory of this event would I want?

I truly believe that if I can do that, I will not react but will act; I will be able to do what I would have wanted to do, that so many times I wish, looking back, I had done.

This simple, but not so simple, thing is what can make a difference in one’s life. It can help us to be more like what God wants us to be, and less like what the world has trained us to be.

God’s time is not like ours- I think that is often why He can be so wonderfully compassionate and understanding, and also so angry at us when we don’t think we are doing anything that bad. It’s because God sees what is happening and what will happen, whereas we can barely look beyond the end of the nose on our own face!

That is what looking with tomorrow’s eyes allows us to do- see past our noses. It takes work, and as I’ve said, it isn’t easy. That’s where the spiritual maturity part comes in. With a powerful prayer life, and constantly dying to self to allow more room for the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to fill us, we can call on God’s Comforter to help us overcome our emotional, fleshly reactions so that we can look at what is happening this very second as if it were a memory.

And when you learn to see now as if it were long ago, your emotions will slow down, your anger will abate, and you will be able to make what you do now the memory you want it to be later.

Try it! After all, what have you got to lose except unpleasant memories and people being angry at you?

The Best Self-Help Book in the World

Have you wandered about the Barnes and Noble store lately? Once you get past the Starbucks (only place in the world you can get a good $2.00 cup of coffee for $7.00) and all the kids sitting in the aisles reading, you will see the Self-Help section. You can find “whatever” for Dummies books, DIY stuff, and any number of “How to be a Better You” books. How to overcome grief, how to have grief, how to overcome weight, how to accept yourself and your weight …whatever is wrong with you, or (more correctly) whatever you think is wrong with you, you can find a book written to tell you how to feel better about it.

There is another section, not the self-help section, but in there you will find the best self-help book in the world. Have you figured it out yet?

After all, what does a self-help book do?  It identifies an issue that people have with themselves; you can’t get a book published if there aren’t enough people interested in reading it, so it has to appeal to a number of folks. It identifies the issue, gives you a lot of third-party references to how it has affected other’s lives, and then it goes on to dissect the problem, break it down to it’s basic components, and, finally, tell you how, each piece at a time, to overcome or deal with the separate issues. In the end, the third party stories of success bombard you with how they have overcome their big problem, and you can, too.

Whoopie! For the most part, all the self-help books I have seen are ways for someone else to make money off your problems. They don’t really help. They are like the motivational speakers of the ’80’s who made a fortune telling us why we are OK, how to succeed in selling real estate, or getting better jobs, whatever, and everyone bought their tapes and books. They approached their problems eager to overcome them, they followed the program diligently for about 3 or 4 days, then almost every single one of them quit. Why? I think it’s because the basic problem with a self-help book is that the only one you really can depend on to help you is you, the one who can’t overcome the problem.

There is a story in the best self-help book I am talking about that tells a similar tale. A man was sowing his fields and the seeds fell everywhere. Some seeds took hold and grew fast but when the wind blew and the rains came the roots were too weak to sustain the plants. Others fell in good soil and grew roots but weeds sprung up all around the plants and choked them.

I guess you have identified the book I am talking about by now. Most people think of the Bible as the word of God telling us about how we all came to be, sin and salvation and what will happen in the future. Yes, it does all that. But it does more than that.

What really is the best “self-help” we can have?  Learn to deal with grief? Reduce our weight? Get in better physical condition? Deal with anger?  All of these are good things to do, but how long will they last? At best, only our lifetime. Then what?

I think the best self-help book in the world is one that doesn’t just address issues while I am alive, but carries me into the future, after I am dead, all the way to the end of Eternity!  There isn’t going to be a self-help book in the Self-Help section of B&N that will do that for you. But you will find one in the Religion Section.

I say the Bible is the best self-help book in the world because it does what I want a self-help book to do: make me better now and make that last forever. I never felt good about myself before I knew God, mainly because I knew I was doing wrong but had no real idea of how to control myself. And I had no real motivation, other than to get in trouble less. Religion kept getting in the way of my understanding who God is, who my Messiah is, and how I fit in to their plan.

I now understanding that the book is one book, Exodus through Revelations; that Old and New are not different because both are about God, His people, His salvation through a Messiah, and the Messiah’s life; how he taught us what God has been saying all along and how the Ruach (Spirit) can guide me and help me. This book is the one that showed me a real, effective and doable way to be a better me. I still had to work at it, but with the Bible as my self-help book I am not doing this alone. With God guiding me through His Ruach, I am never alone, and the one helping me is the only one in the universe that can.

The Bible teaches us that what we do is because that’s who we are- sinners. Overall, whether you believe you are too fat or too skinny, if you have anger management issues or an inability to deal with stress, bad at math or good at lying…whatever “problems” you think you have, the Bible teaches us that we are sinners and we all will sin. It also teaches us that without God we have no chance of overcoming the sinfulness of our nature.

How is telling us we have no way to overcome what we want to overcome helpful? Simple: it puts us all on the same level. One of the ways to deal with feeling bad about yourself is to realize you’re not alone. Everyone who lives, who ever lived, and who hasn’t even been born yet is in the same boat- we are born into sin and have sinful natures. You’re no better than I am and I am no worse than you are.

The Bible then tells us how to deal with the sin in our lives: simply let go of it. Give it to God. But you first need to have the relationship with God that will let you do that. And that is the ultimate answer to self-help: don’t do it yourself, let God do it for you. Of course, you are part of the process, in that you need to do a couple of things first: one is to accept you’re a sinner, two is accept God as your God and Yeshua (Jesus) as your Messiah, and three is ask for forgiveness; finally, ask for and accept the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) which will guide you and help you to do T’Shuvah (turning from your sin) and then start walking the path.

That’s it, in a nutshell. Form your relationship with God, and let His Spirit guide you along the path to being a better you. As I have said in the past, I am not a different me since I have been saved, but I am becoming a better me. It is a life-long journey, and knowing that it won’t happen overnight, that there is no easy way out, but that I am not going it alone is what makes it possible to get done, and to last.

The best part is because it is a journey with God as my guide, since He is eternal, my journey will become an eternal one. With any old self-help book the best I can hope for is to “improve” myself until I die; but, with the Bible, I will have what I want for myself for all eternity. I will never, ever, ever be sad or hurt or upset or depressed or feel bad about myself again, and for all time.

Spoiler alert: I will still have issues while I am in this world and in this body, with this nature. That will never change. That’s what the self-help books don’t tell you- you will always be yourself. You see, their sales pitch is that the writer can make you a different person. Bull!!  Let’s get real, people: you are a sinner, you want to sin, you enjoy sin, and sin is the natural and comfortable choice for you.

That’s why the Bible is the best. It tells you like it really is, who and what you are (in fact, what we all are ) and how to overcome it. You can’t change what you are, but you can learn to overcome it. The choice is simple: do I want some human being to tell me, totally on my own, what to do to overcome something,  or do I want the God of Heaven, Creator of the Universe, Lord of Lords and King of Kings to help me overcome it? Gee, let me think about that one. DUH! 

Think about this: you can get a self-help book and deal with your issue during your lifetime, with the only help being yourself and some other person who you will never even talk to, then face God with nothing but your book in hand and the author (possibly) already going to the down staircase.  Or, accept God and Yeshua, receive the Holy Spirit then deal with your issue during your lifetime with the help of God Almighty, who is always there to guide and support you through the indwelling Ruach, and when you face God you will have Yeshua standing next to you saying, “This one is mine, Father.”  Then be blessed and joyful throughout all Eternity. Guaranteed.

Nu? Which seems better to you?

The Ultimate Anger Management Tool: Prayer

There are a number of things that just can’t be done in this life:

1. You can’t scratch your ear with your elbow;

2. You can’t make a leopard change its spots;

3. You can’t make the person ahead of you in line go faster; and

4. You can’t stay angry with someone when you pray for them.

I have a few people in my life that have not only worked hard to earn my anger, but no matter how many times I have tried to overcome their nastiness and bad manners, they always prove their extraordinary talent for obstinacy and spitefulness is more powerful than my meager attempts to ignore them.

That’s when I pray for them. Not always, mind you- I ain’t no saint; not by a long shot. But there are times when I remember the title of this blog and pray for them.

When you pray for someone you need to “get in their shoes” so that your prayer is appropriately aimed at helping them overcome the very thing that gets you so mad at them.

I have a previous life, with two children and an “ex” that has constantly, and consistently, overcome all my attempts to ignore and diffuse her spite, anger and hatred, which she has instilled in my children against me and my family members. I pray for the kids every day, waiting patiently and prayerfully for their reconciliation with me and their turning to God, in whichever order He thinks is best. And sometimes, I am happy to say, I remember to pray for her. Since the day we separated she refused to let us buy things for them and do things for them, insisting she get the money instead of the children getting the clothes , furniture, or whatever we wanted them to have. Over the years she had proven that giving her money is the same as throwing it away, so in the end, the kids have lost out. The worst part is that the kids think everything she has told them is true, and they actually are just as brainwashed as if they had been growing up in a cult. Someone that mean, that hateful, and so hurt that she will eat her own children in order to hurt me is so desperately in need of the love of God that I cannot possibly refuse to pray for her.

And during those 20 plus years of trying to overcome her, the courts were useless (the mother always wins unless she is a drug addict or something like that.) Now the kids are long past majority, and I am helpless. All I have left is prayer. I haven’t even talked to them for a few years now.

All of this kvetching is not to vent or ask for pity, but to give you an idea of the background, so that when I say I have plenty of ammunition for hating and being angry with someone, you can understand just how powerful prayer is, because when I pray for her and for them all I can feel is pity. The anger is gone, and a genuine desire for them to find forgiveness and peace, as I have, is paramount in my heart and spirit.

When I have one of those conversations (you know, the kind where you tell the person what you have always wanted to say and they listen attentively, because it’s all in your mind) and feel myself getting a little worked up, I can now (thanks to the Ruach inside me) stop because I realize what I should be doing is not “getting it off my chest” (which, by the way, never works- you don’t put out a fire by pouring gasoline on it) but placing it before God and asking His intervention. Not for retribution, or even the justice that is deserved, but for help. And not for me, but for her.

For this to work you have to really mean the prayer, and the way I do that is to recall what I have that she doesn’t. I have the Lord; I have Yeshua as my intercessor, and I have salvation with a guaranteed seat at the table. I have everything that is important in death (that’s not a typo- what is important in life is to make sure you know where you go when life is over. Life is short, death is forever, so I want what is important in death more than what is important in life. Don’t you?) and all she has is her hatred and anger. And that is useless to her; it brings no warmth, no love, and no satisfaction since she can’t hurt me anymore. She has used up all her cards, laid them out on the table, and the other players are already gone.

She has nothing. Even though she has the children, what she has taught them is to be self-centered and unappreciative of anything and everyone. She has not shown them how to be useful members of a relationship, how to love properly, how to be independant and self-assured. She has only taught them the way to grow old and alone, with no friends and no God. If they should ever come to their senses, she may lose them, leaving her absolutely nothing. I have already lost them, and I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone. Not even her.

How can anyone be angry with someone so pitiful? And when I pray for her, and for my kids, I can feel the pain she feels. I can realize how hurt she is. I even feel (sometimes) useless and ashamed that I didn’t make more attempts than I did (and believe me, I made a lot of them) to apologize and help more. All I did is not relevant here, so please understand that I did a lot, travelled a lot, spent extra time and money trying to help them and be as close as one can be when two states away.

It is prayer that has helped me, too, to be less angry and vengeful. I know that God is a loving Father and a merciful Judge, but He is, when all is said and done, God. He will judge mercifully but fairly, and those that have come up short and rejected Him will get the short end of the stick and be, themselves, rejected by Him. Without a significant change in their lives, my ex and my children, blind leading the blind, will all fall into the pit and spend eternity in Sheol. I am not happy with that thought…not happy at all.

So I pray. I pray everyday for my children, and I pray now and then for her. As I said, I’m not a saint and do not pray for her as earnestly as I pray for my children. After all, it is anger management, not anger removal. I think it takes more than just prayer to remove the anger totally; prayer is just one of the tools God gives us to do that. There are still things, even from decades ago, that get under my skin, to to speak, and I try to release it all to the Lord, but I seem to have sticky fingers.

Maybe one day I will be cleansed enough by the Living Water, Yeshua Ha Mashiach, so that my fingers will no longer be sticky.

Are you still angry about something? Are you still feeling a need for justice and yes, wanting revenge? Or maybe just to see someone get their “comeuppance?” If you want to get over it, pray for them. Pray earnestly, pray as you know Yeshua would pray for them (“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”), and if you are having a hard time with that, think about this: you get to be in Paradise forever, and they will be in eternal suffering with no chance for parole. Think about how close you came to their fate, how much better your position than theirs, and much more love you have in your life because you have the Lord, Yeshua and the Ruach HaKodesh. Think about all that you have and all that they don’t, and if you don’t feel pity and remorse for them, well, you should question your own salvation!

I don’t want to believe that anyone who knows the love of God, the suffering of Messiah and the forgiveness we have received could possibly want to deny that to anyone. No matter what they did.

Anger is not a sin, and Shaul tells us that we should not sin in our anger. Be angry if you are mistreated, misjudged, hurt and humiliated. It’s natural to be angry, just don’t sin in your anger. If you want to get rid of it, pray for the person who did it to you. Anger and vengeance are a wormwood that will eat you up from the inside out, so let God have it.

Proverbs says to not return evil for evil, but wait upon the Lord. It’s good advice. Pray for those that have hurt you and made you angry and you will see that it really is the ultimate anger management tool.