Somewhere in my late teens, I naively began asking God to make me a person of character. What on earth was I thinking?! My reasoning went like this: When trouble shows up in my life (which I knew it would), I want to be capable of choosing a high-road, a road I see people avoiding at great cost to themselves and others.
12 years ago, sitting quietly with the Lord, I felt the Spirit gently deposit a clear message to me, “Anne, you have no idea the depth of the deceitfulness of your own heart.” As I pondered that message, which I very often did, I assumed God was speaking about outside influences and my ability to be lured by them. I soon came to understand I was in far greater danger of being self-deceived, than I was of succumbing to external influences. In light of that, I pause and reflect whenever I read Psalm 19. David asks God to:
“Keep back Your servant also
from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent
of great transgression.”
What is the link between presumptuous sin and the development of character? Honestly, I believe what motivated my childlike request for character was a hidden desire to become spiritually bullet-proof. What do I have to do; learn; acquire; understand, so that I won’t screw up my life and the lives of those around me? I felt the development of character would insulate me from failure. I really REALLY wanted to avoid calamity rather than spend my life doing damage control. I was looking outward to see where the pitfalls might be so I could circumvent them. I was NOT looking inward, aware that I had perhaps more power than anyone to sabotage my own life.
“Anne, you have no idea the depth of the deceitfulness of your own heart.” It was a slow illumination, over the course of the next several years, before I began to waken to my most formidable foe: my heart under my influence. Forget outside forces. I had to be foremost on guard from the potential present within myself.
Until I came to grips with the danger of my heart under my influence, I could never hope to become a woman of Godly character. What laid within my own flesh would pose the greatest threat to the development of character. The real question became, What about my heart under God’s influence? Could character develop within than scenario? And then the penny dropped.
The fact is, character is a byproduct of connectedness and surrender to Jesus. It is a trait I pursue indirectly. It is fruit that flows into me from Jesus, showing itself progressively as I am conformed more into the likeness of Him. The presence of it (or lack of it), remains a litmus for me, about whether or not I’m yielded to God’s pervasive influence within me, (my heart under God’s influence).
This morning, the Lord widened the lens for me even more with the words of Romans 5:3-5. The beautiful sequence that launches through suffering……. endurance leading to patience, leading to character, finishing with hope. There is something beyond character. Do I dare ask the Lord to make me a woman of hope?!
This very week I sat at The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. I could not stop the tears… of joy… of gratitude… of the beauty of the love of Jesus. In those sacred moments, I was aware not of the presence of character….. but of HOPE. The journey continues…