Monday, May 01, 2017

Uncircumcised in Heart and Ears

Paolo Uccello [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Melanie Rigney

Stephen said to the people, the elders, and the scribes: "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the Holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it." When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. (Acts 7:51-54)

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. (Psalm 31:6a)

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (John 6:35)

Lord, open my heart and ears when You call others to admonish this sinner with love.

Correction is always hard to hear, no matter how lovingly and kindly it is delivered, no matter how much we know in our souls that it’s needed.

Back in my late thirties, after a couple of particularly raucous public events, one of them involving a wedding toast, my then-husband with great compassion suggested I was drinking too much. And while I’ve backslid a time or twenty since then, I took what he said to heart, and have always remembered the discussion as one of the kindest, bravest things he did for me.

A wise friend took me aside five or six years ago and noted my proclivity for running away from conflict rather than acknowledging disagreements and attempting to find common ground… or calmly standing by my position. And while I still am uncomfortable with conflict, I took what she said to heart, and try to remember her words when such situations arise.

Three or four years ago, another friend noted my hypersensitivity to perceived criticism and suggested I consider the remarks to be a baseball caught in a catcher’s mitt… and to remember I have the choice of hurling the ball back, throwing it softly, or simply letting it drop to the ground. And while I still sometimes overreact to what people say, I took what she said to heart, and find myself slowly but surely gaining more control over my emotions.

Consider Stephen’s harsh words to the people. Small wonder they were infuriated and ground their teeth at him. But his correction, frank and blunt as it was, may have planted a seed in the hearts of many, including Saul, who was among those present and who would later have his famous conversion on the road to Damascus. May we open our hearts and ears when the Lord uses others to carry His message of correction—and love.

This week, listen when others offer words you initially take as criticism or judgment. Are the words from the Lord… or the evil one? Discern carefully.

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