Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Self Control: Hold that Cake or Punch a Soldier (Character Trait #8)

About a month ago, I went to a "Hair-cutting Party" at my mom's long time best friends' house, Christine and Gary. "Hair-cutting parties" consist of our two families meeting at Chris and Gary's house where Margie, the amazing-formal hair stylist gone teacher, reverts back to her hair-cutting days while we all eat breakfast, get our haircuts and talk about life. We've been doing this for the last 25 years of my life, once every 6 weeks.

The last hair-cutting party included a reminiscent wedding story of Chris and Gary's wedding day, so many odd years ago.

Gary recounted how He, his bride, and his groomsmen went to pick up the most expensive thing that they could afford for the wedding (their cake) from the local grocery store. Chris and Gary, though connected to the military, were almost-hippies (as much as a daughter of a Marine and the boyfriend of the daughter of a Marine could safely be without getting shot by that very Marine.)

While they were waiting in line, two young marines stood behind them, making snide comments about their long hippie hair. The way I picture it is they probably had mustaches too. And bell-bottoms with burnt orange shirts, partially buttoned. While Gary held the cake, one of the guys, bumped him, sending him lurching forward with the cake in hand that they had spent their savings on. While Gary steadied the cake, his friend lost control and decked the officers until an all out brawl occurred..

Gary said he stood there, with a bazillion thoughts in his brain. Drop the cake and help? Hold the cake and wait? Eat the Frosting ? (he didn't say that..but I would have thought about it). What should he do? Turns out he held that cake with all the self control a young hippie guy could muster., motivated only by his knowledge of what would happen if his young bride came over from the flower section and saw the cake smashed on the floor around two marine casualties. So he stood, watching his football-player-sized buddy beat up the Marines. Gary held that cake for what seemed like an eternity until the grocery store manager broke up the fight.

In a weird way, this reminds me of Jesus.

In the last few days of his life, he could have sent fire to smite the Pharisees who bumped into him, killed the soldiers who attacked him using the power of heaven,  or destroyed the cross with one word to avoid his imminent death. Yet he didn't. Why?

Hebrews 12:2 says that "because of the joy set before him, [He] endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God."

Was it just self discipline? Or was their more to it.

Just like Gary, Jesus held his position on the cross, for the joy set before Him, a glorious wedding. But this was not an ordinary wedding. And this was not just a cake he was holding. This was a wedding to the Church, people who would be reconciled to His Father, bought at a price, and  forgiven by his follow through on the "Joy" set before him. This was a cross, not a cake, that he held fast to., for the joy of a relationship with us for eternity.

And because of Christ, we also can live self-controlled lives, motivated by the "joy" set before us of honoring our Savior.

In Yeakley's book, I am struck by a line in the self-control chapter.

"Self control really means being filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit. Self control sees temptation and says no because of a desire to please Christ, honor Him with our lives, and live in obedience to His commands."

Further, Yeakley explains that in leadership especially, self control  is tested by a leader's use of power.

Thinking on Jesus, he did not use His power for selfish gain, to hold it over others heads, or label others as
insubordinate. He did not give feedback in outbursts of anger or with a desire to embarrass or tear down the disciples. He was not critical to gain more power. Rather, he "did not think equality with God was something to be grasped" (Phil 3) even though he was, in fact, God. He exercised self-control for the sake of the love of his people and for the love of his Father. And, can I not do the same, because of his love for me?

These are convicting thoughts. Oh, that I would act in life with a self-controlled, or rather a Spirit-controlled stance. One unshaken by a little taunting from the enemy. One that eagerly expects the future joy rather than dropping everything on immediate reactionary experience . One that speaks life into others, rather than tears them down in a moment. One that loves Jesus in how I love others, controlled by Him alone.

Ephesians 6:13 says "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." I will hold my stance, like Gary, and more so, like Jesus as I wait for the long term joy, an inheritance and a room in heaven, near my King.  I will stand my ground, and after everything, stand, by the strength and power of the Holy Spirit.

This Blog brought to you by The Beatles Smash Hit, "Help," which I'm pretty soon could have been the soundtrack for Gary's panic in the Grocery Store that day as he waited for the manager to break up the frosting-free fight,