The Rolodex

Satan knows we’re not likely to believe all his lies about God but he can almost always count on us to believe that the self-loathing thoughts pinging around in our heads echo His sentiments about us.

It’s a Roladex.

It holds all the references to our failures and blunders and hurts and offenses.

All our disappointments, doubts and distortions.

It records each relationship that ended poorly, each conversation that escalated, each unmet goal and every mangled outcome.

When we’re tired, when we’re busy — when there’s a lot of noise and precious little margin, when we’re not paying attention, when we’re not intentional, when it’s been too long since reading or kneeling–the Rolodex spins. It spins at a traffic light. It spins in the night when sleep won’t come. It spins when phone calls aren’t returned or when that text doesn’t come. It spins when hurtful words are lobbed. It spins when we’ve been overlooked or passed over. It spins when God feels silent and a very long way off.

Each card contains an indictment and wherever it lands there is an account that brings a shutter, a grimace, a flash of regret.

An accusation.

A lie coated in emotion.

They are the disqualifying words collected from our living that bring shame and they kill dreams. They mimic and mock and masquerade. They shove us down, trip us up and hide the light from our eyes.

And sometimes we think they are God’s words. God’s ideas about us. God’s rebuke. And if God feels this way about us surely those clothed in flesh must agree. So we pull back our hearts and we isolate and we lean against the wall, never entering the dance or joining the chorus.

We feel defeat and discouragement and disqualification.

Those cards contain a score, or so we believe, that will cause us to give up and forfeit our destiny. Or they’ll cause us to mount the pony of perfectionism and try just a little bit harder — one more time — to fix it; to become better, more acceptable, more useful.

We’ll buy one more book, see one more therapist, get in one more prayer line — we’ll seek one more opinion and sometimes we pull up stakes, move away and try to start over.

It’s chatter. It’s noise. It’s a deafening cacophony intended to disorient us from the real truth about who we are in Christ.

Our deceiving-killing-thieving-destroying enemy capitalizes on the noise to divert us from Truth and Grace.

Last night after a delicious meal we all settled into an overdue visit and shared hearts. Somewhere between the second cup of coffee and the realization of how late it was getting, he said he hadn’t known how to describe it, this barrage of berating that often comes over him. He said it leaves him beat down and exhausted — defeated and discouraged.

And he didn’t know how to feel all this and feel connected to others at the same time. So he pulled out. Pulled away. And pulled up a shield.

Bitterness, cynicism, fear and negativity became the tell-tale signs that his Rolodex spun him out of community. Out of connectedness.

I tell him that for too many years the spinning has been going on in my head too. I tell him that for many years I prayed that God would remove the errant contraption from my head. Then I tell him what my Father once reminded me of in the wee hours of a tearful morning.

Sometimes I don’t remove but I will always displace.

We want the obstacles removed from us and we don’t want the ongoing job of displacing the lies with truth. We pray for a spiritual procedure as complete and immediate as extracting a bad tooth.  It seems instead that God is in the business of displacing rather than removing. I tell this beleaguered man sitting across from me that my Rolodex spins too. But now when the spinning lands on a card that indicts me I take time to displace it with correct information.The old information is no longer pertinent. The card gets plucked and discarded a new card with the correct data replaces it.

The truth displaces the lies.

Sure, it’s a nuisance but one by one those lie cards are displaced with truth cards.

God’s not mad at us. He’s not irritated with us. He’s not frustrated by us.

He hasn’t changed His mind about us.

But could it be that He is waiting for us to change our minds about ourselves. We are recipients of grace. We’re not perfect. We’re going to make mistakes and get it wrong and fall down trying. But Love reaches out and pulls us to our feet. Those faux pas and failures are simply things we do. They are not representative of who we are. They are not detractors of our worth or the determiners of our value.

Sometimes our toughest battle is believing that what God thinks of us trumps what we think of ourselves. All that matters, all that qualifies is the grace of God that rewrites our script and cancels out all indictments we’ve incurred. Coming to peace with this in our own lives equips us with grace to accept it in others.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship….  Eph. 2:8-10

The Rolodex will spin. But card by card, we defuse it’s potential to drive us into a hole or push us against a wall or force us to pull up stakes altogether. Or worse yet, to attempt our own self-improvement regimen.

One by one, card by card we purge the inaccurate info and receive the Grace required to see ourselves rightly.

It’s a choice.

It always comes down to that.

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