Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Inspirations January 24, 2010

As a Young Woman in my church I (along with all other girls) was asked to set and complete specific goals in different areas Church leaders felt were important: faith, individual worth, good works, etc.

One particular value always seemed a bit vague to me. I was never able to put a real definition to it beyond the example of: choosing not to cheat on a test. This value was integrity.

Age and experience has brought home a truer meaning of integrity, but let's start for a moment with a few definitions from the dictionary: rigid adherence to a code or standard of values; moral soundness, especially as it relates to steadfastness to truth, purpose, responsibility, or trust; moral and ethical strength; or the quality of being whole, complete, undivided.

My thoughts, and the thoughts of countless others, automatically turn to Job when considering men/women of integrity. Job had everything taken from him. EVERYTHING! His body was ravaged time and again. His wife and friends repeatedly asked what he had done to anger God. After all, he must have committed a fairly heinous sin to deserve such punishment.

Stop for a moment to think about what that must have truly felt like. Not only is God asking you to suffer untold hardships, not only is He keeping you in the dark regarding the reasons, but those you most love and trust really believe you are the one at fault. You have sinned. It doesn't matter they have never seen you do anything dishonest before.

Job amazes me with his responses. He states, "All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils; My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit. God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go" (Job 27:3-6).

My husband and I have been participating in a "Biggest Loser" challenge with some friends of ours. It's nothing big, just trying to change the way we eat and get in more exercise. Sunday mornings we weigh in and send our new numbers to the head of the group, who inputs it all into an anonymous chart. I couldn't help thinking how tempting it would be, to fudge the numbers. Nothing big, of course, just a half a pound here or there. I'd never actually do it though, as I could not live with the guilt of knowing I won or lost the competition dishonestly.

This year I've also given up soda pop. For the first two weeks it wasn't a problem. This last week, however, has held temptation over my head so heavily I could have bowed down with the weight. Little instances popped up where I could have taken a sip - just one little sip. It wouldn't have been a big deal to anyone else. After all, they didn't set this goal. What stopped me? Knowing I wasn't strong enough to just say no. Knowing I would have gone against something I knew was better for me. Even tonight, though, the urge is still there. I would be hard pressed to say no if a Diet Dr. Pepper showed up on my doorstep right about now.

I bring up these examples to illustrate when integrity is most obvious - during trials and challenges. I see it as being the truest test of whether or not you believe the things you preach and teach. Don't cheat on a test. This is easy to say until you've spent an entire night cramming, woke up late, can't remember a THING, and the smartest kid in class happens to be sitting in such a way you can easily read his answers.

You shouldn't lie. Of course we shouldn't lie. Except, maybe, when your girlfriend comes walking out of a changing room wearing something positively hideous looking and she really really wants to know what you think. All the while you can tell she wants you to lie through your teeth if you don't think it's fabulous.

Do not get yourself into debt. I mean, this is just practical, as well as good advice, right? Well sure...until you see THE most incredible shoes in your LIFE and you just have to have them but you just spent your money on rent and won't get paid for another two weeks. By then the shoes might be gone and besides they're on sale and without a DOUBT you'll pay them off as soon as your paycheck comes...

Integrity does not always come easily. Integrity must be practiced again and again until it becomes second nature, until making the right choice becomes the only choice. Think of integrity as the choices we make when no one else is looking or listening. It's the inner conflict between the "natural man" and the people God wants us to become.

Look back for a moment at the dictionary's definitions of integrity. Notice the progression from definition to definition. We start with "rigid adherence." Does it sound as strict to you as it does to me? Yet this is often how starting any sort of change - most especially ones for the better - start out. We have to set definite lines where not to cross. We have to make them clear and concise so as not to lose our way.

Next comes "moral soundness." We've set the lines, we've begun developing our integrity, and we've proven it to be a better way of life. It is "sound" in our beliefs. The next definitions mentions the word "strength." Like anything in life, as we practice something over and over, we are strengthened in that area. It becomes a muscle we depend upon, one we know we can rely upon.

All of this brings us to the last definition. When we have set the lines, proven it to be sound, and made it a strength, we become "whole, complete, undivided." Isn't this what God most wants for us? Can you even imagine what it would feel like, to be undivided? When we do the things the Lord has commanded and allow those strengths to become such a part of us we cannot be separated from them, our abilities to navigate through this life become strenthened as well.

God wants us to be happy, to be whole, but we cannot be complete when what we teach and preach are the exact opposite of what we choose to do. Cheating our way through this test of life will not grant us great rewards when it comes time to being graded. I hope you think about this the next time you find yourself needing to "practice what you preach."

1 comment:

Debbie D said...

Once again this is JUST what I needed. Thanks beautiful Laurie :)