"But if I say, 'I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,' his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot."--Jeremiah 20:9 Like I shared in my last post, this past weekend, I attended our church's women's retreat. It was at one of my favorite sites, the weather was beautiful, and I was surrounded by wonderful ladies. Despite barely arriving on time (with the van's transmission going out after we turned into the campground!), getting locked out of our room, and sleeping little, the Lord is still Lord and I was blessed to see Him moving in so many women.
But as I look back at the weekend, I think God's biggest lesson and message for me personally came as we were turning right while exiting the freeway on the way home. I was sitting in the back seat when my friend, the driver, got off. Now I knew that there were signs on the off ramp that said "No right turn on red light." I debated as to whether or not I should mention it. I thought she might be offended if I told her. What if she thought I distrusted her driving? You know what people think of back seat drivers!
While I was busy deliberating, she made the turn on the red. Oops...too late, I thought. As I was thinking that maybe she would be fortunate enough to get away with it, she looked into her rear view mirror and saw the cop car flashing his lights at her. Nope, no such luck. You can imagine how awful I felt when he gave her a ticket for that moving violation.
All night after I got back home, I felt remorse and guilt. Why didn't I speak up? Because of my fear, I did not say anything. And as a result, she must bear the cost. For me, that was the worst part of it.
I knew that all this could have been avoidable, but it was too late. I couldn't change anything now. I brought it before the Lord and asked Him what I could learn from this experience. (Maybe it could ease the guilt I was feeling!)
How many times have you and I known that we should speak up on his behalf...but we don't? Maybe it's telling someone about Jesus. Maybe it's sharing wisdom that would help them to avoid poor choices in the future. Maybe it's saying a word of loving correction to keep them from straying off the path. Whatever it is, I'm sure that we all have those times when we know that we should say something, but because of fear, we don't.
The lesson that God shared with me as I was reflecting on this incident was this: If He gives me a message to share or a word to speak and I do not say it, I am living in disobedience before Him. I will be held accountable for my sin of omission. But the bigger lesson He wanted to teach me was this: Not only will I be guilty of disobedience, the other person will have to pay for it too.
If I do not speak up and share my faith when God gives me the opportunity and the other person enters into eternity without hearing the gospel, they will have to pay for it with an eternity in hell. If I do not share what God has taught me to others who need it, they may have to suffer through unnecessary pain to learn those same lessons. If I do not correct my children, they will have to bear the consequences of their poor choices.
Now, this is not to say that I am entirely to blame or am completely at fault. The other person has choices too. But I do need to also realize that my inaction also has consequences on others. Now, my friend will have to either pay a fine, spend her time in traffic school, or bear the consequences of having this on her driving record. Yes, as the driver, she does bear responsibility too. But I also know that I could have helped to prevent it.
This is a big lesson for me right now. As I have been starting Mom University, there have been times when I wondered, "Should I write this? Should I say something about this?" I question God's direction and message for me. Usually, I must admit, it is fear that keeps me from speaking out. You are my dear friends and I don't want to step on any toes!
But this lesson has taught me that maybe, somewhere, someone needs to hear what the Lord wants me to say. I tend to think about myself, about how I would look, or how others would perceive me. My focus is entirely on the wrong thing. Instead, I need to focus on God, what He wants me to say, and on the welfare of others. When I do, the Lord will help me to say those hard things when I would much rather stay silent.
This weekend at the retreat, we talked about the spiritual battle that is invisible yet very real. Satan uses that fear to his advantage to keep us from stepping out in faith to do those things that the Lord wants us to do. Though we might think we are safe, we are actually only allowing our faith to be crippled. And when our faith is crippled, we will not step up or speak out.
After a time of repentance, I felt a peace in my heart and a renewed desire to move forward in my faith. No, I can't change that citation for my friend. But I pray that when I am tempted to keep quiet, this incident will remind me that there are consequences---and some of more eternal significance than a driving ticket.