The Final Boss
James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
How many of us have prayed this prayer before? "Lord, purify my heart and take out anything that is not like You." If you raised your hand, then you know that this is one of those prayers that just feels right when you pray it. It sounds so pious and holy. It really rolls off the tongue, and you actually think you believe it when you pray it. Eventually, we discover that it's one thing to say something that sounds good, but another to actually do it.
For much of my life, I've been pretty good at avoiding conflict. This ability to avoid conflict is not necessarily inspired by fear or anxiety, but rather by wisdom and indifference. I'm pretty good at protecting my peace and I don't invest time or energy into toxic people. I realize that I've been able to get away with this because I don't have very many intimate, inner court relationships in my life. I was raised as an only child and the friendships and relationships I've had were handpicked, so I've had the luxury of choosing the people with whom I'm most agreeable. If those friendships and relationships weren't a good fit, I've had the freedom to end them. I'm not exactly a social butterfly, so I don't make many connections, and when I do, it's rare that they go far beneath the surface. Also, I'm single with no kids. So, you get the point that there are very few people that even have the opportunity to have conflict with me.
At first glance, a stress free life without conflict may seem like a huge benefit. However, this season is teaching me the need for healthy conflict through close-contact, intimate relationships. These relationships are designed to challenge us and reveal things within us that we might now know exists. No one likes to be agitated, but agitation is the only thing that is able to break through to what's beneath the surface and reveal what's unseen.
Recently, life's circumstances have placed me in close contact with one of the few people (possibly the only one) that has both the ability and esteem in my life to agitate me. In fact, no one can quite agitate me like this person. It's almost unbelievable how this person is able to press certain buttons that I didn't realize were still there without even doing it on purpose. I didn't choose this person and this person is certainly not someone I can abandon. So, my strategy of being able to skate through life without conflict has finally come to an end.
My non-confrontational lifestyle had convinced me that I had made huge strides in certain areas of my life. I felt like I was able to love better. I felt like I was able to forgive better. I even felt like I was able to fellowship better. Perhaps I have made strides in these areas, but this circumstance is exposing the fact that maybe it's just that I haven't been challenged in these areas. What if I've not been growing in these areas, but simply avoiding them? What if I hadn't really worked out my issues with this person, but I was simply "doing them in small doses" and convincing myself that was enough? What happens when there is a big dose of a person who agitates you? Are you still able to love and forgive? Should love and forgiveness have limitations depending on the dosage?
It didn't take long for me to realize that this circumstance is a test of my faith, and the challenges that this person brings have made them feel like the final boss. The final boss is the character at the end of the video game who you face that really tests how good you are. The final boss is extremely difficult to defeat and you have to try over and over to win. The final boss is the villain in the movie who the hero faces and you have no idea how they are going to come out on top. The final boss is the opponent that your team faces in the championship game after months of practicing and you know you've got to give it your all to win. I had been able to avoid facing this final boss for some time, but now the battle is here. The question is: Do I have what it takes to come out victorious?
It never really feels like a good time for a trial. There's no one looking at the calendar and saying, "You know, Lord, July 17th would be a great day for my trial. Let's shoot for that." In reality, trials can come at the most inconvenient times. We have no control over them and the truth is that we would avoid them as much as possible if we could. There are benefits to storms for the greater good, but most of us would choose a high of 75, sunny, and with a nice breeze on the beach. This means that we are usually taken by surprise when the challenge comes and it really shows us what we're made of.
To be honest, in just a short time of this trial, it has really stretched my faith. There have been times where I felt like giving up. There have been times where I've felt like punching a hole in the wall. There have been times where I've felt like crying. There has even been a time where I've yelled at them at the top of my lungs (which I almost never do). This circumstance has brought out feelings that I rarely feel, all in a span of less than a week. I'm uncomfortable and my gears are being grinded. This is the only person on earth who has the ability to bring this out of me and surely this is the final boss. ...Right?
The more I came to terms with this situation and my response to it, eventually I realized that it's actually me who is the final boss. Sure, it feels like the other person is annoying me and trying my faith. Sure, this person sometimes frustrates me to the high heavens. But the reality is that they are who they are. The may change or they may not change. The real test is how do I respond. Can I show this person the love of Christ that I preach about so much? Can I forgive this person for the things that they do to me, whether they be on purpose or unintentional? Can I look past this person's shortcomings and focus on all the great qualities about them? Here I am identifying this person as the final boss because of their flaws, but in actuality, they are simply being used to expose all of the ugly flaws within me.
The truth is that each of us is our own final boss. Our very own pride, flesh, and ego are our biggest contenders. All of life's external circumstances are simply designed to reveal the internal things that we need to work out. The storms that come are never the focus, but the real test is how we respond to the storms. Are we willing to die-to-self enough to love people that afflict us? Are we willing to swallow our pride enough to forgive those trigger all of our microaggressions? Are we willing to put away the self-righteousness of judging whether someone is worthy of our forgiveness or not? Are we willing to receive and give the agape love of God that empower us to love the unlovable?
Fighting the final boss does not feel good and it's not comfortable, but this walk was not designed to feel good. This walk is about confronting ourselves and our hearts and the ugliest aspects of us. Understand that when we pray something like, "Lord, take out anything in me that's not like you", it's a tall order. We pray for change, but forget that it doesn't feel good to be changed. God is willing to change us more and more into the image of Christ, but it will come at the expense of self and with the price of humility. Self is your biggest opponent and self is who you need to defeat. God has given us everything we need pertaining to life and Godliness, so we have what it takes to win. Are we willing to step up to the challenge and face the final boss?
1 Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”