Here’s another one from Carrie Ratcliff:
By Carrie Ratcliff
I listened to one of the recently posted Bible studies and there was great discussion on thought.
I’ve reflected on this lately as a result of having just started graduate school. Doesn’t graduate school require thought? And lots of what we might call “self improvement?” Isn’t this increasing me instead of Christ?
Sure, if I had applied to graduate school with a result in mind and delusions of grandeur. If my intent were self-interest. If my thoughts become sorcery. And if my thinking is driven by a desire to protect myself, advance myself, be superior to others, or turn graduate school into MY PLAN TO <FILL IN ANY CRAZY NOTION HERE.>
I literally was sitting at my computer one day and it occurred to me that I should apply to graduate school. A major came to me, so I opened my browser and searched for schools in my area that offered a degree in the major. The first school I selected offered the exact degree. I applied to that school. There were no GRE or GMAT requirements and I met all application and acceptance requirements. My application was submitted past the due date for fall admission and yet I was admitted for fall. All I did was respond to what was there. Even if it was just a crazy thought of mine, I responded to it–what I didn’t do was start planning on going to graduate school–because that would mean that I was investing in an outcome. I did get in, though, so I am going–but if my path changes and I can’t go any longer, then I will stop going.
Graduate school requires that I read texts and answer questions that test my ability to apply what I read. This is how I approach it (I started school earlier than fall, so I have just finished my first class):
I was accepted to graduate school. Unless something arises that prevents me from going, I’m going.
There is a list of classes that I have to take, so I register for the first available class.
The class has a syllabus. I review the syllabus and begin work on the first assignment.
I read the text. I study it. I take a quiz or a test.
All I am doing is responding to what’s there. I can read any book in the world on any topic and take a quiz on it and all I’m doing is responding to what’s there. The quiz questions me on the subject matter and I answer the questions accordingly. I don’t judge the text, the process, or any of the situations that arise as a result of school.
Now today, I took a final exam. I arrived with a calculator. I was told that I could not use a calculator and I PANICKED. Aha! When this happened, I resurrected myself and I had to repent. And it was REALLY hard to repent because I HATE MATH! In that moment, I denied the power of God.
In that moment, I believed that I had to lean on my own understanding. I have no idea why I’m going to school, but in that moment, I was invested in a certain outcome. I wanted to pass the test. I was caught! I took the test and I felt certain that I failed it. The computer even showed how many answers I missed and I was sure that I was going to lose my “A.”
Have you heard Ole talk about being “off to the races” when you resurrect yourself? That’s exactly what happened today as a result of my idolatry being revealed. Because I have made being “in a state of peace” an idol and I have made getting an A in this class an idol. So my class was transformed into a situation that revealed my idolatry. What did I do? I repented, of course. And I returned to peace.
While reading any of the course material, if I took any of the content and used it for my own purpose–that is, if I began planning to “do something” as a result of what I’ve read, then I’m back in the world. But if all I’m doing is responding to a task assignment and I’m responding to a requirement to take a test, and if I’m responding to a question that my teacher asks me, then I am being obedient.
Nothing is off limits to us. Absolutely nothing. And I believe that one of the most critical reasons why you are to be “careful of nothing” is because the more you experience, the more you put yourself into any situation, the more you “put yourself out there” the sooner your idolatry is revealed and the sooner you will empty yourself of every last bit of your false self.
Take no thought–just do. Just respond to whatever comes your way. Respond with that knee-jerk reaction or with absolute abandonment–both responses are correct–one response reveals your idolatry and the other reveals your obedience. You will never get to complete abandonment and obedience if you don’t know what parts of you still exist. BUT DON’T FAKE IT!!! I allowed myself to get really angry today because that is how I felt and it made it possible for me to see yet another part of myself that still existed. I don’t regret it and I am grateful for the gift of repentance because I know another level of emptying has taken place. If I had been “trying” to control my thoughts today, I possibly would have faked being nice at the testing center and then would I have seen my sin? That is why I also had to repent of my need to always be at peace. It might sound really confusing, until you think about it from the perspective of investment. I cannot be invested in anything NOT EVEN IN MY DESIRE FOR PEACE.
I cannot be invested in anything but absolute abandonment of self.
So read, watch the news, do crossword puzzles, take classes. Respond to absolutely everything in your path with 100% honesty. Your response will tell you what you need to know. Are you loving, acquiescing, humbling yourself, giving yourself, and yielding to anyone and everything? Are you loving your neighbor and putting her needs above yours? Or are you judging, planning world domination, elevating yourself over others, hating, fighting, taking a stand, protecting yourself, fearing, loathing, or feeling shame? Then confess it and repent. Your response to anything in your path tells you everything you need to know about what your next step should be.
So simple. It is so simple. And it’s fun. 🙂