On a Sabbath morning, I found myself standing on my patio mentally criticizing someone. Then I was struck by a disappointing thought: I find it easy to criticize others, but I easily justify and excuse myself.
My discovery happened this way. I had built a rock garden that included a trickling waterfall. It took years to acquire the volcanic rock needed, years to assemble it, and years to plant everything--perhaps 10 years in all.
Actually, it will never be completely finished because I continue to add to it from time to time. I come across a rock, or a plant, and I can't help myself; I want to add it to the structure.
As I admired my work that morning, I thought about what Nebuchadnezzar had said in Daniel 4:30, “Is not this great Babylon that I have built…by my mighty power…?” Obviously, pagan kings aren’t the only ones with proud thoughts! Then I remembered Solomon and after a little effort found Ecclesiastes 2:5-6, “I made myself gardens and orchards, and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made myself water pools from which to water the growing trees of the grove.” Again, I reflected on my work and thoughts and they truly scared me!
As I admired the flowers I had tucked into the nooks and crannies, I decided to take a moment to consider more seriously God’s creation. Originally, I had been thinking about what “I” had accomplished!
Why do we do this?
It is only human to take pride in our accomplishments, but that’s the problem. We shouldn’t really want to be human. We should want to be more like God, but that doesn’t come easily.
Like the Apostle Paul discovered, we have to keep our bodies under subjection to our minds, but our minds, which are also human, need to be kept in subjection to the Lord of Hosts (Romans 7:14-25).
All these thoughts came in an instant, and the solution seemed pretty hard to do. I had wanted to turn on the little waterfall and enjoy the coolness of the Sabbath morning, but I was gently reintroduced to a recurring lesson: until Jesus Christ returns we must daily conquer the self and seek God.
In the end, I had forgotten whom I was initially criticizing. I had found another person to criticize—myself! Then my wife Suzanne told me the coffee was ready and I, somewhat more humbly, went inside the house.
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