Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

When Stubbornness Prevents Stewardship

“I’m trying to figure out how to convince you to do something that I know you are so internally against.”

This is literally what my supervisor said to me today. At the moment, my impulse was to double down and combat every one of her verbal ploys, which I did. She knows me well enough to know that appealing to my rational sensibilities is best, but she also knows that I’m stubborn as hell!

Mules have nothing on me. If I don’t value something, even if I understand it, I can (and usually will) avoid it. Now that I think about it, “avoid” is much too soft a verb. I flat out refuse to do it. I can stick to my guns better than anyone I know, and I can usually convince others about how “right” I am to do so.

The problem is that while it’s really easy for me to sit on my moral high horse, I allow aspects of things I am responsible for to fall by the wayside because I’m too stubborn to play the game (something my dad has always told me that I need to do more often) or too stubborn to stretch myself outside of my comfort zone. Admitting this is so hard, but God keeps giving me what I’m asking Him for: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139: 23-24). I think it’s impossible to pray a prayer like this in earnest without God holding up a big, non-filtered, freshly Windexed mirror right in front of you. And that’s exactly what happened to me today!

I guess no one really likes being wrong, but when I’ve dug my heels in around a certain perspective only to be proven wrong, I am not happy (sometimes for weeks). It’s worse, though, when I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am right, but I have to do what I don’t want to do anyway. That really grinds my gears, but along with the prayer for God to search me, I have also been praying that I am a better steward over what God has already given me. How can I have faith in God to usher me toward destiny if I won’t attend well to what he’s already blessed me with? How can He trust me with more if I won’t do right by what’s He’s placed in my hands?

I’m reminded of David after he had slain Goliath. Saul, the reigning king, had his anointing removed by God, and God’s favor rested now on David. But David, who was aware of God’s plan, was still in service to Saul as a military leader and as his personal musician in the palace. Saul’s jealousy of David grew more and more intense, and as David played the lyre, Saul threw spears at him, hoping to kill him. All the while, David remained loyal and obedient to Saul (or in his assigned role for the moment) and continued to play and carry out military duties all designed for his demise. And he did so without complaint or lackadaisical effort. Now, I’m no David, not even close. My supervisor is no Saul, not even a little bit, and my life is not in any danger (at least none that I know of), but surely God wants me to check my stubbornness and arrogance in service of obedience to Him.

I couldn’t blame David if he headed back home and told Jesse, “Listen, Pops, I know Samuel put oil on me, but real talk, Saul is crazy, and I’m not about to be playing the lyre and heading out to fight Philistines for the likes of him.” David didn’t do that, though, and that’s such a great reminder to me about what real stewardship is all about. It’s not about me being right. It’s not about me preserving my own sense of importance. It’s not about me having the final word. In short, it’s not about me at all. It’s about fulfilling what God has positioned me to do. It’s about me learning the lessons I need to learn so that when He does move in my life, I am able to be a blessing to others. It’s about me humbling myself enough to allow God to increase in me, so that His will is done. In His time, He will let me know when I’ve accomplished the mission He’s set for me.

So like John the Baptist said, “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30), and I’ll keep praying this prayer, because as stubborn as I am now, I am smart enough to know that I need to change in order to steward like one committed to Christ rather than herself.

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