Yesterday I met a lady who always seemed to have a hard face. Her face displayed such things as disapproval, dislike, discomfort, and so on. Yet yesterday her face was soft. I was struck by the transformation and could see she was actually quite good looking, despite being advanced in years. Her nice looks were previously hidden by hardness in her face.
We move through a range of dispositions over time. We can feel like life is a breeze some of the time and other times feel like we are buried in burdens. We can feel on top or underneath. We can be full of hope, or struggle to cope.
In those changing seasons, even if the season is just for an hour or so, our whole personality can reflect what we are feeling. We can be kind and friendly, or short and irritable. We can think more of others, or be totally distracted by our own problems. We can smile or snarl.
For some, those seasons are not transient, but have settled in for the long term. A few nights ago, visiting friends, I noted how geared the husband was. It could have been seen as him being energetic, but as the evening wore on I realised he was not just enthusiastic, but wound up. I asked the wife, in front of her husband, “When does he ever relax?” She couldn’t think of any time when he wasn’t geared.
He excused his sense of being wound up by explaining there are constant pressures at work and his business partner is even more under pressure than he is. That might be the reason, but it may also be that he has developed a life pattern of being geared. It may also be that there are underlying spiritual issues causing him to carry burdens he doesn’t need to carry, such as feeling responsible for things that are not his concerns, or feeling he has to make up for past failures.
The lady whose face softened is someone who seemed to have long term issues in the back of her mind, causing her to be unhappy in herself and hardened in her attitude toward others. I was so delighted to see that something changed in her inner disposition. I didn’t know her well enough to ask what was going on internally.
I recall a time in my late teens when I went into a huge Christian meeting and sat in the seat provided for me. As I sat, hidden among the thousand or so people, I had the disturbing sensation that I was sinking and shrinking at the same time. The momentary sensation was as if I was shrinking to just a few inches in height, feeling myself sinking lower and lower into the seat.
I panicked and put my hand on the back of the seat in front of me, to rescue me from becoming almost nothing. And instinctively I silently cried to God. I had the terrible feeling of becoming ‘nothing’, losing all my significance.
At the same time there came a sense of challenge from God, asking if I could allow Him to make me nothing and take away all the things I relied on. I knew immediately that I had to trust God and let go. As I did the whole experience was over and I was seated, among the crowd, just like any of the other people listening to what was going on up front. In that momentary experience I was changed. I felt different on the inside. Something of my fight to be important, noticed or note worthy was broken off my life.
Another example relates to my changed attitude toward my firstborn son, Stephen. I had three young sons in quick succession. They often enough made messes or noise, or otherwise earned my correction and rebuke. One day I realised I was always toughest on my firstborn and fairly light in correcting the next two sons. I quietly asked God to show me why I was annoyed with one and not the others.
I realised that my selfish life as a young husband was interrupted by the invasion of a baby just under a year after we were married. My freedom to enjoy my wife was taken from me by this baby that needed so much of her time, kept her tired, and messed up our lives. Without realising it I resented that invasion and the loss of my uninterrupted life with my young bride. Thus I had hardness toward Stephen that I did not have toward the next two. By the time they were born I was accustomed to the impact of a new baby in our world.
I prayed about that issue, forgiving Stephen for unknowingly disrupting my life. After that my relationship with Stephen was changed for the better. I was able to enjoy him and have fun with him as never before and I wasn’t hard on him anymore.
So, how do you rate on the hardness – softness issue? Are your natural qualities of beauty and ability masked by a hard unhappy veneer? Are you geared and pressured by issues hidden in the background of your life? Are you living a life based on personal issues you should let go of? Are your relationships distorted in some way by things you need to deal with?
God in His grace wants you to be live in freedom, love, peace and blessing. If you are aware of things that are making you hard, in your face, on yourself or toward others, then bring them to the Lord and allow Him to set you free.