A few nights ago, our president shared his perspective on the State of the Union. Maybe it’s just a new year, or perhaps it having this sort of Self-Assessment of our leadership, but I thought it was a good reminder to me of the importance to assess the state of our own personal unions from time to time.
Thomas Paine was referenced in that speech by President Obama, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Yes, these times are hard. Every day, I hear about more jobs being lost, more economic issues, out of work, food pantries being harder, charities that are barely functioning when they are needed even more. The stress can really get to me, I am even avoiding watching the news – it’s just too overwhelming.
The overwhelmed feelings don’t go away when I look at my own life. Lord, can we just talk about the future and what is going to happen? Did you see that over there? Is that going to be fixed? Will you heal this? Will you take away that? Each day brings it’s own challenges and triumphs.
I think one of the biggest struggles that I face when doing a self-assessment of my heart and spirit is the quickness to compare myself to someone else. Whether it is admiring someone and feeling like they are gifted or achieved beyond something I can aspire to, or if it something more of a prideful nature – humph look at them. That is when I have to be careful to “remove the plank from my eye first and make sure I am seeing clearly.” Luke speaks of looking at someone else and pointing out what we see as a flaw, an error, a mistake, a weakness – a “speck of sawdust in their eye,” (Luke 6:42). Sawdust in the eye – ouch! I don’t even like the feel of eye goop in my eye. Sawdust would be painful, I would be blinking and my eye would be watering, maybe hopping up and down. My eye waters, the next thing I know the other eye will water in sympathy watering, my nose will run, and there goes the mascara. But, that is just the sawdust – let’s keep reading.
“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye?’”
A plank? Wait just a minute, I’m having enough eye goopy watering, nose running, by now I have stubbed my toe from running around and not being able to see. But, a plank? That makes me think of a sliver of wood that is wedged in that delicate area. Forget running eyes and nose – we are talking out and out can’t see – and desperate to get that out. How in the world am I supposed to help someone else while I’m running around trying to get this gigantic wood sliver out of my own eye?
So, why don’t we all do this? Why does it get easier to point out somebody else’s speck? Our souls are quite delicate and strong as well – and the plank that gets wedged in hurts. But, over time it takes less and less attention, I get used to the pain. I get better at ignoring it, at looking around the painful area to avoid making changes.
Lord, please point out my planks to me. I know I have them. And, would you walk with me all the way, because I think the removal of them is going to hurt.
I wonder what the state of our personal and national union would look like if we worked on our planks.