As Anton Ego put it in the movie Ratatouille, "... you know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?"
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
iPray eVotionals exhorts those who pray. It's the glass of water held out around each month's turn for the runners who can use a quick and easy quench in order to finish strong.
Approx. reading time: 10 minutes
One belt leads to the next
I was to test for my next Karate belt in a few short days. At my last class before testing a fellow student watched me review my one steps, forms, defenses as well as my hands and feet combinations.
"I feel like I've got this but at the same time I hope I remember everything." I confided.
He said, "I know what you mean." He went on, "It's funny because I feel like I know so much as I prepare for testing. I'm confident on test day, but after I promote up and start to work on the next belt level, I am immediately reminded of how much I do not know and how much more there is to learn. It all starts again."
The reality of that one statement sent my mind on a journey. When are we ever in a place where we know everything there is to know? God prepares us for each season so that we can perform the duties and tasks of the present belt around our waist with the ability to confidently promote up to the next. By staying focused and dedicated to mastering the requirements, the present belt's completion will end with a culmination of one belt and the beginning of another. The learning process starts again.
When test day came I felt ready. "I've got this!" Confidence seemed to beam from my every pore while another part of me didn't want to mess up. "I hope I remember everything." Most of the elements I had repeated a number of times and the delivery felt natural. One element I had only recently learned but it was fresh in my mind. I knew what was going to be asked of me and I was ready!
As the testing began I performed each task. Until a weaponry defense was asked of me that I had not yet learned. My partner went first and performed perfectly. I couldn't believe that I was being tested on something I had not learned. I did the best I could to copy what my partner had done before me, relying on the awareness I had gained from my training. After the test I stood up tall, hoping that the one unknown element would not make everything else I knew and worked so hard for stand for nothing.
My name was called. I approached my Sensei.
"Congratulations." I was presented with a new belt.
"What an accomplishment," I thought.
Then the moment was flavored with new information. Before the promotion had a chance to set in, my Sensei gave a summary of what I would be required to learn and achieve while wearing my new belt. "You will have new forms, kicks, weaponry..."
As I listened I realized my moment of excitement seemed brief. I held everything I needed to know just a moment ago. In a matter of minutes I was being told of new things I would be required to master. There was work to be done!
"Always a student," I thought. "No room for a cocky know-it-all attitude. Not in training, nor in testing, and especially not when promoting up."
After the promotion I took pictures and was congratulated but in the back of my mind I knew that with the new belt also came new challenges, additional layers of knowledge and a new set of requirements that must be achieved.
Life is full of promotions. Walking into High School for the first time, getting a first job, getting married, or my latest promotion, becoming a mom of a middle schooler. God's training and our preparations include all kinds of elements. Many times we are not even aware that what we are learning is related to a promotion, but it usually is. The testings are rarely a predictable experience. Rather they always seem to contain some unknowns. Promotions bring excitement and joys flavored with the knowledge of new challenges and amazing life lessons to come.
When I look at past belts, I am excited at all God has achieved in and through me. It reminds me of God's faithfulness, how I can trust His training in my life to see me through every test, and if I can get past those belts then surely I can master all that is involved in wearing the next.
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were in the middle of being typical teenagers unaware that they were in training, preparing for belts they never dreamed they would have to wear. The boys were soon stripped from the life they had known, taken from their homes and became slaves in the courts of Nebuchadnezzer. They were forced to obey, respect and humble themselves to the ones that enslaved them. During a three year training period the boys received an education that would determine where their services would land.
God allowed Daniel and his friends to excel in their training. It must have been difficult to be educated by a people that did not fear or know God. Still the boys humbled themselves and worked as if they were working for God. He had mighty plans for them to be an example of faith and devotion to Him over man, even while they were serving men. Can you imagine how easy it would be to slowly let your guard down and compromise in thoughts and actions while gaining in status? Instead, when it came to the things that they felt would cause them to sin against God, the boys stood strong and promoted up to the next belt.
The first test we read about comes when the boys were given food designed to keep them healthy and strong but Daniel felt that eating it would defile themselves before God. When Daniel asked if they could eat only vegetables their caregiver knew it would be the end of him if the boys started to become weak as a result of the food they were not eating. God gave Daniel the courage to ask if they could be tested for 10 days, eating only the vegetables. If they became weaker then they would eat the food they were told to eat, but if they were not weaker they could eat how they wished. God showed favor to them! Not only did the caregiver agree but at the end of 10 days Daniel and his friends were stronger and healthier than all the other servants. They were allowed to continue to eat in a way that honored God and they were promoted up.
Next we hear about how the boys were educated in Neb's way and God gave them discernment, knowledge, understanding in what they had to learn, Daniel even had the gift of understanding visions. At the end of the three years Neb could not find any men equal and they went into high service. The test came when Neb had a dream that none of his men could figure out. Daniel was brought before him as one who could interpret. Daniel boldly gave God all the credit as the one who would reviled the meaning of the dream. Daniel and his friends asked for God to give the meaning and He did. Daniel gave God the credit and the glory for He had given him the answers. Daniel was promoted up.
In karate, a white belt would never test for a black belt without first passing the other colored belts. They would fail the test. God built Daniel and his friends up to the point that they could trust God over the threat of loosing their very life. Several times Daniel was plotted against, his faith used against him to eliminate his influence and his life, yet his faithfulness always ended with a new "belt". (See Daniel 6) He was continually promoted up!
It really doesn't matter how wonderful they performed to Nebuchadnezzer because Daniel and his friends remembered that ultimately they were to obey God. Although they gained so much favor and were put in the highest place of service that many would only hope for, they remembered that it was God who held the authority to promote up.
The Bible tells us that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego made the choice not to bow to a statue made by human hands. Worshiping anything other than God was idol worship to them. A law was passed that whoever did not bow would die. They did not have to cause a riot or turn tables, all could see the stand they made. Many around them were astonished at their boldness to show that they would only bow to God at the risk of facing death. That it was not out of disrespect to the earthly people they were serving, but out of respect and obedience to their God.
The boys obeyed God first and accepted the consequence for not bowing to Nebuchadnezzer and were put into the fire for not bowing. In all earthly understanding they deserved it. No matter the high position they were in and how great Nebuchadnezzer once thought they were, it was the consequence. The king was furious and his attitude toward them changed. What kind of promotion was this?
As they were in the fire they did not burn and God showed His presence with them while in there. The King was surprised and humbled to the point of recognizing that no other God could save in this way. God set things right not at the point of not bowing, but at the point of full submission and climbing into a fire raised to a heat that no man could bare, so that He could be seen.
The Bible tells us that the boys were again promoted up.
iPray you will STAND strong to earn your next belt.
iPray you will STAND and not compromise in your training.
iPray you will STAND with confidence when testing.
iPray you will STAND strong in your faith when the test is less than predictable and in the face of unknown elements.
iPray you will STAND and rely on your training, trusting everything you worked so hard for stands for something.
iPray you will STAND when the rest of the world sits down.
iPray you will STAND knowing that it may mean the death of an earthly position or title for a season.
iPray you will STAND in devotion to God above everything else, trusting Him over the seen and unseen, trusting that God IS being seen.
iPray you will STAND when God chooses you to make a stand.
iPray you will STAND by remembering past belts God has seen you through, believing you can master all that is involved in wearing the next.