I open my Bible, the one with pages reading like a colorful map of my life these past five years. Its binding worn, its self-made tabs nearly unneeded after so much traveling to and fro through its precepts, His story. Ours. I’m grateful for the reminder of God’s faithfulness to grow, us each time I hold this Bible in my hands.
Turning to the third chapter of James, I can’t help but notice every verse highlighted in varying shades of soft blue and soothing green and eye grabbing orange. Every verse but one. One I’ve met in passing but never truly visited. Still as black and white as the day it was written. I look forward to the day that one verse is Life to me. When not only does it apply to me, it screams for me to apply it. I believe that is exactly the point I need to take away from it as I wait for that day.
See, we can choose to live baffled by our unknowing or in anticipation of the day we come into new understanding. When that time comes, we can be the man who looked in the mirror only to forget what he saw, or we can be determined not to forget. Either way, we will be changed by our choice.
Eternal works in progress from the moment we were knit, each decision—of attitude, word, and deed—changes us. Each guides our entire being.
C.S. Lewis put it this way in Mere Christianity, “…every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature; either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself.”
Nothing, then, is insignificant, inconsequential, ineffectual, irrelevant. All we say, do, and think will in fact lead to something else. The question becomes, do we want heavenly significance or hellish? Heavenly consequences or hellish? Heavenly effect or hellish? Heavenly relevance or hellish?
Maybe that jumped all over you as it did me. Thankfully, every little bit we can offer toward growing in our godliness is met and surpassed by our Father in Heaven.
If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. (James 3:3-4, NRSV)
That phrase, “the will of the pilot” isn’t as it seems at first read. The Greek hormē, translates in such a way that we assume it would be a person doing the steering, but the true meaning is “a violent impulse”. The will behind that violent impulse determines its nature, be it heavenly or hellish. Whether we operate under our own will or that of the Lord is truly the determining factor of where we’re headed.
Our journey’s direction isn’t up to our own strength and navigation skills. It all comes down to wisdom, and that, not our own.
Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. (James 3:17-18, The Message)