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Practicing What You Preach
Each day when I get dressed, I usually put on the same jewelry, even though I have several boxes that hold a variety of earrings, necklaces and bracelets. The only ring I wear is my wedding ring. I wear a pair of silver hoop earrings that my mother-in-law gave me. My watch is a $7 Walmart special. And I always wear a small gold cross on a gold chain . . . until about a week ago when the clasp broke.
I was washing my hands and when I looked in the mirror, I saw the chain dangling on my shirt. My immediate fear was that the cross might have slipped off and was lost. But as I carefully picked up the ends of the necklace, I found it was still there. The necklace has great sentimental value to me. The cross, of course, is symbolic of my faith in Jesus Christ. The necklace is also special to me because my husband bought it for me for Christmas about 10 years ago. That may not seem like a big deal to most people, but to me it meant something. It meant that he understood the change that I had made in my life and the commitment I had made to serving God. Even though he has not made the same choice (yet), he has never held me back or begrudged me any of the time or effort I have made in serving God and supporting our church.
Even though I wear the necklace every day, I am surprised by how often I am complimented on it – especially by people who see me every day. Every baby I’ve held wants to, of course, put it in his or her mouth. My kids at school will touch it and look at it and ask me about it. It has been a conversation starter with adults who have commented on it. I never realized how often I touched it while wearing it until it was gone and I found myself reaching for something that wasn’t there. It has become a part of me and I have felt kind of naked without it.
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
One of the thoughts that ran through my mind was would people know who I am without it? Of course, I know that wearing a cross necklace doesn’t make me a Christian any more than wearing a stethoscope would make me a doctor. I guess I had felt like the necklace was a way to “advertise” Jesus and to let people know what I believe. That led to other thoughts as I wondered if my actions and behavior were where they needed to be. Matthew 7:16 says that “you will know them by their fruits.” Actions speak louder than words or anything you might wear. I wondered how many times when I was wearing that necklace that my actions and words didn’t line up with what it represented. What mixed messages had I been sending?
When our church used to have a van with the church’s name on it, we would joke about being on our best behavior while driving or riding in it. It was in jest, because we all fully understood that our behavior should be the same whether we were in the church van or in our own personal vehicles. While this is true, it would also be true to say that we took our behavior more seriously when we were in that van. We can often get more lax when we are in our comfort zone, like at home.
Recently during prayer, God spoke into my spirit that I needed to check my behavior at home. We feel comfortable with our family at home – they see us at our worst and love us warts and all. But I need to be more careful of my words and actions and be on guard. My husband is unsaved and my daughter, though she has always gone to church with me and has been baptized, is at an impressionable age. He cautioned me to make sure that I am not just giving them the love of a wife and mother, but that I am also demonstrating Godly love. I need to be more patient and understanding and less short-tempered. In other words, I need to quit sweating the small stuff and focus on what counts. This has been easier said than done, because they both do things that get on my very last nerve. But I am trying, because I do want them to see Christ in me and I do want to “practice what I preach.”
As Christians, we have a responsibility to behave in a way that brings honor to Christ. People are watching and some would love to use our failures as an excuse not to serve Him. Does that mean you have to be perfect? No, but it does mean you have to be more open. How will people know that we have a God that forgives us if we aren’t even willing to admit our mistakes?
Hopefully in the next week or so I will make it to a jewelry store and get the clasp on my necklace fixed. I look forward to wearing it again. I had always thought that wearing it said something to others. But now I think it is more of a reminder to me that I need to always be aware of who I am, who I represent and what I am to be doing. Practicing what you preach and keeping it real is essential in winning people to Christ.