I've been reading the book of Proverbs lately, and trying to take some time while I do it. I think when it comes to reading the Bible, so many of us struggle because we think the most important thing we need to get is quantity. It's like trying to apply the law of averages to our devotional lives: the more I read - the more chance there of some of it sticking to the inside of our brains. I gave that method up years ago and feel so much better for it to be honest. Now I tend to find myself reading little bits at a time and just trying to really think about what I’m reading. I can be hovering over a few verses for days at a time because I think if I can grasp hold of even one small thing that God wants to tell me through my Bible reading, then my l'll be so much better off for it.
The verses I'm currently carrying around inside this crazy head of mine (Don't laugh...you've got one too. You know it's true.) are from chapter three of the book of Proverbs. They say this:
“Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, And so find favour and high esteem In the sight of God and man.”
Proverbs 3:3-4 NKJV
I really like the way the NKJV puts it when it says: "Let not mercy and truth forsake you;" and as I've been bouncing these verses around in my head, I've found myself thinking about balloons. Ok...stick with me here. Balloons are cool. It's my birthday today and I'm pretty sure I won't be getting any balloons as it's not one of those significant birthdays in adulthood that warrants mandatory balloon decor, which is one of the true downsides to growing up. I think we all should get balloons no matter what age we are if only to remind us what it was like to be a kid again, because Jesus said we should all become like little children and so I think balloons would be a good place to start. that’s what I think anyway.
balloons would be a good place to start
Can you remember what is was like when you were a kid, and still had the ability to be completely enthralled by a brightly coloured bubble of rubber bobbing merrily above your head like it was your best friend in the whole wide world? And if you can, you may also remember what it felt like to see your new best friend slowly grow smaller and smaller until you woke one morning to discover a rather sad looking piece of rubber on a lifeless piece of string lying on the floor in your bedroom. How many of you are feeling a bit teary-eyed now? Awful wasn't it?
But still...there was nothing worse than when you accidentally let go of the tether and your brand new balloon went flying free from your hands, far up into the sky and away from you while you wail for your Mum to grab it but she’s too busy doing something completely unimportant like picking your baby brother up from the ground after he tripped and cut his knee and covered his head in ice cream. Seriously...talk about priorities! (I think I may have some unresolved balloon related trauma.)
Having a balloon as a kid was a actually a huge responsibility. There was a wildness to them, like they were always trying to get away from you which meant that you couldn't take your eye off them for a moment or else they would be up and away off on some skyward adventure. And let's face it, there was no effort needed for a balloon to fly away from you...all you had to do was just let go.
So by now you're probably thinking to yourself "What on earth has any of this to do with these verses from Proverbs?" Nothing. I just wanted an excuse to talk about balloons. It's part of my trauma therapy.
Here's what I was thinking: This verse says that we are to not let mercy and truth "forsake" us and to "Bind" them around our necks, and as I thought about this I kept imagining these being like two balloons that can easily get away from us if we don't take active steps to secure them. You see...if you're like me, you'll find negativity is completely effortless, like we've been pre-programmed for negative responses; and so to counter that programming is going to take considerable mental effort, discipline and intentionality.
The author of the book of Proverbs is telling us that in order to live a life that brings favour before God and men alike, we must actively choose positive qualities such as mercy and truth to take with us on life's journey; and that because these qualities are not necessarily our natural setting, we will have to concentrate in order to keep them as part of our life’s experience. Like a balloon filled with helium, positive qualities always rise heavenwards and seek to draw us with them. Our tendency toward negativity therefore, works in opposition to that heavenward force of positive Godly qualities. Like a moment of thoughtlessness can leave us staring mournfully at the sky while our treasured balloon pal floats merrily off into the stratosphere, the person unwilling to submit to the discipline of seeking out and actively holding on to and living by positive values will quickly find themselves lost in a feed-back loop of destructive negativity.
Perhaps like me, as a kid you dreamed of tying as many balloons as you could to yourself to see if they would lift you off the ground. (Come on...who tried it?) Well…begin to harness more and more positive values to yourself and you will find that your life actually will begin to rise upwards, drawn heavenward by the positive power of God found in qualities such as mercy, truth….kindness, love, goodness, patience, hope, faith, tenderness and joy, to name only a few.
“Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely,whatever things are of a good report, if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things.”