Of course, I realize a lot of people might hear me share something like this and they would be like, "Tom, lighten up! What's the big deal?"
I realize now, that a lot of my fear was instilled in me by physical abuse in my childhood ... for whenever I crossed my drunken father, it might mean a beating that would threaten my very life (at least, to me it felt that way!).
Nonetheless, as I grew older, whenever I offended someone - or hurt someone's feelings - I especially felt guilty and heartbroken about what I had done. For that reason, I was (for the most part) a very well-behaved young man. But, I was always overwhelmed by a sense of fear, that I might say or do something wrong.
Then I discovered the beauty of 1 Corinthians 13, the "Love Chapter" in the Bible.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag
and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek
its own, is not provoked,does not take into account a wrong
suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,
endures all things. Love never fails... now (abide) faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:4-8 and 13)
I would later learn the joy of replacing the word "love" with the name "God" in each instance of the passage ... and thus, become amazingly overwhelmed by the goodness and greatness of God's great love for me. For, God is patient. God is kind. And, I realized we could do that switch, because scripture also tells us that "God is love" (1 John 4:8), and love is who God is!
Of course, I wanted to love like God loved - so I would take this exercise and replace my name wherever the word "love" is found. Reading it like this: "Tom is patient. Tom is kind... Tom does not take into account a wrong suffered..." Ouch! It's tough for me to love like God loves!
But then I realized: in my own strength it is impossible to love like God loves!
Later, there was a movement where everyone asked the question, "What Would Jesus Say?" and "What Would Jesus Do?" There were bracelets with WWJS and WWJD that people wore as reminders to speak like Jesus and to act like Jesus. And these were wonderful reminders... but even then... it seemed so hard to catch myself from those moments of acting in my flesh and hurting someone's feelings.
Then, I discovered the key!... Found earlier in 1 Corinthians the beauty of who you are in the heart and eyes of God is expressed ... "Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16).
That means: God's very presence lives and dwells inside of you. If you have given your life to Christ and accepted Him as your Savior ... now His presence lives inside of you by the power of the Holy Spirit!
This truth has totally changed my perspective (most of the time!) ... for now I have discovered that when I let God's love fill my heart - and I let His love overflow through my words and my actions - then God's love flows through me in this moment, and amazing things happen as they are ignited by the Spirit of God!
His love, flowing in, around, and through my life ... never fails!