I ate an apple and within minutes, my lips swelled and became itchy. A little bit of panic set in as thoughts of the anaphylaxis I saw in my years as an ER nurse came flooding in. I grabbed some Benadryl and gave anxious directions to my husband on calling 911 if specific symptoms arose. Aside from swollen lips and an itchy mouth, things settled down and life went on. Then several months later, the same thing happened after eating peach pie. This past spring, I did allergy testing and discovered I have a host of allergies I was unaware of – molds, grasses, trees, weeds, dogs, cats.
I left the office armed with a load of instructions, education and medications to trial before eventually starting allergy shots. And what I realized over the next couple of days is just how badly I had been feeling for months, really years, without giving proper attention to my health. I became immune to the symptoms my body was throwing at me telling me something was off. I ignored the itchy eyes, runny nose, sore throat, headaches and feelings of stuffiness. I accepted a state of health that could be corrected while convincing myself it would all pass. When in reality, there has been allergy testing, numerous medications, and plenty of options to help me achieve better health.
I remember years ago when I was a young mom with four kids under the age of six. Travis was working full time, and I stayed home with the kids. I had my core group of friends. I started a weekly play date group with other stay at home moms. I drug the kids to church each Tuesday for Bible study. I kept the house clean, managed a schedule, taught the kids manners and kept them accountable for their attitudes and actions. I baked cookies and made homemade meals most nights. But it was not until a warm summer day after a difficult conversation with my neighbor, whose youngest son was friends with my oldest, that I realized what had taken root in my heart. Arrogance had crept in reflecting an ugly and uncomfortable attitude of doing everything right. I had become so judgmental to the differences in how we raised our children, how we went about our daily lives, how our kids behaved. And it affected our relationship which for a long time, I did not realize. My neighbor felt the negativity and judgement I quietly laid upon her. She knew I looked down on her. She felt the harshness in my spirit toward her. The allergen of pride had set in and made a home in my heart.
I had not felt the sting of pride that said I was doing everything right. I had not recognized the judgement I cast on others who did not live their lives to my standard. I had not felt the conviction of a heart undone by selfishness and conceit. I lived my life with infrequent uncomfortableness. Just as I ignored the irritants in my respiratory system until the doctor pointed it out, so many allergens had crept into my heart and mind causing symptoms that should have warned me something was not right.
Attitudes of arrogance, jealousy, pride, disdain, judgement and negativity can so easily creep into our hearts and minds without us realizing it. They become our normal. We accept them, feed them, stroke the ego that develops. Then the day comes when something significant happens – swollen lips, being left out, not making the team, getting a broken heart, needing medical attention, having a difficult conversation with a neighbor – and we suddenly realize the allergen we easily ignored can no longer be shoved to the side and must be dealt with.
An allergen of the body can be easily identified when it attacks for the first time. Hives appear, shortness of breath attacks, lips swell. Yet when an allergen of the mind and heart attacks, it is so easy to simply look the other way. Only later when that allergen has taken root in our attitudes and relationships do we realize the damage done.
I go back to this verse often from Matthew 23 (MSG) that says it so well…..You are like one who will only wipe clean the outside of a cup or bowl, leaving the inside filthy. You are foolish to ignore the greed and self-indulgence that live like germs within you. You are blind to your evil. Shouldn’t the one who cleans the outside also be concerned with cleaning the inside? You need to have more than clean dishes; you need clean hearts!
I love this translation because it provides such a strong picture of how easily those annoying allergens creep in. It is easy to concern ourselves with the outward appearance of our lives, how we look to others, wanting to impress those around us, desires to have it all together. Yet at the same time, we can ignore the inside where those allergens – our thoughts and attitudes – reside that make us ugly.
God is much more concerned with the attitude of our hearts than with the appearance of our daily lives. He cares much more about our willingness to come to Him for help when we have been judgy than if we have it all together at the Tuesday morning mom’s group. Our loving Father desires an attitude of humility more than our desire to impress others with the number of responsibilities we can manage at one time.
In I Samuel 16, the Lord called Samuel to go to Bethlehem and find a man named Jesse whose son would be the next king. Jesse brings his sons out one by one, and after meeting seven sons, Samuel asks Jesse if he has any more sons. It is then he meets David and anoints him as king. After meeting the first son who was strong and noble, the Lord says to Samuel in verse 7, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Who would have thought a young shepherd would be Israel’s second king. The Lord looked at David’s heart, not at how many awards were hung on David’s bedroom wall or how many things he was doing “right”.
If you read on in the Bible, you would see David had a heart after God, but he too allowed allergens to set in. While he did a lot of things right, David allowed jealousy and greed to take root in his life. The consequences were devastating, but David’s repentance brought forgiveness. David was not a perfect man by any stretch, yet his journey provides a great example of how God can – and will – restore us when we seek His face. When we are willing to address the allergens and clean the inside, God shows up and brings us back. As the old hymn says…great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness, morning by morning, new mercies I see, all I have needed, Thy hand hath provided, great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me. His mercies are new every morning!
What allergens have snuck into your heart? Do you need a reset with your attitude? Let the Lord show you today how you can restore your heart and mind to reflect His gentleness, love and mercy.