So what goes into building character?
In my own life it began years ago when the Christ spirit in me started doing battle with learned behavior. That if I worked hard enough, long enough, and smart enough, I’d get what I want – money, cars, houses. But I have since come to realize that that end-goal ideology comes from generations of ignoring spirit in favor of powering through with reason, logic and backbone.
I remember once in grade 12 having a relative financially bribe me to stop chewing my nails. It turned me off and I never fell for it. After the offer expired, I quit on my own volition to make a point. Another challenge I used to play with myself was way back in the day when food banks were just getting started, I used to pick out my most anticipated item after a grocery shop and leave it in the bin. It stung a little but it felt good.
And choices like that continued. Not marrying just because all my friends were, wearing clothes a decade out of style because I liked them, choosing not to cross-border shop when my community drove the six miles weekly for gas, milk and cheese.
Little did I know those decisions were trusting God and strengthening my character.
So when I read about Joseph, I got excited. I could relate. He was rejected by family, sold into slavery, isolated for years and years, and found himself in one trial after another. But God used all that. God needed those years to prepare him for what was to come. The great famine. And look what Joseph did. He convinced the King to allow him to store up vast amounts of goods to endure a coming seven-year famine. Indeed a famine did come and they fed thousands to their great advantage. And through that abundance was he was able to reconcile with his family. (Genesis 37-45)
God used Joseph greatly because He could trust Joseph. Joseph lived a life of discipline and discretion when no one was looking. And God could use that because he knew Joseph wouldn’t succumb under pressure or temptation.
But God just doesn’t suddenly expect us to run an Empire, he build us up slowly. Starting exactly where we are. It’s not hard to say no to an 85” TV or a $50,000 car, but what about that 2nd helping, or holding our tongue after being on hold for 45 minutes? It might be being the fall guy for a worthy cause, or being falsely accused and enduring it well.
For me, it was MS he was preparing me for. I believe it was those little tests of not chewing my fingernails or caving into hot reaction that allows me to endure this journey with His grace, not my misery or might.
And it still continues. Last week I could’ve turned left and gone to Walmart - a one stop shop (ideal with no car) for my list of bits for my new apartment but instead I turned right to Monks to pick up one thing. I chose to support Monks, a local business and had the rest of the afternoon to myself rather than contribute to a global chain I don’t care for, the landfill, and waste my afternoon shopping for things I didn’t need. And in the end, I felt way better about it. It’s a daily choice.
Today and its conveniences to the unth degree are killing us. Coffee cup holders on every hip pocket, expensive phones as expendable as socks and 85” TV’s.
But it could also be great training ground to build our character, and strengthen our inner lives.
Besides, who knows how God might use it.