A few years back I wrote the following as I was preparing my final paper to earn my Doctor of Ministry degree. As I read it again today, it seemed like something worth sharing here. It still applies. God bless you as you live out your “Thumbs Up” worldview.
Frustration! To the extreme! That’s what Jonathan was feeling as he sat staring at the text message he had just received from his secretary. After all, it was just an innocent invitation to go out for a beer after work. Why shouldn’t he? But, then the thoughts of his wife came flooding into his head. The argument that had punctuated his morning departure had left him angry and resentful. He deserved a little break after work, especially with someone who understood him and was willing to listen. Still … his heart was crying out to him to the contrary. It also brought to mind the faces of his children, eagerly asking him to “listen to my story” and “come play catch with me” and “guess what Jeff said to me today.” Though he was too exhausted to face their urgent demands, part of him wanted desperately to spend more precious moments with each of his three children. Then, in another quick transition of the mind, Jonathan was considering the meeting at church that evening, where he was expected to be the answer man, ready to fix all the financial problems the church was facing in another round of “budget talks.” It was so draining. With so many varying points of view, how could they ever come to an agreement? His stomach started to churn, especially as he considered another encounter with that nasty Mrs. P. She had it out for him, for sure.
The phone vibrated again. “RU in?” Back to the moment. What to do? Jonathan considered offering up a quick prayer, but this only touched on another sore spot. How could he pray to the one he was regularly ignoring? He knew he should be reading his Bible and praying each day, but there was no time. By the time his head hit the pillow, he was out in a moment with the “Our Father” trailing off his lips into a deep snore. The thought of praying now seemed hypocritical and insincere. Just then, he glanced up to the posting board above his desk. There before him was the page he had received in church last Sunday. “A ‘Thumbs Up’ Worldview” it said at the top. (See this page in Appendix 3 below.) He’d listened to the pastor talk about it, but it was just the same old words he’d been hearing for years. Another message about getting your priorities into God’s order. So, of course, he’d taken the cue to use the sermon time to plan out the rest of his Sunday … lunch with his step-mom, a quick stop at the store for paint and a six pack, home to assess the paint job, watch the football game, paint for an hour, watch the next football game, paint for another hour … if the game didn’t go into overtime, rush to bed to get a few hours sleep before an early wake up for another work week. Now, however, the words on the page struck him with new clarity. All those things he’d been hearing about priorities as God intended started to make sense.
Jonathan took the sheet and started reading, ignoring the persistent vibrating of his phone. “Jesus Christ is the highest priority for each of us personally ….” Yes, he knew it was true. He had to put Jesus back where He belonged. The voice of the Spirit in his heart reminded him of the countless times before when this had proven to be the best route in all things. Broken and humbled, Jonathan said a quick prayer, “Lord, help me put you first and to get the rest of my life back in line as well. Please forgive me for how I’ve failed you, my wife, my kids, my church … my secretary. Forgive me by your grace and help me turn my whole life over to you as my Lord. In your name, Lord Jesus, I pray it. Amen.” Jonathan raised his eyes to the page again. “Spouse is the next priority ….” He couldn’t deny it. Even though he and Sarah had fought that morning, he loved her unconditionally, just as he’d promised to do on their wedding day. He was equally to blame for the squabble. It was time for him to get home and work things out with the one he cherished more than any other person on earth. He needed to start with seeking her forgiveness and seeking to make it right. Part of him really wanted to make her pay for her mean words. He really was tempted to go out for that beer with his secretary just to get even. But, that hadn’t worked so well last time. It had left Sarah and him hurting for a month. It was time to go home. He needed to sacrifice his vengeful, competitive spirit that so often got him into trouble. “Give me courage, Lord, and the right words to say to show Sarah how truly sorry I am for hurting her.”
Next on the page, “Children and extended family are the next priority ….” No more excuses. After working things out with Sarah, it was time for him to make a plan with the kids. He’d sit down with his calendar and let each child join him in scheduling one hour a week with each of them to do whatever they wanted together with him. He would be physically present with them on their terms. No, it wasn’t much, but it would be a start. It would help them know that they were still important to him. He would listen on their terms and let them set the agenda. His love would show itself incarnationally, just like the pastor had said. As Jonathan glanced back at the “Thumbs Up” page he noticed the part about extended family. Yeah, it was probably time to work things out with his step-dad. Though he shuddered to even think about it, the rift between them needed to be addressed before it was too late and the drinking finally killed his step-dad. This would be a big one. “Lord, help me know where to start and what to do to reach my step-dad. Even though his heart is so bitter toward me and you and all the world, help me not give up. Give me the wisdom and courage I need. And, I need you, Lord, to change his heart.”
Reading further down the page, a “Thumbs Up” worldview holds that “church family is the next priority for every member.” Mrs. P. may be a scary old …, but she was still a child of God. She was still his sister in Christ. She may not like his proposals for the church’s money issues, but life has probably been rough for her since her husband died. He’d get to the meeting early enough to ask her how she was doing since it was about this time last year that he died. Money matters will always be there, but our focus on eternity is something that will last way after all the money and all the churches on earth are gone. He knew he needed to remind Mrs. P. that he was looking forward to the reunion with Mr. P. in heaven one day too. And on the money issues; God would help them through that too. He’d present the numbers as clearly as he could, and then they’d work together to set their priorities … using this “A ‘Thumbs Up’ Worldview” sheet to guide them. That was it. He’d take this page along with him. It was time he showed support for the pastor as the head of their church family and practiced what he’d been preaching. The pastor had said that having our priorities in line with God’s way would guide the congregation on the right path, including with the use of their money. It was time for all of the members of the board, himself included, to stop fighting for their own selfish goals and to seek what fit with the overall vision of the congregation; in line with the “Thumbs Up” worldview. He was sure this would help. The board always looked to him for the answers on the money situation. Well, it was time for him to lift their eyes above the numbers on the page and to the Bridegroom, Jesus. He wouldn’t let his bride go hungry or naked. He would provide as they followed His example of sacrificial, unconditional and incarnational love.
A tap on his shoulder caused Jonathan to jump. There she was. His attractive secretary with her pleading eyes, “Aren’t you going to join us?” In his mind, he was thinking of saying, “No way! I’ve got to run from you like the plague right now!” But, then he recalled the last part of the “Thumbs Up” worldview and quickly prayed, “Lord, give me the right words to help this one who doesn’t know you.” He kindly declined her offer and explained that he really needed to get home and take care of some problems with Sarah and the kids. He added, “Even though we don’t always see eye to eye, I love my wife and I’d do anything for her.” The questioning and envious look in the eyes of his secretary reinforced the questions she’d asked before about the value of marriage. He knew she came from a whole different perspective, but she’d been asking more questions lately. Although the devil had tempted Jonathan to run in a romantic direction with this beautiful woman, he knew he couldn’t go there. Not only would it betray his Lord, wife and everyone else, it would also lead his secretary further from the light. Now was his opportunity to start shedding some real light on the situation. “Let’s talk tomorrow at lunch in the cafeteria about this paper in my hands. I think you might be interested.” His secretary looked skeptical, but, in a hesitating voice, agreed. She was desperate for some answers to her own growing relationship problems.
As he grabbed his brief-case and headed for the door, Jonathan offered a silent prayer, “Thank you, Lord, for one little step in the right direction. Help me keep moving forward one step at a time in your way. I know you love me as the perfect husband. Help me to follow your lead in my life; as your disciple, as a husband, as a father, as a step-son, as a church member, as a witness for you in the world. Teach me to love sacrificially, unconditionally and incarnationally. Guide me each day with a ‘Thumbs Up’ worldview. In your name, Lord Jesus, I pray. Amen.”