Welcome to the next post in our Easter series, “Grow Your Soul: 7 Ways to Experience New Life During Easter,” drawing from my book, 7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness. Today we explore the third tip, which is, “Think Before You Act.”
During Holy Week, we entered into the Passion of Jesus Christ—a story that is filled with drama, intrigue, violence, scandal, and betrayal. Two of the most interesting characters in the story are Peter and Judas. While both turn their backs on Jesus, one accepts redemption while the other decides that redemption is not possible. Both, however, acted impulsively without thinking through the ramifications and consequences of their actions. Judas impulsively sought to force Jesus’ hand so that he (Jesus) might show his power and usher in a kingdom according to his own (Judas’) vision. Peter impulsively decided to save his own skin and deny even knowing Jesus. And then, there’s Jesus, who prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, contemplating his next steps and praying for the grace to overcome the impulse to avoid “drinking from this cup.”
Too often in our lives, we fail to consider the consequences of our actions. We act impulsively, without thinking, and then find ourselves overwhelmed by the ramifications of what we have said or done. There’s no putting the toothpaste back into the tube after it’s been forced out! It is no coincidence that the Passion story that we enter into on Palm Sunday and Good Friday begins with the night that Jesus was betrayed and always includes the Agony in the Garden—when Jesus prayed deeply about his next actions—juxtaposed with the actions of Judas and Peter. Jesus’ time in thought and prayer, as agonizing as it was, eventually led him through death and into new life. Judas’ actions led him to take his own life, while Peter wept bitterly but remained open to the possibility of new life that the Risen Christ brought to him.
When we act impulsively—without thinking—our responses tend to come to quickly, our words and actions tend to be excessive, and the consequences linger far too long. Easter reminds us that death does not get the last word—ever. This means that when we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place, in a dead-end, or in a no-win situation, we need to enter into the Garden (the place where God dwells) and contemplate the consequences of our anticipated actions. Most of all, we need to pray for the grace we need to overcome our impulsive tendencies.
Recently, when I was babysitting my granddaughter, Olivia, we were watching one of her favorite programs, Daniel the Tiger, which featured an episode about what to do when you feel compelled to act impulsively. They introduced a song with the lyrics, “When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four!” Personally, I would recommend counting to a hundred and four! However, the song makes the important point that, when we find ourselves in a difficult situation, our temptation will be to act on impulse. Experts tell us, however, that the brain needs a little bit of time to catch up to the “heart” (the metaphorical center of our passions). We need to “take a deep breath” and enter into the Garden and contemplate—in the presence of God—a course of action that will lead to new life when it seems like there are no options (for which death is the ultimate metaphor). Remember, the Garden is where God breathed life into Adam. When we pause to take a deep breath, we are getting in touch with Divine life, which is eternal!
And, even when we do act impulsively, as Peter did, we must remain open to redemption, to the possibility of being restored and experiencing new life, lest we face the fate of Judas, who saw no option but death. So when you feel so impulsive that you want to roar (or respond in some other impulsive manner), take a deep breath and count to four—or twenty-four or a hundred and four!
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