Mr. Nice Guy
Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me . . . Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” Genesis 13:8-9
After I came home from treatment, with my marriage still a complete mess, my wife eventually consented to go to marriage counseling. I’d been trying to fix things between us for months and was frustrated by my lack of progress. In counseling, I expressed this frustration to the counselor, thinking he’d be a sympathetic ear. Instead, he suggested that I was frustrated because I’d been unable to manipulate my way out of this mess. He said I was experiencing the appropriate consequences my actions. What? I’m manipulative? That was dreadfully unfair. He doesn’t know me at all.
Thinking about it later though, I had to admit there was some truth to what he said. This wasn’t the first time my drug addiction had come to the attention of my superiors. It was simply the first time that I’d suffered any consequences for it. How had I escaped consequences previously? Not by forcing my way upon others, but simply by being a really nice guy. That was my method – my way of bending people to my will. That was how I’d escaped the repercussions of my addiction previously. And this time, it wasn’t working. No matter how much nice-guy-persona I attempted, my marriage and career were still complete disasters.
I’ve often recoiled from the pseudo-Christian phrase – Let go and let God. This may be the one time that it’s appropriate though. For those of us who’ve manipulated our way through life, always trying to bend people and circumstances to our will, we must learn to let go, allowing life to happen as it was meant to happen.
In today’s passage, Abram modeled letting go. In the story, Abram and his nephew Lot both had families that became large enough to be in each other’s way. So, Abram suggested a split and offered Lot his pick of two regions. Abram didn’t try to take advantage of Lot. God had promised Abram prosperity. So, Abram trusted God and simply had no need to manipulate his way into success. He just sat back, let go, and let his nephew pick the best land. Abram happily went the other way.
Those of us who’ve made a practice of being manipulative could learn from Abram. In our manipulation, we claim that we know best, telling God that he can’t be trusted. Living by faith though, is to accept that God knows best, as we follow his will, instead of constantly enforcing our own.