Friday, January 14, 2011
Thursday, January 13, 2011
I had a question come into my head the other day at church. We have many questions, but this one felt like a sincere question that came to me and I did not seem to create myself. It represented a reflection of the state of how I have been doing as I have continued each day to put on my boxing gloves with my enemy whose full name is Anxiety And Fear. It came to me as our pastor was teaching on Isaiah nine, about the people walking around in darkness seeing a great light. Lord, are you Emmanuel? Are you really WITH me?
Jesus has continued to work on me in regards to this enemy who seems to enjoy hounding me lately. It has been six plus months of building tension and yet the Lord has faithfully spoken to me clearly most consistently through two ways: Scripture and prayer.
I happened upon a book that has been on my shelf for a long time recently by Beth Moore called Praying God’s Word. In the intro she says, “A stronghold is anything that exalts itself in our minds, ‘pretending’ to be bigger or more powerful than our God. It steals much of our focus and causes us to feel overpowered. Controlled. Mastered…God has handed us two sticks of dynamite with which to demolish our strongholds: His Word and prayer.”
Annie and I switch off leading bible study and I had just been feeling compelled for us to do a week of worship and prayer. We had been doing Proverbs for a while, which had gone really well, but it never seemed like we got to the end of our goal, which was to actually talk to the Lord himself about all our thankfulness and revelations and confessions and convictions. We got to talk to each other, but is that the end? It always left us lacking and wanting and something felt incomplete. We were just going to sing and pray for an hour and a half and see what would happen if we let our time be filled that way instead of squeezing it in if there was room for it. Now the talking would be squeezed in, and women can always find a way to do that!
As we went into a time of praying about our personal walks with the Lord, I found myself digging through Scripture that he had given me concerning fear, trying to think through what exactly I needed to say to him that day about it. I already knew what I wanted to pray about but just felt like a big mess of thoughts about it so I needed to think for a minute.
The first was from James 4:13-16 “13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” First of all, very specifically I have had fear from going to Seattle to Charlotte in a couple of weeks. From one CITY to another. He states what I fear – I do not know what will happen tomorrow. I don’t want to not know! I want to know I will be okay. I want to know I will be preserved, that my life in his hands means that I will be safe and sound. It is so hard to trust what his actual promises are – that he has plans for me, to give me a hope and a future, but that does not mean that nothing bad will ever happen to me. The issue for me, which actually is really annoying because it feels so female and cliché, is that I want to control what I can hope in. It’s humbling, like most things God takes us through to come to the bug conclusion that is stated by a million women daily: I want to be in control. (Sigh). How I wish I were an above that, different sort of woman. I imagine a carefree woman but it’s less that, because that’s more ignorance or naivity (depending), and more a trusting woman. Well, confession gets me on my way.
Another friend began to pray as I jotted the James verses down and continued to flip through the Word. I landed in Luke 24:37-39 at the story of Jesus appearing after the resurrection to the disciples. “37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” It matters not whether these verses move you at this particular time, because what is powerful about the Word is that it is living and active, sharper than any double edged sword. And it comes to pierce with very specific intention. And this particular day, these were the chosen words of the Spirit to thrust right through the core of my wound up life. And I crumbled without wince at the blow. Crumbled into a makeup running, doubled over mess. Daughter, Why are you troubled? It is I, MYSELF.
From my pile of flesh on the floor, my heart did a familiar race and as my friend finished her words, I erupted into a desperate sounding cry to the Lord in the presence of my friends, new and old. I didn’t care. Let’s not pretend like I am that awesome: sometimes I do care. But this time I did not. I didn’t care if they thought I was trying to be spiritual. Or if they thought I had finally lost my mind and should step down from leading our group anymore. What I cared about was getting out my shrieks. On my knees and raw from barely spoken revelation to my heart, I needed to talk to him with all the sincerity that I could allow myself to reveal in a group of ten women.
And I’ll tell you, the combination of all that happened in those moments was so good, so healthy for me. Maybe healthy doesn’t mean much to you right now where you’re at, but if I can think of one meaningful word for me lately, it’s “healthy”. Because my body and my mind have felt so sick and crippled this year, so needy and fragile and dependent. I know when I am 80 I’ll be like, Oh Lord, come on honey. But for a 32 year old, Biggest Loser would probably add 10 years to my life on whatever chart they have that determines at what age your body is actually functioning. Anyway, it felt healthy. And honest. And I need honest words from the Lord, even if they are the same encouragement, I don’t care. I just need to hear from him and for my heart to be genuinely lifted up. And you can’t force encouragement. When it comes just right, with just the right word that not even you could have scribbled out onto a piece of paper, and even better at just the moment you asked for it, it’s almost more than you can ask for.
You know how you used to play “punch buggy”? Like two hundred cars go by you in a glaze and they’re not what you’re searching for at all. But after you’ve stared and searched and sat on the edge of your seat you finally see one and you yell “punch buggy!” with all your arrogant might and deck someone next to you and you feel so great for like five amazing competitive seconds and then you’re back to hoping that maybe after seeing a few hundred more cars you’ll see one again.
The handful times God has really met me lately have totally felt like punch buggy for me. Except it’s not just about feeling good, it’s about breathing and having the muscles to get up off the floor again. I’m telling you, He’s given me just enough punch buggies around every corner to keep me hoping. I’ve just been wandering in fear and boughts of depression and anxiety like I have never known it, both for known reasons at times and others just completely inexplicable. And I have felt just at a loss to even help myself. Yet the best part for me that I am realizing right this second, is that in those exact moments of seeing Who I had been grasping for out my “windows”, I wasn’t afraid. And if I can even be capable of being not afraid in a tiny handful of moments, I think I can keep growing the hope to believe that the fears might cease. Punch Buggy.