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Friday, March 25, 2016

Sleeping Warrior

In the middle of the night, when I sometimes wake for the bathroom, a drink of water, a sudden noise, a change in temperature, or for no reason whatsoever, my mind wanders.

It lands on all the things that plague me, the little doubts and worries that pick and poke at me during daylight hours but that are normally dissipated by strong reason and rationalization, confidence and assuredness. When I have all my faculties, and I can clearly choose not to sweat the small things.

It could be a financial concern, a strained relationship, something I said that might be construed as offensive, something coming up that I am not ready to face, all the work I need to do the next day – these are the things that I think of late at night when my mind is open and vulnerable.

Years ago these things would keep me up all night. I would stew and worry and think and think and think – all to no avail. Nothing can be done in the wee hours, no solution carried out while the world is sleeping. The idea that nothing could be done right then would be added to my list of worries.

It's not like that so much anymore. Though these thoughts still spring to mind upon waking, I have grown enough to be able to banish these thoughts more readily.

I realize that Satan parades these things across my mind when I am weak and prone to attack. He preys when I am weak – chooses the parts of me that are exposed – to strike at first.

The realization makes me angry – how dare he do this? I have done nothing to deserve his attacks. I am not in a war here. Why doesn’t he pick on a terrible person, someone who brazenly lives with no shame or fear or conscience, someone who is more easily destroyed because of the choices he or she makes? I’m just living my life, making errors like everyone else – I am not so special.

But I am special. I am God’s child. I am a warrior, even when on my back, groggy and soft and at my most vulnerable.

Satan has picked off the weak already. They are of no concern to him, and easy prey. He will fight viciously for my soul, battling it out in my room – in my mind – in the middle of the night. He relishes the fight, because he knows I am hard-won. If he can get to me, he has won a mighty victory.

In those moments soon after Satan tries to assume power over my mind, I fight back. Not with fists or weapons, but with prayer. I turn from plaguing thoughts and pray to God to take them. I tag in God by throwing at him the cares and concerns that the devil tries to burden me with, and ask him for my next move. And just like that, I am protected.

In the middle of the night, when I am weak, I can still fight. I can summon the name of God and thank him for all he has done. Satan has no power when compared to the power that God wields in my life. God fights for me, alongside me, before me, and after me – I believe this wholeheartedly.

When I eventually fall asleep after Satan's attack, my last thought is on God’s goodness.  My faith is strengthened for another day; this particular battle has been won.



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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Coat



Have you ever had a time in your life where every Bible verse you read seems to echo in your mind? This happens to me pretty often. It’s like that old Sunday School trick where you open the Bible randomly, close your eyes and point on the page – God always has something specific to tell you in the verse right under your fingertip.

Sometimes it’s not just every verse that applies. It’s every blog post, every image, every song heard that screams at us to focus on God at that point in life. To turn to him. To get back on the path.

Usually this happens during a place of suffering. Whether tangible or nebulous, warranted or unexpected, self-imposed or involuntary, we struggle in life. And we have to get a grip on the struggling to move on.  When we feel the weight of life – and often, our own sins – acutely, it’s like a smothering coat, one not easily removed.

We come across those words, those images, those melodies, and at once we realize that we are being stifled. We become impatient to shed our heaviness.

But sometimes, instead of shedding it, we cover it up with a heavier coat. We rationalize our behavior. We shift blame. We point outward instead of inward. Or we continue in our behavior, pretending that we haven’t done anything wrong, ignoring the problem and kicking it further down the road.

It’s hard to face responsibility. We get stuck in patterns of behavior that are difficult to change. We don’t even know how to change them, we are so entrenched. So we go on, acting as if we haven’t done anything wrong, not aware that our heavy coat is keeping us from moving forward and experiencing the warmth of the sun on our shoulders.

When I am weighed down by sin, I search my brain for lessons I’ve learned. What past experiences are similar to this one? What did I do to get through it? Sometimes, I am still wearing a particular coat I thought I had shed and I work to undo the fasteners before moving onto the next layer. It might be a way of thinking left over from an old set of beliefs. It could be that I haven’t really been aware of how I’ve been living lately, and it’s hardly godly.

Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish what I have learned from who I have become. I need God’s clarity to know what to do, what to focus on, how to proceed. My life is in his hands. I trust him to put me back on the path, to shine the light on my face.

But first, I need to get rid of that coat.

Dear Lord, forgive me today of my sins. They are many. Please help me to see clearly my next steps, and give me the wisdom to see your path. Thank you, Amen.


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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Source

Life, love, joy - these things are human desires we hold dear. There are others, but these are the ones under which most others fall.

In relationships, we struggle with these things. Life becomes monotonous when there’s no extra money or time or imagination for extras, love unsuccessfully binds people together when uncertainty reigns, and joy falls victim to the failings of both.

I have struggled with holding onto these three things at times. Juggling all three can be a feat.

We are too easily swayed by blaming. She drags me down; he doesn’t treat me well; if we had more, we’d be happy. It’s always someone else’s responsibility.

How many times is life unbearable because of someone else’s behavior? As a parent, I sheepishly admit that my kids have ruined my day more times than they should. An adult whose mood is dictated by the whims of toddlers and snarky kids is an adult who is unhappy most of the time. Kids are learning life alongside their parents, and the job of parents is to teach them. When we allow our kids rule our lives, we all suffer.

Likewise, I have been swayed by my husband’s moods. How many perfectly fine days of my own have been marred by his bad day at work? A lovely evening can end up in the gutter when one person is down in the dumps.

photo courtesy of unsplash

The fact that I am so readily influenced by the meanness of life really grates on my nerves. After I’m finished being annoyed at the external source of my pain, I turn on myself. I am weak-minded, soft-hearted, thin-skinned. Buck up – jeez. It’s their problem, not mine. My job is to support them, to model life, love, and joy so they can be positively influenced, not dive into the hole with them and shove them out of the way to dig deeper.

Do you see something missing?

It’s God. God is there, waiting patiently while we struggle, wishing to pluck off the blinders we firmly planted over our eyes. I’m here, guys, says God. All the time.

We miss seeing him sometimes.

Not seeing the forest for the trees is my specialty. I get so bogged down into daily tasks that I forget why I’m living this life. Daily tasks are wearisome and frustrating. But when I focus on the source of these tasks and the author of my life in them, they become bearable. I’m not at the point where scrubbing toilets brings me joy, but I believe it can happen.

Everything that God gives us is good, not the least of which are life, love, and joy. Our world can’t help but bring bad things and feelings into our lives because of its brokenness. That’s not God’s fault. It’s the fault of imperfect choices made by imperfect people. People change and make questionable choices over circumstances and time, and power is fleeting, along with things like good health, freedom, and security – all things that we wrongly choose to trust. Stress and negativity result from misguided trust and the failings of others. It happens to all of us.

I hope to achieve a place in my faith where feelings and actions occur through the filter of God’s love and strength. I don’t have this strength on my own, as evidenced by all the times I allow the bad stuff to infiltrate my demeanor. All the good stuff comes from him. As I continue to learn this, I hope and pray that I will see the life, love and joy that he so freely has given me.

He has given it to us all.

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Dear God,

I am weary in this world.

Your love sustains me – nothing else.

I look to you with hope and confidence that you will show me
the treasures you have given to me.

To all of us.

Teach me to be an example to others
so that I can be a light for you and for your love.

Thank you.

Amen.