Today I realized something very important. It wasn't something that most people would consider earthshattering, or even more than just a whisper of a passing thought. I find that some of the most profound things often come at me that way. One minute I'll be talking to a friend, and then I realize that something that is said just absolutely makes sense, and that it is a truth I've been waltzing around, but hadn't actually focused in on to any great degree. I find these revelations stunning...but hardly surprising.
All of us have a great store of wisdom from either the teaching of others or our own experiences. Sometimes we choose to actually ingrain these into our beings, and other times we just let them float around like free matter in our spirits. We check ourselves and feel that something is vaguely wrong in our spirits but cannot seem to figure out what it is. We retire all of the usual suspects and then convince ourselves that dwelling on something that we can't even define is just really too awful. We don't have time to think too much or the inclination to do it either. We tell ourselves that everything will work out to our good...and we trust that. But often, we are just afraid to pray about something for fear that we will be disappointed.
My friend highlighted this in our discussion yesterday. She's not only wise...but she's spent enough time around me to know how to identify the free floating matter in me...and to give it a name.
The name is fear. And even when we are in the habit of turning things over to God to work out, we keep some kind of cosmic scoreboard. Sometimes we think that what we want is rarely granted. What we receive is good...but isn't as great as we were hoping. Eventually, we get tired of asking, and just assume that we will deal with what comes our way...one way or the other. Over time, a wall goes up that blocks our relationship. We won't ask...because we are afraid that we will be disappointed with the results again. We don't understand why it is that what seems so perfect to us just cannot be easily granted. What makes so much sense on the surface...and is so small a deed...just remains a longing of our heart.
And because we fear being disappointed, our prayers are sent up quietly and without fervor. We begin to assume that the answer is "no" anyway...so we don't press it. This in turn affects our quality of prayer time, and our faith becomes shallow and weak. We keep hoping that He will seek us out and try to make it up to us by giving us something more grand than we had hoped...but then that doesn't happen either.
Until, of course, we have nowhere else to look but up. We find ourselves in a situation where we have nobody to rely on BUT Him, and so we grow closer again out of desperation...out of fear...out of hope that the promises that we profess to believe are true.
Maybe I'm alone in this. Perhaps I am the only one who has lived this cycle of faith. This growing closer and growing lukewarm and then growing closer again. On close examination of the Bible, however, I know that I am not alone. There were many, many people who walked my path. If you don't believe me...and you think that Christianity is all sweetness and light...then you have obviously never read much of the Book. Seriously, although it is a love letter from God...it is also a book about relationships...and a story about the human experience. Yes, there are some "thou shalt nots" in there...to keep us from making some truly heinous mistakes. And there are some "thou shalts"...that encourage us to walk a path that will make us the happiest. But the stories that are contained therein also point strongly at the fact that none of us is perfect...even those who were considered "after God's own heart."
But how does one get off of the roller coaster of fervor followed by apathy? How does one pray with an open heart and be willing accept whatever the answer is?
By letting the fear go. By understanding that we don't have the "big picture," the timing, or full knowledge of what is just around the bend. We don't always know what our purpose in this life actually is. We go through the motions with limited information...instead of trusting that whatever He has in store for us may look on the surface as far less than we'd hoped...but is actually far better than what we deserve. I don't know about you...but every day that I wake up healthy in a house that is filled with people I love...I should consider that enough. The fact that I have a weight problem instead of being concerned with where my next meal is coming from...should be enough. That I get to see the beauty of this earth and that I've had the opportunity to travel...should be enough. That I have family that loves me and friends that will stand by me...should be enough.
But often I complain because one facet of all of that is temporarily out of whack. I don't want to wait for resolution for a problem...I want it fixed now. I don't want to struggle...I want it easy. I don't want to look at everything that is going right...I want to whine that it isn't going exactly the way I want it.
The only way to get rid of fear...is to grow your faith. Faith is like a herbicide to fear. I want to eradicate all of the fear from my life that is unhealthy. I want the weeds in my spiritual life pulled up and burned. I'd like my faith to grow and prosper and be strong and true...instead of hollow and pathetic as it sometimes is.
But that part is up to me. It is a choice. And God leaves that choice up to us. It is true that we may not get all of the desires of our heart in the way that we lay it out...but He will satisfy any desire of our heart that lines up with His will. The secret is praying that He will answer it in that way...and will reveal to us how He did. Sometimes, we are honestly just too boneheaded to see it at first.
Keeping a journal is a way for us to track His movements and to keep that free-floating anxiety at bay. As we see His hand move in situations...we can look back at how He has. So many of us trust our memory for this. I don't know about you, but I can't remember what I had for dinner two days ago...so trusting my recollections isn't always in the realm of "good ideas." Plus, the movements are often tiny. But just because I don't get an epic answer to prayer doesn't mean that God doesn't love me. It just means that I'm getting my answer in installments...or on the layaway plan. I mean, sometimes I've prayed for something and it is answered...but it is answered when I've forgotten that I asked for it in the first place. I'm embarrassed to think of how many times I've forgotten to say "thank you."
Fear. It can be positive or negative. It is positive if it keeps us from doing those things which are not in our best interest. If it keeps us from being respectful and in line. But it can be negative when it prevents us from having all of the joy that we are allotted. When we fail to see the blessings that are ours for the taking because our faith is so small. When we distrust the goodness of God and feel that He is turning His back on us. When we see the blessings of other people as far greater than anything we've ever received...or should expect. I personally think that Dave Ramsey has it right when he says to the question "How are you?"..."Better than I deserve." Aren't we all?
So, drive the fear away today. Pray. Praise. Trust. Give the free floating anxiety up...and stay grounded on what you already know is true. Come back. Pick up the Book. Don't wait until you are flattened by life to look up. Keep your faith in the good times and in the lukewarm times that are actually quite special if you will only look for it. Find friends who will not necessarily be a shoulder...but who have something to teach you...and will lift you up in prayer. Quit worrying about the details...and knock down that wall blocking the sun (or the Son, I suppose I should say). Take it as it comes, and fear not.