Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Surrender Me

In the last eight months, my life has gone from busy to chaotic to nonsensical, or at least that's how it sometimes feels when I'm trying to juggle the demands between work, school, family, and life in general. I recall several weeks ago a supervisor at work kindly (seriously, he really was quite gentle about it) telling me and a few other Interventionists that he didn't know what else to tell us because "it just has to get done" with regards to one of our daily assignments. Bottom line - do it and leave the excuses at the door.  Around the same time, I sat in one of my classes listening to an instructor speak very similar words.  "I don't know what to tell you, it has to get done." Bottom line?  Do it and leave the excuses at the door.  The problem? I was three dissertation assignments behind, had practicum interviews coming up, a family to tend to, 30 hours of online continuing training for work, meetings to attend, clients to see, and three other classes with equally demanding requirements aside from midterms.  I started trying to calculate how much time I could shave off of my sleep to get it all done, but if you've seen me on less than six hours, you know this was a bad idea and I was already only getting about five and a half.  "How about four, God?  Can we make it on four hours?" I asked God with caffeine bulged eyes one morning.
  "What are you doing?" He asked me.  "I'm doing everything You gave me to do, Lord, but I think You miscalculated how much I could handle at once," I told Him. The miscalculation, however wasn't His; it was mine. While it's true that God gave me the workload, He never intended for me to go it alone, which, for weeks I had been doing just that and didn't even know it.  My own strength began to crumble and not even the supportive shoulders of my husband could hold me up under the weight of endless deadlines, tasks, and demands, so I eventually found myself sitting in our church parking lot crying.  "I can't do all of this, Lord, I don't even know where to begin," I whispered through choked sobs.  "You just began," His Spirit gently responded.  By finally acknowledging my own limitations I was able to receive His limitless grace.  All I had to do was just surrender me.

Fortunately for me, God has blessed me with a husband who is nothing like me. Sam and I couldn't be more different in our approach to life.  As we walk by rivers, I'm already half way in the water while he's still standing on the shore with just a big toe dipped in.  "Let's sit here and think about getting in first" he might say to me as I'm already neck deep splashing him from inside.  Somehow, these differences enable us to have an almost perfect balance on even our worst days.  He finds me exciting and I see him as my safe, calm place from the storms.  It's a wonderful, God given exchange and I recommend that everyone find at least one person who will bring this balance to each day's challenges.  For me, the last balance check came when he bluntly told me one day that I wasn't Superwoman.  "I'm not?" I asked with his lunch in one hand, our son's in another, my day meticulously planned out on the whiteboard, and a coy smile on my face.  "Look around you, husband, I am Superwoman," I joked, but the truth is - my own pride is what propelled me for so long to keep going at break neck speed.  I was so focused on being everything to everyone making demands on me that I lost sight of who and what it's all really about.  What is at the center of your own busy schedule? Is it really God or is it you?

One day a few weeks ago I was headed home and as I scanned the five lanes surrounding me I wondered what I was doing there in that mess of traffic.  I was so tired and sleep deprived that I had to strain my eyes to focus on the road.  Fear of falling asleep at the wheel crept into my thoughts as I noticed how heavy my eyes felt, so I did some light stretching to reawaken the senses, but the question lingered.  "What am I doing, God? Why am I working so hard?" I asked in genuine uncertainty.  I knew that at one point in time I knew that answer, but so much had happened and I had gotten so busy that I literally couldn't remember in that moment. Five minutes later as I took my exit, God answered and I saw him - a homeless man standing at the end of the exit ramp. My perspective was soon to change.

He was dirty, disheveled, and hungry, and Matthew 25:40 flooded my mind.  In an instant, I forgot about my struggles and focused on getting this man something to eat.  I had picked up food for my family's dinner before heading home, so I just happened to have plenty to spare on the seat next to me.  It would be one exit and two U-turns later before I finally had the pleasure of meeting Jack, but when I did, the first words spoken were his as he crossed traffic to walk towards me.  "Are you okay?" he yelled as he saw my car pulled over on a busy road.   What? He was asking if I was okay? It hit me then that because of how and where I parked, he probably thought my car was broken down, and I realized that he had no idea I had pulled over to give him something to eat. He was simply coming to my aid in the event I needed help.  I was moved to tears and humbled.  How arrogant I was to think I was the only one in a position to be of help.  As he approached where I stood, I looked into his eyes and saw a gentleness that could only have been from God, and I knew that he was helping me far more than I was helping him.  We exchanged names and I vowed to pray for him, but it wasn't until recently that I realized I should have asked him to pray for me.  Psalm 9:18 says that God will never forget the needy, and in Psalm 10:17 we're told that God inclines His ear to the humble.  The NASB says it like this: "O Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear." You want real results in your life?  Find a child and ask him or her to pray for you.  Find a homeless person who believes in Jesus and ask them to pray.  Sometimes, all the demands on us cause us to have a loftier view of ourselves than we ought, and our prayers are covered in the stench of pride, which God opposes. James 4:6 says that God gives grace to the humble, but "opposes the proud," and I don't know about you, but I do not want God Almighty opposing me!  Unfortunately, sometimes our own pride gets in the way of God responding, so humble yourself by asking the humble to pray over you. 

Finally, slow down, breathe, and take note of why you do what you do.  Psalm 46:10 says to "be still," and sometimes that's exactly what we need to do. God usually has to jolt me into stillness, but it's what works for me and this time was no different.  I was trying to do everything in my own strength instead of His strength (Philippians 4:13), and worse, I had lost sight of why I was doing it.  My pursuits had ceased to be about Him and had begun to be about me.  This is a dangerous field to play on because it opens us up to the sin of pride which is always followed by destruction (Proverbs 16:18) if left unchecked.  Pay attention to your motives, your thoughts, and your heart.  Think about what you're thinking about and give attention to the desires of your heart.  Proverbs 4:23 says to guard our heart above all else, "for everything you do flows from it."  If there's muddy water flowing from it as there was from mine, it may be time to have a "surrender me" moment with Jesus.

"Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken." - Psalm 55:22
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