Thursday, January 21, 2016

One Word

I was not going to do the "one word" thing this year. I sort of thought my focus would be on health--as in, allowing myself the luxury of regular exercise even though it takes me away from other things. And as in, giving myself the gift of regular time spent on hobbies even though I don't have time for it and there are other, more pressing things to do.

But as time has gone on, I think God gave me a word, and it's definitely not one I would have chosen for myself. My one word this year is HUMILITY. How boring. How uninspiring. How hard. But here we are.

Why humility? As debates have been swirling, both in my home town and in the presidential campaign and about a million other topics, the thing that has struck me again and again is the need for humility. For acknowledging that the other side might be right, or might have some truth to it, or at least might have something to teach me even if they are wrong. For giving people the benefit of the doubt concerning their motivations and heart. For asking God what he might teach me even if the person through which he is speaking is unappealing or even vile to me. For speaking truth in a way that is kind and winsome.

What does this look like? This month, it is listening to a flashy speaker even though said flashy speaker kind of turns me off. Lord, show me what I can learn here. It is listening to my friend and trying to understand even though her viewpoint seems wrong to me. Lord, help me to see truth and be loving. It is letting my husband pursue the schedule he feels is right even if it's not my first choice. Lord, help me see where I am being selfish. It is praying about things rather than getting into fix-it mode. Lord, help me to be before I do. It is inviting people into my home even if it's messy--and not getting grumpy about it. Lord, teach me true hospitality. It is picking up this blogging thing even though I find it hard to "put myself out there." Lord, help me to obey your promptings, to give of myself so that you are exalted and others maybe benefit from what you're teaching me. It is keeping my mouth shut when it is obvious to me what someone needs to do or how they are wrong, but I also know they aren't in a position to hear the truth yet--or I'm not the one who should tell them. Lord, help me to control my tongue.

I don't know where this journey of humility will take me, and maybe I don't want to. This might be a really hard year. But I've found that when God leads, it's best to follow. So here I go, seeking to learn what it means to walk humbly with the Lord. What's your one word?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Prayer and Breathing

In case you have missed it, there is quite a controversy at Wheaton College, a place near and dear to my heart. It has been heavy on my heart because of the hateful backlash, some of it aimed at my brother, and because many of the arguments feel to me like an attack on God himself, and that breaks my heart.

I am not here to debate the issues. Smart people say it is complicated and nuanced, and just because the heart of the issue seems very un-complicated to me does not mean that I am right. But the whole thing has taught me a lot about prayer.

When I am so burdened by something that it distracts me from my work or wakes me up at night, I can either fret and worry, or I can pray. At times like this prayer becomes so constant it's like breathing. Sometimes all I pray is "Lord, have mercy, have mercy." Sometimes I pray for specific things, but as I've gotten older my prayers are a lot less about what I think ought to happen, or what I want to happen, and a lot more "your will be done." You see, I've experienced enough of life to realize that God's ways are always best. No exceptions. Even when his ways are devastating this side of heaven. And I know that he always answers the prayer "your will be done."

I see the nuances of life and realize that in every single situation I am concerned about--even the ones that are about me--I don't know all the information. But God does. So I can trust him to know what to do. Prayer for me is like climbing into God's lap and handing my worries and problems back to him. Sure, I ask him to show me if there is something I need to do, either to be an instrument in fixing the problem or to take care of myself so I can sense his love for me. But pretty much, for me these days prayer is me saying, "God, this seems like a big thing to me. Can you fix it in your way? And make my thoughts and priorities concerning this matter match yours."

More specifically, I pray God things. Help the people involved to grow in grace, unity, love, and all the other fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Scripture. Help us to trust you more. Help us to grow. Redeem this situation so that you are glorified. Don't let Satan win this one. Let truth win, whatever the truth is. These things God loves to answer. And these are things that Christians on both sides of any disagreement ought to be able to pray together. We're all on God's side, right? So we all want his purposes to prevail. Let's pray for that.

I've also noticed my prayers are a little less impatient than they used to be. Nothing is an emergency or a surprise to God. I'd love to see every problem resolved on my timetable, but I see more and more that sometimes the waiting and the struggle are the point. In this particular case, I think many more people are fervently praying for Wheaton than were a month ago. And that's a good thing. So while I'd love to see this resolved now--like, this minute please--I'd even more love to let God do his thing. And sometimes that takes a while.

So I'm settling in, getting comfortable on God's lap, and planning to stay here for the duration. Won't you join me?