Friday, February 15, 2013
This class has been a hard one, probably more so in my head than actually in the classroom. I was struggling with it once, and dropped it within the first week. It just was so overwhelming. The syllabus was beyond my understanding, and I just couldn't wrap my mind around it. The instructor was difficult to work with. Then, Jess got sick in the second week of this same class when I was forced to drop it a second time. My kids are my first priority, but I also don't want my grades to suffer because of them, so over the last few years, a few courses have been dropped in the first few days to help ease stress. I took another class instead, and was confronted with this one again at the beginning of the year. I have never wanted to quit so bad in my life. But, I didn't. I refused defeat. I refused to quit. I refused a lot, actually, but I have three more days of this class. I can make it, I think. ;)
But, really, isn't that what life is typically like? There is always some battle we have to fight. There is always that person that rubs us the wrong way. There is always that situation we desperately want different. There is always something preventing us from having happiness or complete peace within our homes. We all say, "If I can just make it through __(fill in your blank here)___, then I will be joyful again." Our focus becomes making it out alive, instead of being happy right where you are and finding joy within the craziness.
Since the beginning of the year, I am more than guilty of making that statement several times a day, most often to myself, underneath my breath, but still. It recently hit me that instead of being content where I am, I keep allowing myself to postpone contentment until the circumstances are right for it. I find myself struggling to keep my head above water, because I am completely missing the boat. I love the story of Peter walking on the water. For the last six months or so, it has just spoken so many life lessons over my life. Being bold, asking for what you want, trusting that it can happen, what faith can do, and stepping out. Also, learning mistakes happen, and that Jesus is so incredibly quick to forgive and move on, even in our human inability to fully trust and believe. I recently heard another add-on to this story. The storm was still raging around Peter when Peter stepped out of the boat. The waves and storm did not ease until after Jesus saved Peter from sinking and they were both back inside the boat. Peter prayed, and his miracle happened while the storm was raging, but his faith, his lack of trust and communication stopped it from happening in the way I think Jesus intended it to happen.
My pastor has been doing a series on prayer for the last several weeks. It has been amazing, but I have felt so discouraged upon leaving. I am not an awesome prayer warrior. But, I pray often throughout my day. The pastor has said more than once to use shameless persistence. Keep praying until you get it. So, let me tell you. I have been shamelessly persisting. I was shamelessly persisting that one same prayer again this week, when I felt God stir something up in me. And, I was slapped. Hard. Straight across the face.
You see, when we are going through whatever "this" may be, we probably pray about it all the time. It is that one need, dream, hope, desire, longing, or promise that most often comes to mind. We pray until we are blue in the face from praying about it. We know if we do this or we do that, God will see our need and grant us our desire. So, we pray. We serve. We worship. We persist that one thing. And, that one thing, I persisted. Let me tell you, so much so, that I realized I was finding it hard to pray about anything else. So, during this prayer time, I felt God ask me, "Cil, if I gave you this one thing, you would have nothing else to pray about, because this is ALL you pray about." Talk about a revelation. My communication with God had become consumed by what I want. And, as usual, He was totally right. It wasn't about what I was doing. He will not answer because I prayed solidly for "x" amount of time. He will answer because I believe He will do it. Shameless persistence is great, but are you truly believing He will do what you are shamelessly persisting Him for? Is your shameless persistence because it could be the "magic formula" that forces God to answer you? Or are you persisting the communication that is so vital to the relationship between yourself and God?
I spend a few minutes each day praying for the needs of those around me. I am ashamed to admit that after I do this, I don't think much about their needs or their concerns. I feel (or felt) as though I had placed a bright, red check mark next to their name and could move on. Granted, sometimes a person comes to mind throughout my day, and changes that, but for the most part, the above is true. Instead, I focus on myself, my girls, our wants, our needs, and praise God for the things I know He is doing. And that one thing. Prior to last weekend, it had become all consuming. You know, I really thought it was okay to be consumed by it, because after all, I was praying about it so often. I wasn't taking control of the situation and running with it. I was praying and waiting and waiting and praying. But, the lack of answered prayer began to cause discouragement, unhappiness and honestly, it was a joy stealer. I was looking for the answer, for the specific formula, so that I could pray, have my prayers heard, and be done, moving on to that next thing on my list of needs or wants. And, wow, does that sound so incredibly selfish.
This week, I have tried to maintain the prayer, but focus more on those around me and the things He is doing that I see right now. I feel renewed hope, more joy and contentment in the things I have, instead of just wanting or needing more. It is so funny, how a year or two ago, I would have taken the reprimand with shame and guilt and allowed it to stand between me and God. I am so incredibly blessed to realize He can love me and correct me without me needing to be ashamed and it has allowed me to feel more connected with this amazing God I serve. I realize that it is okay to shamelessly persist something, but only when you are communicating with God about every aspect of your life, not just that one thing. I guess my thought for the day is this: Are you talking to God about every aspect of your life, or just that one thing you so desperately want? Are you telling Him all about you, or just a tiny part about you? He wants us to seek Him with all our heart, to be thankful for what He has done and is doing, and He wants us. More than He wants to do good things for us, He wants to know us, to talk with us and love us. We are His prized possessions. So, yes, by all means, shamelessly persist. But don't forget about everything else.
As I re-read this, I realize I need to clarify something on my heart. I am in no way thinking my Pastor's words were wrong. They were so incredibly not. My understanding was biased to my particular situation and I only heard the parts that I wanted to hear, causing me to misinterpret what his meaning really was. God wants our shameless persistence, with our entire lives resting in His capable hands, not just a part.