“(1) I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
(2)My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear of it and be glad.
(3)Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.
(4)I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
(5)They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed.
(6)This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
(7)The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.
(8)Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
(9)Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear him.
(10)The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.”
Today I am really working on habits: the breaking of old ones and the creating of new ones. One habit I have always struggled with forming is journaling. I love to write, I love to journal, but I always allow things to come up and get in the way. At least that is the case when I am journaling about something important to me like my faith or my thoughts on what I am reading in the Bible. Another habit I am trying to create is reading a daily devotional I have actually enjoyed on many occasions called “Our Daily Bread”. I can usually find nuggets of insight tucked inside that speak to me or lead me down some rabbit hole I have been carefully avoiding. So in one fell swoop I am working on my old habits of avoiding and laziness while hopefully fostering new habits of faithful digging and spiritual reflection. I didn’t promise myself that this would go well, but God sure has a funny way of directing me down my first rabbit hole. His sense of timing is impeccable as always.
In today’s devotional I was to read the passage above in my Bible, which is the New King James version, and then read their little snippet which was written by Joe Stowell. In reading the Psalm I made some assumptions about what his devotional would be about. I was pretty sure it would travel along the lines of encouraging us to trust in the Lord. A message I truly agree with, although I am imperfect at following. But Mr. Stowell stumbled onto a key word and point in the Psalm I sorta glossed over; a word and idea that Pastor Bill actually prayed for me about yesterday. Which affirms two things to me: 1) God does listen to prayers and answers them and 2) Pastor Bill might have a hidden ‘bat phone’. Mr. Stowell focused on talking about fear, and how our fears cripple us. They keep us from trusting in the Lord. I didn’t expect him to make me chew on that; I wanted to get to the trusting in the Lord part. I can think of all the pretty ways I do that and shine the light in those areas. Fear and I have a very dysfunctional relationship.
Fear. Habits. It’s ironic, actually, that today’s devotional would be about fear when I am struggling with putting to death old habits and creating new habits. I think one of my oldest habits has to do with fear. I have told people for a very long time that I am not really afraid of anything. And I really did believe that. Spiders can make me uncomfortable if they are walking on me, but I am not scared of them. I love snakes and mice. Put me in tight, confined spaces and I actually feel more comfortable and secure so I fall to sleep. I love heights and generally want to jump from them via various methods. I don’t really have any phobias. I don’t mind the dark. I never really put myself worth or value in what others thought of me so their words didn’t frighten me. I’m not afraid of pain. Anyone who has been around me for any amount of time can attest to that. I am the world’s clutziest person so pain kinda comes with the territory of ER visits and stitches and casts. But then if I have no fear why then did Pastor Bill pray for my fears yesterday, and why did I use the word fear in my talk with him?
Fear is a dirty word to me. It is something gross, something to be ashamed of. I don’t like it. I don’t like talking about it or examining it. It is something I have been thinking a lot about since yesterday. It isn’t a word I use casually. So why did I use it? The truth is I used lame excuses for my fear in talking with Pastor Bill. I told him I was afraid of what people would think, which I guess is partially true. In reading today’s devotional the Holy Spirit sorta smacked me with a two-by-four. It was more than warranted. I went to bed last night praying He would help me change into a new creation, and I woke up this morning praying I would be a new creation. I want to shed more and more of my old life to be who God wants me to be. I am not good at that. At all. By any stretch of the imagination.
The reason I am not afraid of anything is because nothing can touch me. The reason I don’t care about what people think of me is because I don’t let them near enough to do real damage to me. I keep people, even family, at a distance. I don’t really let people close. No one really comes inside of me. I can look back on my life and see all the reasons for it. I know why I am the way that I am. It doesn’t make it okay, right, or acceptable. But I realized what I am afraid of. I am afraid of being known, which is probably why I struggle with journaling. When I complete the book I am writing people will know me. It is a thought that makes me highly uncomfortable. I don’t even want my family to know me, much less strangers. And I realize that is what I should have told Pastor Bill yesterday.
When this book is complete I am afraid of people knowing me. Not just the parts of me I want them to see or to know. The very broken mess of me. You see I relate to Paul so deeply when I read the Bible. The first time I read Acts I had a completely unheard of take on why Jesus blinded him. At least I think it is unheard of. I see that time of blindness as a gift, a huge and wonderful and magnanimous gift. Paul had been murdering Christians, and he just became one. As a new Christian he probably didn’t have the best understanding of the forgiveness of Christ. As a rich, well-educated man Paul probably had a few mirrors with him to make sure he looked good when he went out in public. Paul felt the weight of his guilt, the weight of that blood on his soul, so profoundly. I think Jesus gave him a huge gift in not allowing him to look at his reflection until he understood what Jesus did on the cross. I know that when I feel the crushing weight of being chief among sinners I can’t stand my own reflection. Jesus gave Paul a gift not to look at himself until he could see himself with Jesus’ eyes.
I have developed such a habit of keeping everyone at a distance I have kept myself at a distance. I am segmented. Like a shattered version of me spread out over the ground, each piece within reach of the other but separated by a small distance, waiting for glue. As I look at the various pieces I realize I do have some fears. Fears I have ignored or hidden because I didn’t want to appear weak or because they were too close to home to acknowledge. They make me uncomfortable. To be honest this entire blog makes me uncomfortable. But here it is because on the other side of these fears is trust, happiness, and freedom in the Lord.
It is strange the feeling being able to trust God with the direction of my life, and what I am supposed to do with my life… but not trusting that He knew what He was doing when He put me together, or that He knows how to put me back together. And it’s not that I don’t think He can do it, the Lord made everything out of nothing. He can do anything He wants. My problems are not too complicated. I am not too difficult. I know that He wants to. I know that He loves me, cares for, and wants only good for me. I trust Jesus died on the cross for my sins to do that very thing. I know these things; but that is the problem with knowing. Knowing doesn’t always come with understanding. I know these things but I can’t see beyond the spaces between the pieces or the devastation I feel. I know Jesus is the proverbial glue, but I have no real understanding of how this all works. Which is why these are new and unexplored habits.
I guess the biggest thing for me to humbly realize and accept is that I cannot form these habits or hope to keep them on my own. I will only be able to keep them, do them, hold them, and embrace them if I keep seeking the Lord through prayer. The Holy Spirit needs to be my new best friend. “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Verse 4. I don’t get to deliver myself or save myself or put myself back together again. That would give me something to boast about. All I can do is boast in Christ, in what He has done for me, and through me. This is a humbling lesson I will probably have to learn more than once, but at least I won’t have to learn it alone.