Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"Yeah, that's always been the thing in your way ..."

My family has its share of idiosyncrasies.

First, we tend to dress alike at theme parks. Go ahead and poke fun. It's nothing we haven't heard before, but I'm telling you, matching shirts in coordinating colors make it so much easier to find each other in uncontrolled crowds. Plus, between my sister and all of my cousins, there's practically a football team full of children whenever we're all together, so personalized gear helps us each to keep track of who's who. After all, were it not for the names emblazoned across our Beefy-Tees, there'd be absolutely no telling me from my wafer-thin, model-tall, blonde-headed cousin Lori. As you can see from the picture to the left, the family resemblance is uncanny (I hope you're picking up on my sarcasm, because I'm laying it on pretty thick).

Secondly, we're probably just a tad too excited about University of Kentucky sports. This, I don't apologize for or feel compelled to defend.
Finally, we tend to talk in movie lines. How this started, I don't know. I do know, however, that we can have entire, meaningful conversations without expressing a single, original thought. For instance, the birthday song we sing to each other? Totally ripped off from the "Ache in Every Stake" episode (my favorite!) of the Three Stooges (if you're pressed for time, start watching at 17:13). Whenever Mom, Daddy, or Sissy asks me how I'm feeling, I'll respond, "Much better, Deah," mimicking Judith Ivey as Aunt Blanche in the film adaptation of Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs, and I have not heard my father say the word "Yes," since the premiere of Napoleon Dynamite. Instead? He borrows Pedro's "chess." In case you're wondering, that doesn't get old AT ALL (again with the sarcasm).

We say these things without even thinking about them. They're automatic - like when an Auburn fan, no matter where he is, spots another Tiger and nods an involuntary "War Eagle."

I realized last nite that I often do something similar with my Bible reading. Once again, I was going over Psalm 40, a passage I've read probably as many times as I've told my mother "Much better, Deah," a passage I've been able to quote since Mr. Davis's 7th grade Bible class, a passage I can even sing a song to, but last nite's reading was anything but automatic.

I was led to the verse by a book I've been reading. Beth Moore's "Get Out of that Pit" is every bit as good as everything else she's ever written (and that's GOOD). I picked it up on my most recent trip to McKays, because lately I've been feeling a little "blue," and I don't mean Kentucky blue, either. I mean "a little anxious for no particular reason, a little sad that I should feel anxious at this age. You know, a little self-conscious anxiety resulting in non-specific sadness, a state that I call 'blue.'"

Beth Moore calls it being in a "pit." So did the psalmist. He wrote, "I waited patiently for the Lord ..."

Stop right there.

"Patiently"? He waited "PATIENTLY"?! In reading this verse for the umpteenth time, I suddenly realized, for the first time, how I get myself into these pits to begin with. Impatience. I am waiting every way BUT "patiently." As a result, I slip into a pit, because God hasn't given me what I want ... a job, for instance, or an iPhone (again, sarcasm) ... when I want it. My bootstrap response to His seeming inaction is to go into over-active mode. I strike out to make something happen on my own, but obviously, I'm powerless against the providence of a sovereign God, so I throw what amounts to a holy temper-tantrum ("God! I'm doing MY part; why aren't You doing YOURS?!") and wind up taking a self-imposed time-out smack dab in the middle of Pit Central.

That concept reminded me of another verse I know as well as I do the entire script of Annie (the 1982 Aileen Quinn classic, NOT the later Disney remake so insufferable that I won't even dignify it by adding an IMDB link; incidentally, I DO own the "Special Anniversary Edition DVD").

"Be still and know that I am God." - Psalm 46:10

Hold up. Be WHAT?

For one who prefers to be in perpetual motion, being still is just about as easy as being patient. Unlike the "patiently" thing, though, I can't pretend that this is the first time I've wrestled with God's command to "Be still." Sensing God's periods of seeming inaction, I have a tendency to try and "take over." My admittedly flawed line of thinking goes like this: "You know, He's been holding the reigns for awhile now. He's probably just tired or busy helping someone else out these days. The least I can do is drive through the night."

It's almost as if I see God and I as partners in a relay race. He's just handed me the baton, so I can take the next leg, while He takes a breather on the sidelines. One hand clutches His heaving chest and the other holds a gallon of Gatorade. Though that image sounds really sacrilegious, I leave it in for no other reason than to illustrate to myself how ludicrous my misguided idea is. I know that intellectually, of course. As I stand on the precipice of a pit, however, that doesn't stop me from trying with all my might to make something happen that will keep me out of it. That, too, is ludicrous. Proverbs 16:9 puts it this way: "In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."

Philip Yancey talks about these ideas in his excellent book "Prayer," which I read earlier this year. Writes Yancey:

"'Be still and know that I am God.' The Latin imperative for 'be still' is vacate. As Simon Tugwell explains, 'God invites us to take a vacation, to stop being God for awhile and let Him be God' ... God is inviting us to take a break, to play truant. We can stop doing all those important things we have to do in our capacity as God and leave it to Him to be God ... To let God be God, of course, means climbing down from my own executive chair of control. I must uncreate the world I have so carefully fashioned, to further my ends and advance my cause."

Yancey's work probably resonates with me, because concepts like "vacation" and "truancy" are two that I can really get my arms around. Given that, why is it so hard for me to "be still"? To "wait patiently"? I wish I knew. I'm so thankful that God has shown me where I go wrong, and I'm trusting Him to fill me with the strength to obey His command to "be still."

Maybe the solution is as simple as getting more specific in the whole vacation analogy. Clearly, I'm a visual learner, so maybe I'll finally learn the necessary lessons by giving myself a concrete image to imagine when I feel myself foolishly thinking I need to take over for my sovereign God. Instead of seeing myself in a pit, I should instead imagine being in a place where I won't want to do God's work (as if I could, anyway) - being indefinitely at Disney World or traveling cross country in an Airstream trailer or, maybe, it'll help to imagine myself on Nebali, "the name of the planet in a galaxy way, way, way ... way far away."


  1. An image that helps me remember I am but the creation and He is the Creator is to realize I am sitting snugly in the palm of His hand. So tiny, so helpless, yet firmly held up by the ever living hand of the Almighty. Who am I to even entertain the idea that I could take the controls and drive through the night? I am nothing more than a breath of the Star Breather.

  2. You're so right, Les. I think I need to copy your habit of carrying a golf ball around all the time.

  3. It certainly helps me maintain perspective. There's a saying that I've always loved, the general idea is this: Don't waste your time telling God how big your problems are. Tell your problems how big your God is. The latter will yield far better results.

    Or as I like to say, regardless of the situation, God's got this.

  4. You know, I think I've heard you say that a time or two:)

  5. Yes, but even our "vacations" are heavily researched and intricately planned....maybe we just need a chill pill??? Or start drinking?
    Being still is hard work....