They say a picture says 1000 words. But what if it doesn’t tell the true story?
The photo below was taken at my daughter’s last cross country meet. The girls’ varsity team huddled together in prayer. This is customary for their team and many teams. They often gather before the race to encourage each other and then to ask God’s help over the course of their race… for strength, safety, and perseverance. Things you’d expect, right?
But that’s not what was happening.
“Back to school” felt really different this fall. And I did not like it one bit.
My oldest daughter really took responsibility this year.
She looked up her schedule.
She organized her supply needs.
She drove herself to registration.
And to school.
And to practice.
All. By. Herself.
Before she left for school one morning last week, I began to load her water bottle with ice so it would still be cold by the time her 3:30pm cross-country practice rolled around. She’d already prepared her own breakfast and lunch; this was my small token effort to come alongside. But she interrupted me, saying that she wanted to do it… a particular way.
I felt rejected.
She didn’t seem to require anything from me. She just didn’t need me. While we’re raising our children to prepare them for launch into adulthood, I wanted her to need me (for more than just registrar fees, anyway).
For some of us, prayer comes naturally. For others, less so.
I’ve got friends who make it through the entire Bible every year, but find prayer laborious. I confess, it’s not the best side of my spiritual life, either. My daughter recently expressed the same struggle: she said she didn’t feel close to God, probably because she’d stopped praying because it didn’t feel easy or comfortable. She was waiting to “want to” before she did. Before anyone gasps with horror, let’s acknowledge that we all have different “bents” in the spiritual disciplines. After all, I’ve got friends who would happily pray for hours, but rebel at the thought of reading their Bibles.
Sometimes my actions defy logic.
Any man reading this would probably attribute that statement to the absence of a Y chromosome. Ha!
Given that I’m a linear thinker who relies on logic to make decisions, allocate time and [try to] parent my children, ignoring logic seems foolish. And it usually is. I’ve recently been studying Gideon’s story in the book of Judges. This meek man’s time as God’s chosen warrior depicts beautifully that His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). It has caused me to re-examine the areas of weakness in my life, temperament and faith. I didn’t have to look far to find the most glaring of weaknesses: my need for control.
It’s a phrase we commonly associate with being robbed.
This posture–hands raised–was the position held by Moses throughout the battle between Israel and the Amalekites. My pastor taught out of Exodus 17 on Sunday and his words have stirred in me a most needful lesson.
After calling Joshua to lead the troops into battle, Moses climbed the hill and raised his staff in his hands overhead. As long as Moses held this position, Israel gained ground. When he grew tired and his hands fell, the Amalekites had the advantage on the battlefield. His actions are a poignant example of prayer, both literally and figuratively. With his hands raised heavenward, his prayer became the conduit for God’s power.
The first few weeks of 2015 have been–to put it mildly–a bit bumpy. I don’t have permission from the people involved to share the whole story with you, but what I can say is this:
I found the sweet part of what’s been such a bitter taste in my mouth.
I’ve cried. I’ve prayed. Both in equal measure. I’ve felt like a novice swimmer trying to escape a torrent of ocean waves, pummeled as I try to reach the safety of shore. Because of the delicate nature of what we’ve been facing, the need for privacy has forced us to maintain a “nothing’s wrong” posture in the rest of our lives. Which is exhausting in it’s own special way.
Yet the desperate quality of my prayers (and tears) has acquainted me with the suffering of others in a way that my regular, less-than-perfect-but-better-than-I-deserve kind of life doesn’t. I have found myself praying for those in my circles who are also suffering more frequently, and with much more heart, than I customarily do. I am attuned to their needs in a way I normally am not simply because I can’t bring myself to leave the foot of the Cross.
When the waters of life feel like they’re closing in, there is a way to stay above the rising tide.
The account of Jesus walking on water never bothered me. He is God and has full authority over the natural laws (Matthew 14:25). The part where he calls Peter out onto the waves, however, has long perplexed me. Particularly in this metaphor of coping with the perpetual feeling of overwhelmed-ness. Let’s look at it again:
They may not be spiritual, but they are essential to helping us stay above water.
When I find myself overwhelmed by my responsibilities, I always have to take a step back and take inventory. I ask myself a series of questions to help me identify the root of the problem. From the answers, I can often navigate my way to shallower waters or even dry land once again. So jot these down and then sit with the Lord to see how they might help you cope:
I know a handful people who pray for uninterrupted lengths of time and with great joy. But I know far more people who struggle with prayer. They feel guilty about a lack of it, and have preconceived notions over how they’re “supposed” to do it. Not just the nuts and bolts, the “how” of prayer, but also the why, when and if.
I just wasn’t feeling it.
It had been a long day in the middle of a very full week. Youth group loomed on the calendar horizon, an unwelcome commitment on this particular Wednesday. As an introvert, large group gatherings tap everything in me, so going ‘empty’ isn’t a great way to begin an evening of ministry. And 60 middle and high schoolers (whom I’ve come to genuinely adore) are a tougher crowd than most.