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Posts Tagged ‘Chuck Swindoll’

I think the trickiest part of the verse I’m studying (Proverbs 3:5-6) is the section that discusses “in all your ways acknowledging [the Lord].”  What does “acknowledging” even mean in this context?  I like what Chuck Swindoll said about recognizing that God is “sovereign.”

I picture entering the audience chamber of some liege lord where his people can bring their problems to him for judgment.  I imagine the relief at saying, “I can’t pay off my debts,” and him listening carefully and then saying, “I’ll take care of it.”  What would it be like to know someone so powerful that he really could just take care of it – someone who ruled the entire realm so thoroughly that he could pay your debts or make a deal with your debtor with just a word to some lackey?  Obviously feudalism wasn’t romantic like that, but I’m fantasizing about that notion of absolute power.

This week I have been practicing being mindful of the idea that God is sovereign over my problems.  That word – sovereign – is exactly the word I needed.  I’m running late…but it’s okay, because God is sovereign over this traffic.  He will clear it up, or he won’t, but whether I arrive on time or late, he owns this land and this car and this problem and he is powerful.  Maybe this sounds like echos of Nectar in a Sieve.  Maybe you’re thinking it smacks of defeatism and I should care more about my own agency.  If that’s what you’re thinking, I’m pretty sure you don’t have the kind of anxiety they’ll give you the good drugs for.

My life feels like it’s spinning wildly out of control all the time.  I don’t trust other people to do things the way they should be done – it’s probably easier if I just do it myself.  I’m not arrogant – I’m afraid.  The concept that this chaotic world is in someone’s control, and it’s not in my control, helps me slow my racing heart and unclench my fists.  It’s a trust like falling.

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The next insight I had this week regarding stress concerns the amount that I can accomplish each day.  I like to pray in the morning for my husband and for me the same things as I walk to work:

That we would have the energy, efficiency, attention and optimism to accomplish what we need to accomplish today, but that most of all we would be your hands and your feet and the words that you speak.

I’ve prayed this prayer for about 2 years faithfully, but I had a flash of insight this week reading that packet by Chuck Swindoll.  He noted that Jesus’s ministry on earth ended when there were still lepers wandering around.  People were hurting and needed to be healed.  There was suffering that he could have relieved, but when he died, he said, “It’s finished.”  How can this be?  There was more to accomplish.  It seems that it wasn’t his task to heal every leper in the whole world before he died.  He had that whole dying for our sins gig going on and when God asked him to, he didn’t argue.  He just came home because his work was done.

It occurred to me that I may think I need to accomplish x, y, and z today, but maybe God only needs x from me today.  If I get x done, then I have lived successfully today, regardless of how much I have crossed off on my to-do list.

I stay late at work and my husband calls me to see when I’m coming home.  So often the answer is that I need just another half hour, just another hour, and then I’ll be home.  How do I decide that these things are so urgent?  I mean, I’m not even healing lepers.  If I didn’t finish it all today, maybe I finished all that I was supposed to, and that notion gives me peace.

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I’ve been studying a packet my grandmother gave me a few years ago by Chuck Swindoll about the classic bible verse Proverbs 3:5-6.  (Trust in the Lord your God and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.)

The first thing that jumped out at me was his exposition of the story of Mary and Martha.  In the text, Jesus visits Mary and Martha. Mary sits at his feet and soaks up everything he has to say, but Martha runs around in the kitchen trying to cook for all the disciples who randomly showed up and gets angry at Mary for not helping.  She complains to Jesus and he tells her that Mary is doing what she needed to do – what was important for her to do.  Martha is not stressed out because Mary is shirking her duties – Martha is stressed out because she has decided that the most important thing is to live up to her own expectations of being a hostess.  She assumed that responsibility herself when it was not actually the priority at that moment.  Chuck Swindoll brings up this story because he is trying to point out that you should not blame other people for your stress – you may be accepting worry for things that are unnecessary.

I manage complex research projects and I feel angry at people who have easy projects.  I feel angry at the woman in my office who has one project and rolls into work at 10:30 AM and leaves at 4:30 PM because she’s (presumably) a nitwit and can’t be given complicated projects, while I have three projects and I work from 8:30 AM until 6:30 or 8:30 at night, and on weekends.  I think “angry” is an understatement – I hate her with the fire of a thousand suns.  I hate my clients who make me do stupid things to data.  They are arbitrary and they don’t understand research methodology and it toasts me that I spend so much time catering to their misguided whims.

When I read that exposition on the story of Mary and Martha, it occurred to me that I am not stressed out because my clients are crazy or my coworker is lazy.  I am stressed out because I internalize the crazy demands my clients make and the obvious injustice of my coworker’s schedule.  I still think my clients are crazy sadists, but it was enlightening to realize that their madness does not automatically deserve my stress.  I don’t not have to take that inside of me – I can choose not to internalize their agenda.

Today I learned that they want me to make extensive changes to a research project that is in the field.  I am so proud that my very first thought was, You do not deserve my cortisol.  Each time my body makes cortisol it shortens my life expectancy and I will be damned if I do that over your stupid changes.  My life is not about making these changes happen tonight (or about being someone’s idea of a perfect hostess).  You cannot force me to feel that unrelenting responsibility that threatens my sanity – I refuse to take it up as my burden.  Fuck you.

I think that’s what Jesus meant, and that’s why religion is helping me.  (Clearly it’s not helping me avoid words like “hate” and “nitwit” and “fuck,” but we can deal with the plank in my eye on another post.)

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