Jennifer Rothschild in her Bible study on the book of Hosea pointed out for me that I am ‘bent on turning’ away from God and going my own way. Now, Priscilla Shirer has called me to “resist the urge to continue”. Let me see if I can unpack what this phrase means to me.
I’ve spent significant white space in this blog discussing my ‘soldiering years’ — my long period of working hard and believing that I was tackling all of life’s challenges on my own, thank you very much. Although I was rescued from that life of self-sufficiency by my chronic illness, the pattern of striving is deep in my DNA and hard to leave behind. I still try to turn back to that old way of living, filling my days with work and achievement in order to –let me be completely honest –fool myself into thinking I have some kind of control over my life. Even though I have been given this opportunity to live a life that has a slower pace, fewer demands, and plenty of time to take care of myself, connect with God, and care for the people around me, I still am bent on turning to what I know best — soldiering.
Now, sure, it looks a little different than it once did. Instead of power walking down the hall in an a-line skirt and power heels intimidating poor little freshmen into tucking in their shirts and getting to class on time, I now sit at my desk in sweats and a t-shirt grading papers, finding new students, and applying (yes, it’s true) to even more teaching gigs. However, the underlying drive is the same — it’s a need to be busy, to prove my worth, to make myself useful, to be in control.
It’s a rhythm that has felt comfortable to me for quite a while. Although I don’t always like working as hard as I do, the rhythm makes me feel safe. It assures me. It’s a way I’ve come to know.
Priscilla Shirer in Breathe: Making Room for the Sabbath, reminded me that the Israelites, too, had found a rhythm that was familiar during their 400 years of slavery in Egypt. They had worked hard and long under the fearsome watch of the taskmaster. They had labored in the heat with very little rest for their whole lives. You might think it would be easy to leave it all behind and live according to the commands that God gave to them, but old habits die hard. Perhaps one of the hardest challenges for the Israelites, and for me, was believing that God would provide for all of their needs even if they took time to rest.
Shirer points out the manna example. God provided the Israelites with enough manna for each day — their ‘daily bread’. They were to collect only what they would eat that day, and not try to store up extra. They were to trust that the next day He would provide again. But you know, they hadn’t had plenty to eat in a long time, so they figured it would be wasteful to throw the extra away. They kept it and woke up the next day to find it rotten and worm-infested. They were given a double portion on the sixth day so that they could observe the sabbath on the seventh, but you know some of those Israelites still went out on the sabbath looking for manna. You guessed it — they didn’t find any. They didn’t find any because they didn’t need any; God had already provided it.
Those dumb Israelites.
Cricket — cricket.
Yeah, I’m dumb, too.
All that time I was soldiering away, God had already provided for all our needs. Even though I might like to think that I somehow made the life of my family healthier, stronger, or more provided-for, I was really in all my soldiering making our experience as a family worse. I was overlooking God’s provision. I was failing to take a sabbath. I was forgetting to turn to Him with all my needs. And even though sometimes I got a glimpse at what was happening, I couldn’t resist the urge to continue. My pattern was comfortable. It felt safe. Putting down my weapons, falling to my knees, and admitting my helplessness before God was, at that time, out of the question.
It’s still tempting for me to think that admitting my helplessness before God is out of the question. But guys, the past couple of weeks have begun to shift my thinking — is it out of the question for me to not admit my helplessness before God?
It’s got to be.
It’s got to be out of the question for me to think that I can possibly work hard enough to make myself useful, to prove my own worth, or to be in control. It’s got to be beyond my imagination that I would think that I know more than God or that I am above the need for a sabbath. It’s got to be completely ludicrous for me to believe for one minute that I can do anything at all that God hasn’t already done for me.
It’s got to be.
And yet, I’m bent on turning…turning back to that old life, that old comfortable way. I’m just like the Israelites. So, when I see myself turning, and you know, I almost always do, I’ve got an opportunity to resist the urge to continue. I can stop dead in my tracks as I’m heading back to Egypt. I can say to myself, “Really? You wanna go back there?”
I can admit to myself that all my soldiering was a facade for a frightened little girl who didn’t believe that her Father had gladly given her the kingdom. But He has, guys, He has given us His kingdom. Let’s resist the urge to continue.
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.