Yesterday morning amid the craziness of preparing for her son’s high school open house, my sister-in-love insisted that we all pause and attend a worship service. Yes, there was plenty to do, but she really wanted to worship as a family; so we did. We left food that needed to be prepared, a house that needed to be straightened, and decorations that had yet to be placed to hear the Word of God and be changed.
We did not come back empty-handed. At least I did not.
I have been one who has identified with Martha of Mary and Martha fame. While Mary dutifully sits at the feet of Jesus, I am usually scurrying around fixing one more thing. In fact –full disclosure –I even suggested to my sister-in-love that if there was too much to do, we could forgo church. (Some pastor’s wife I am, right?) No, she said, this was important to her.
It became important to me, too.
I mean, the sermon was from the classic story — the disciples and Jesus are out in the boat when a storm arises. Jesus is sleeping soundly, and the disciples start to freak out. “Jesus, Jesus, wake up!!! Don’t you see the storm?” Jesus nonchalantly wakes up, says “Peace, be still,” and the storm stops. Then he looks at the disciples and says, “Uh, guys, why are you freaking out? Do you still not trust me?”
Yeah, silly disciples, do you still not trust Him?
I was feeling pretty smug until the preacher referred to St. Augustine’s suggestion that Christ is asleep within us when the storms of our lives hit. We see the turmoil and disruption and start to freak out. We forget that Christ is within us and fully able to calm whatever this ‘storm’ may be. Why am I freaking out? Do I still not trust Him?
So today I was at work feeling pretty good about myself. In each of the lessons I was leading, things were going pretty well. I was feeling confident — maybe a little too confident.
And then a storm hit. I was working with my last student of the day and he was resisting me. We were being silly, and we got off on a sidetrack. He was testing my ability to bring him back. I couldn’t do it. What’s worse is that my mentor was in the room with us. The student was getting frustrated. I was getting frustrated. The mentor was getting frustrated. We limped through the rest of the session with little to no productivity.
When the session was over, I asked my mentor what she thought had happened. What was up with the kid today? (Surely it was him, not me!) She hypothesized a few things that could’ve been up with him and then she said, “I think you need to be firmer with him. He is taking advantage of the fact that you haven’t been holding the line with him.”
Ouch. I was at fault. I did something wrong.
Now, this shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Everyone makes mistakes. All day long I tell my students that the best learning happens when we make mistakes. In fact, about half of the strategies I have learned at this job are for error-handling. We praise what the student got right, then help him identify his own errors and self-correct. In seeing his own errors, he learns how to make the correction.
That’s all that happened to me today. I made an error, I tried to blame it on the kid, and my mentor helped me identify the real source of the problem. So, I should just learn where the error happened so that I can prevent it in the future, right?
Well, then why do I feel so lousy? Because I think I am in charge of calming the storm! I think that my worth and acceptance are based on what I do or don’t do, what I achieve or don’t achieve, what I get right or what I get wrong.
But they don’t! My worth and acceptance are based on the Guy who is ‘sleeping’ within me. And, guys, He’s not really asleep! I have just forgotten that He is with me and that He is fully capable to calming the storm.
Well, I got home today, feeling a bit lousy about what happened with this student. And guess what happened…a real storm showed up on the weather forecast — a severe thunderstorm warning. I was scheduled to meet another student about twenty minutes away, but we agreed that because of the weather, we should postpone.
Well, you know, I had nothing better going on, so I did my Bible study. (Insert sigh here.) The reading for today was from Exodus 33 where God says He will not go forward with the Israelites because they are ‘stiff-necked’ (ouch). Moses, who was way smarter than me said, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us from here.” He knew more than the disciples did. He knew that if the Lord went with him he would have everything he needed. He knew that if the Lord went with him, it would be known that he had found favor in God’s sight.
Have you connected the dots with me? God indeed does go with me. He is inside of me. His very presence declares to me and to the world that I have found favor in His sight — whether I do a good job or a lousy job with my students, whether I feel good about the way or look or not, whether I am sick or healthy, whether I am rich or poor.
When I drink in that truth — that I have found favor in His sight — the storms around me and within me calm. I am no longer in the wind and the waves. I am resting securely in the boat, coasting on lake, basking in the sun.
That’s what He has for us — calm, security, and basking in the sun — because He has and will continue to calm the storms.
He made the storms be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.