Calming the Storm

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.

Psalm 107:29

He made the storms be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.

But Weight….a re-vist

Click on the arrow above to hear me read this post.

In Monday’s post, “Off the Couch, at the Table”, I briefly mentioned my weight. As age, illness, and circumstance are reflected in my body, I am often tempted to address the surface issues rather than what lies underneath. In this revision of a post from 2015, I recommit to not falling into this old pattern.

What’s your Achilles’ heel — that one weak spot that, if carefully targeted, can render you helpless.

I know what mine is. No, it’s not my drive to be successful. It’s not my tendency to jump in and do things in order to take charge of a seemingly out of control situation or my ability to turn off emotion in order to get through difficult times. It’s not even autoimmune disease. Those are all things that I battle, of course, but they aren’t what the enemy uses to bring me to my knees. Sure, he can distract me and get me a little off course with any of the above, but I have another weakness he can prey on if he wants to totally render me ineffective. He has been using the same strategy since I was a little girl, and his methods are extremely sneaky and deceptive. I am often nearly in the fetal position in the corner before I know what has hit me.

This weakness I have is hereditary. It started at least with my grandmother, and likely long before her. Somewhere along the family line, a woman believed this lie: “You are fat, therefore you are worthless, therefore you should be ashamed.” She believed it and made it her goal to be anything but fat, and we in her path have followed suit.

Now, the women in my family are very strong. They can handle what is put in front of them — family illness, financial difficulty, and crises of faith. I come from a long line of soldiering women who will not easily back down from a challenge. My great-grandmother, born in 1895, lived to be 95. She was a mother, step-mother, widow, bowling champion, and international traveler.  My grandmother also lived a long life and, after raising four children to adulthood, took a job at a local jewelry store that she kept until she was in her late 70s! My mother raised four children, often single-handedly, worked in a hospital for over forty years, and then began a new career with kindergartners! She raised two very independent and strong women — me, and my sister, who is retired from the Navy and manages the Texas region of a government agency. We’re strong all right, but many of us have wrestled or still wrestle with issues of weight and self-image. And here’s the thing — not one of us could truly be considered over weight.  So why do we struggle?

Because we believe the lies whispered so deceitfully into our ears — the lies that a number on a scale or the size of a dress is somehow a measure of value. When I say it like that, it sounds ludicrous. But I am not exaggerating when I say that I have considered my weight and the size of my clothes as a measure of my worth for more than half of the days of my life.

Yes. It’s true. And it’s embarrassing to admit.

In the 1980s I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. I underwent treatment at the University of Michigan and began my recovery. I am still in recovery. I had to admit it to myself again last week.

Yes, last week. Thirty years after I entered recovery. Why have I not yet put this to rest? Why can’t I walk away from this issue? I wish I knew. I believe it is hardwired into me. It’s like a computer program that runs on automatic. I have to daily interrupt the program and insert an anti-code in order to hijack a system that is bent on destruction.

The program says, “You’re clothes are too tight. You are getting fat. You are a failure.” The anti-program fights back, “That’s ridiculous. I bought this dress five years ago. I am going to be fifty in less than a year. I am not fat. I am just changing.”

The program says, “You used to look a lot better. You are letting yourself get fat. Everybody is noticing.” The anti-program counters, “Aging is a natural part of life. All bodies change. No one looks like a teenager forever. This is normal.”

This internal dialogue has been running for decades. I was beginning to think it was automatic and that I wouldn’t need to keep working at it so hard, but a friend posted a picture of me on Facebook last week and the anti-code failed. The program said, “Oh, you look terrible. Everyone who sees this will think, ‘she’s really let herself go!'” And I believed it. Over the next couple of days I had to retire two blouses and one dress because they just don’t fit any more. I did the mental work, but it surely wasn’t automatic. “I guess I need to go shopping to get some clothes that fit. I am not the problem; the clothes are the problem.”

This ongoing dialog is exhausting. It’s meant to be. If the enemy can keep me in the fetal position in the corner, he has paralyzed me from doing all the things I have been called to do. He probably doesn’t use this exact strategy with you, but I bet he does something to slow or immobilize you.

If my focus was on the truth, I wouldn’t be worried about my pants getting a little tighter. I wouldn’t be giving myself messages about inferiority and worthlessness. If I was looking at my Creator and Redeemer, I believe I would view my self as created and redeemed.

My identity is not in a number on a scale or in a dress size. My identity is based on my Creator who created me in His own image, redeemed me, called me by name, and established the work of my hands.

I am resolving and committing right now: I will not continue to believe the lies that are whispered into my ears.

I’m not going to spend my life in the fetal position in the corner — this body and I have places to go, people to see, and things to do.

I am one strong woman, from a line of strong women, and the lies stop here.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

    your works are wonderful,

    I know that full well.

Psalm 139:14