Monday, September 27, 2010

Backwards Thinking

We have been incredibly busy here in our household. We started our fall with home schooling for another year, attending my husband’s Ironman, fall baseball, sewing class, small group retreats…oh and all of us getting sick! The last month has been crazy trying to keep up with the additions to our schedule and maintain every day life. Chaos has been in abundance, and here’s a secret…I don’t handle chaos well. (Yes, that is an understatement.)

With all this non-stop running, I’ve been feeling like a failure. We’re not getting as much done as I’d like to with school. My house is in shambles. I have no groceries in my refrigerator, and what amounts to a mountain of clothes is on my laundry room floor. And my attempts at writing? Let’s put it this way, using the word ‘attempts’ is being generous. I can’t even apply that word to my quiet time with God. That has completely fallen by the wayside.

Apparently, in my conversations with friends and family, I am not alone in these feelings, either. Several people have spoken with me in the last week about how crazy-busy they are. They feel like life is spinning out of control, and they are going right along with it. It got me thinking, and today it got me taking pause. Is this how life is supposed to be? I just don’t think it is. So how do we stop it? As I put my screaming kids in their rooms then began to tackle the dishes and laundry, I put on some quiet praise music and began talking to God. I realized, or really God gave me the realization, that it’s time to do things opposite of the way I’ve been thinking. Backwards, if you will.

Allow me to elaborate. You’ve got time, right? (Just say yes) A year or so ago my best friend and I were on a mission to lose weight. And, for once, we decided to take it seriously. We began to watch our diets closely and counted all of our calories. At the same time we began an exercise routine, adding weights, squats and aerobic exercise into our daily routine. At first, the pounds began to come off. Then, as we began to get stronger and exercise longer, we hit a plateau. So, we did what any normal dieter does, we cut our calories even more. Within a week we started to gain weight. It was a complete mystery to us! I complained. She went to a nutritionist. Here’s what they told her: eat more.

Well, of course, I laughed at her. We’re supposed to lose weight by eating more? What kind of backwards thinking is that? Unless, of course, they meant by eating more chocolate, which I was totally on board with! They didn’t. We needed to take in more calories all right, but of healthy foods. Shaking my head, we tried it. And, guess what? It worked!

As God laid this memory on my mind, He attached an insight with it. I need to start thinking backwards in my attempts to tackle the chaos around me. Bear with me a moment as I explain.

You see, God never meant for us to attempt life on our own apart from Him. And, He never meant for us to live in chaos. We do all that to ourselves. Each time we think that if we just get our house in order and have our checklist all ticked off, we’ll be able to breathe. Like if everything was in order around us, we’d be able to smile and laugh and skip through life carefree. Sorry kids, that’s just not going to happen. Just like cutting more calories didn’t help me lose weight, getting my checklist done is not going to bring me happiness and peace. There is only One who can do that. Yet, when life gets frantic, my time with Him is always the first to go.

So here’s where the backwards idea comes in. We need to move contrary to what our mind is telling us. Rather than stealing time from God to pay towards finishing our list, let’s use that time to spend with Him. As I left some of my list undone today and did this, God led me over and over to His word showing me His plan and His faithfulness.

First, my heart was led to a verse that is often used to teach us about being a witness to others. Today though, God placed it in another light for me. In John 15 God tells us, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” Did you catch that? Nothing. When we decide to cut ourselves away from Him, sacrificing our time with God so that we can get more done, it will actually work against us. We believe this will give us the time to get more things done while what happens in reality is different. Our lives dissolve into chaos, anxiety and frustration. We may be able to check a few more items off our list, but we still don’t attain the peace we believe that effort will give us.

Some of us are in that spot right now. I know this past month has found me there, cutting myself off from where I need desperately to be. As I continued to talk with God today He reminded me of two more verses. First from Matthew 11:28 where God beckons us “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” If we find ourselves separated from Him in all our chaos, He reminds us to come back to Him. That’s where we’ll find our rest. God then paired that verse for me with one that He’s laid on my heart all month long. I’ve even added it to my stack of 3x5 cards. It’s from Isaiah 30:15. Here God tells us that “In repentance and rest is [our] salvation. In quietness and trust is [our] strength.” We need to press into the quiet moments. We need to trust that He has it all under control. Not you or me, but God. That is where we’ll find our strength to go on in the midst of the disorder that life seems to thrust on us.

Finally I came to one of the best known verses around, but one we don’t really read. Psalms 46:10 tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God.” Can you do that? Can you truly ‘be still’? Drop all the items on your list, and simply be still.

Now please don’t read into all this that I think you should throw your ‘to-do’ list out the window, quit your job, allow your home to dissolve into shambles, and don’t sign your child up for another extra-curricular activity. That’s not living the life that God created you for, but hiding from it. What I am saying is when you find yourself twirling in an endless circle, and you can’t remember which way is up anymore, chances are you’ve cut yourself off from the Vine. And you’re going to remain spinning until you do exactly the opposite of what you think you need to do. Stop moving and be still.

So that’s it really. God doesn’t want us running around trying to accomplish everything on our own. Just remain in Him, trust in Him, find the quiet and be still. When was the last time you can remember doing that? Sitting still, listening in the quiet to hear His voice? The last time you let all the endless tasks fall to the wayside and simply spent a few moments with God? He’s waiting for you, patiently sitting there, waiting to calm your chaos if you’ll only let Him. Because life is full of unending lists that you’ll never be able to handle if you don’t put God at the very top of each one.

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