Does this woman never stop??? Elisabeth Elliot to the rescue again! And today I am so thankful to be rescued. Actually, that was my exact prayer yesterday: O Lord, please rescue me. I left the house around 5:00 in the afternoon for no reason but to be alone for a minute and "blow the stink off," as my mother used to say. I drove to the gas station to buy a pop just for something to do, but really, really, something more sinister was brooding in my soul.
Some people are chronically unhappy – they seem to make a hobby of it. It seems like they complain just to have something to talk about. Worse, maybe they complain just to have something to think about. Although I've only known a few people like that over the years, they got my attention: at some point it became a tacit ambition of mine to NOT be one of those people.
But yesterday I was depressed. I guess I wasn't chronically depressed – that would be tricky to do all in one day. But I was deeply depressed, and I realize now it had been sneaking up on me for quite a while, nibbling at the edges of my consciousness, moving in little by little, until yesterday it announced its presence undeniably.
Actually, speaking of being chronically unhappy, I'm embarrassed to realize that I've blogged about this before…even more than once. Maybe that answers the question of why some people seem to make a hobby out of unhappiness and maybe I fall into that mold more than I care to admit. Because maybe it isn't a matter of being chronically unhappy; maybe it's more just that we are such DUMB SHEEP, and learn SO SLOWLY!!! We have to have the same lesson repeated over and over and over again, with a slightly different emphasis each time, because the same weakness in our understanding and character and faith keeps rising to the surface. I don't think I'm chronically unhappy by anyone's definition. But in my inner world, this issue does pester me on and off quite regularly.
The great advantage I have is that the Lord is always there to reorient my thinking when I get off-kilter. What do folks do who don't have Him to point the way?
So, I've talked before about my fear of becoming useless. Yesterday, BOREDOM was mixed into the equation. Every day I am imprisoned in the house because I have to drag my crabby youngest daughter through her schoolwork, a tedious chore because she wants nothing to do with me…until she needs my help. Even then she wants nothing to do with me and snippily shoos me away the moment the light bulb of understanding goes on. Not fun. I'm way beyond taking her prickliness personally – I've already raised one teenage daughter, and I've been one myself. But yesterday, rather than being afraid of being useless, I felt like I actually was useless, and my imagination could conceive no end in sight. The only things I had to occupy my vacant mind were a dirty kitchen floor and a broken dryer. My creativity was engaged only in finding new places to hang wet towels. And as much as I love the work of 7th grade math, the thrill of finding the prime factors of two disparate denominators in order to determine their lowest common denominator, the awe of how easily the fractions can be added when the process is followed – as exciting as all that is (especially compared to washing the kitchen floor), it's no fun with a hormonal 12 year old.
So, emboldened by David in the Psalms, I asked God, "Have You forgotten me?" Noooooo, He hasn't forgotten me. And I said, "Please rescue me."
Well, He rescued me through E.E. this morning. What she says in the devotional below is true: my problem is that I fall into greediness! I begin to want more than what God has ordained for my life. And that greed of doing more and being more stifles my thanksgiving. Not only that, like E.E. says, if we take the bait of feeling like we need to constantly be doing more, being more, if we try to accomplish that long list the world would hand us (even the Christian world), we neglect God's short list for us, "Do this [boring, tedious, unrecognized task] for My sake." Satan tempted Jesus with the lust of doing more than the Father meant for Him to do, and Satan tempted Eve with the idea that she could be more than the Father intended for her to be. Elisabeth Elliot says, "When there is a deep restlessness for which we find no explanation, it may be due to the greed of being – what our loving Father never meant us to be. Peace lies in the trusting acceptance of His design, His gifts, His appointment of place, position, capacity." Oh, it's so true! Thank You, Lord, and thank you, E. E.!
And in retrospect, yesterday, albeit tedious, was fruitful. I had the privilege of being a part of resolving crises in each of my older childrens' lives. (Well, to be technical, I helped resolve a crisis in one's life, and avert a crisis in the other's.) Youngest daughter got through her schoolwork well yesterday, and, happily, is improving daily in both the quality of her work and in her independence in doing it. I gave #3 son an awesome book to read, which he devoured. I put a good dinner on the table at night, and began another awesome book myself that I'll be able to discuss with #2 daughter. The only one who suffered from my internal disquiet was poor T, who didn't get the attention he deserved after a long day's work. Oh dear. Well, today is a new day, isn't it?
I better get to draping more wet clothes around the house and put away the ones from last night. (Repairman can't come until tomorrow, and we were completely out of bath towels!) But I hope you do take the time to read E.E.'s devotional below. She has such wonderful insights and writes so beautifully!
A New Thanksgiving
Those who call Thanksgiving "Turkey Day," I suppose, take some such view as this: Unless we have Someone to thank and something to thank Him for, what's the point of using a name that calls up pictures of religious people in funny hats and Indians bringing corn and squash?
Christians, I hope, focus on something other than a roasted bird. We do have Someone to thank and a long list of things to thank Him for, but sometimes we limit our thanksgiving merely to things that look good to us. As our faith in the character of God grows deeper we see that heavenly light is shed on everything--even on suffering--so that we are enabled to thank Him for things we would never have thought of before. The apostle Paul, for example, saw even suffering itself as a happiness (Colossians 1:24, NEB).
I have been thinking of something that stifles thanksgiving. It is the spirit of greed--the greed of doing, being, and having.
When Satan came to tempt Jesus in the wilderness, his bait was intended to inspire the lust to do more than the Father meant for Him to do--to go farther, demonstrate more power, act more dramatically. So the enemy comes to us in these days of frantic doing. We are ceaselessly summoned to activities: social, political, educational, athletic, and--yes--spiritual. Our "self-image" (deplorable word!) is dependent not on the quiet and hidden "Do this for My sake," but on the list the world hands us of what is "important." It is a long list, and it is both foolish and impossible. If we fall for it, we neglect the short list.
Only a few things are really important, and for those we have the promise of divine help: sitting in silence with the Master in order to hear His word and obey it in the ordinary line of duty--for example, in being a good husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, or spiritual father or mother to those nearby who need protection and care--humble work which is never on the world's list because it leads to nothing impressive on one's resume. As Washington Gladden wrote in 1879, "O Master, let me walk with Thee/In lowly paths of service free...."
Temptation comes also in the form of being. The snake in the garden struck at Eve with the promise of being something which had not been given. If she would eat the fruit forbidden to her, she could "upgrade her lifestyle" and become like God. She inferred that this was her right, and that God meant to cheat her of this. The way to get her rights was to disobey Him.
No new temptation ever comes to any of us. Satan needs no new tricks. The old ones have worked well ever since the Garden of Eden, although sometimes under different guises. When there is a deep restlessness for which we find no explanation, it may be due to the greed of being--what our loving Father never meant us to be. Peace lies in the trusting acceptance of His design, His gifts, His appointment of place, position, capacity. It was thus that the Son of Man came to earth--embracing all that the Father willed Him to be, usurping nothing--no work, not even a word--that the Father had not given Him.
Then there is the greed of having. When "a mixed company of strangers" joined the Israelites, the people began to be greedy for better things (Numbers 11:4, NEB). God had given them exactly what they needed in the wilderness: manna. It was always enough, always fresh, always good (sounds good to me, anyway, "like butter-cakes"). But the people lusted for variety. These strangers put ideas into their heads. "There's more to life than this stuff. Is this all you've got? You can have more. You gotta live a little!"
So the insistence to have it all took hold on God's people and they began to wail, "all of them in their families at the opening of their tents." There is no end to the spending, getting, having. We are insatiable consumers, dead set on competing, upgrading, showing off ("If you've got it, flaunt it"). We simply cannot bear to miss something others deem necessary. So the world ruins the peace and simplicity God would give us. Contentment with what He has chosen for us dissolves, along with godliness, while, instead of giving thanks, we lust and wail, teaching our children to lust and wail too. (Children of the jungle tribe I knew years ago did not complain because they had not been taught to.)
Lord, we give You thanks for all that You in Your mercy have given us to be and to do and to have. Deliver us, Lord, from all greed to be and to do and to have anything not in accord with Your holy purposes. Teach us to rest quietly in Your promise to supply, recognizing that if we don't have it we don't need it. Teach us to desire Your will--nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. For Jesus' sake. Amen.