Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cat(atonic)-Like Reflexes

I used to be a spaz. Like, a freak-out-on-a-dime kind of spaz that would leave me and those around me utterly exhausted. I like to think that while I can, at times, exhibit less than calm (ahem) tendencies, I have come veritable miles from the drop-of-a-hat kind of spazzer I used to be.

There is a direct correlation between the amount my faith has grown and the reduction in my ninnyhammer (1) moments. It really is an obvious deduction. When our faith in God and His ability to take care of us grows, we become less affected by the troubles or hiccups the natural world throws our way. It means that when something comes up that would normally have us in a frazzled state we stay calm and trust that He will work it all out for the good. This is a basic faith-skill so to speak:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

I, um….er…..struggle with this at times.

What should come by way of experience and maturity as an immediate reaction to said struggles can, at times, seem as though I’ve never developed the trust in the first place. Despite all of what I have written in the EVBN and other notebooks about the goodness of God and my trust and faith in knowing that He will cover me no matter the situation, I want you to know, dear reader, there are moments of absolute memory-dump proportions that leave me reacting in the “old” ways. I admit this because I want you to know that if you find yourself in such a place, you are normal. I can say this with confidence because if this were not a basic part of human nature then Paul would not have been inspired to write that verse in the first place.

We are wired, or I should say our flesh is wired, to react to things in the natural realm. We are made up of cells and hormones and chemicals that respond to what our flesh is experiencing in ways that may contradict the mindset of peace. It makes the heart pound, the palms sweat and the stomach roil. It can make us feel faint, full of fear or spit-fire angry and often cause us to react in ways that we later are ashamed of. These reactions, they are how our bodies were made.

Now, before you think we got handled a raw deal here, there’s good news: we are not made up of just our flesh. We are made up of a spirit and a soul, the latter of which is the antidote to all those fight-or-flight substances our body is stirring together. We just have to make sure we remember that fact.

Just recently (as in the past couple of days) I have been experiencing some stress and anxiety. A sort of a “big deal” kind of thing is currently happening in my world, and I am left to trust (in the natural world) people I don’t know with a huge part of my life. I am here to say, with all honesty, my knee-jerk reaction to some high tension-inducing news I received early this week was spastic.

Here I am, knowing all the truth I know and knowing all things work together for the good of those who love Him, cracking up like a bowl of Rice Krispies. Snap. Crackle. Pop.

While this reaction may have been a normal biological response to my stress, it was not a normal spiritual response to the situation. It went a long way in showing me that despite the amount of growth I may have gone through, there is always more room to improve on my faith response-time. Instead of cat-like reflexes to pray and trust I moved like a three-toed sloth after a turkey dinner and took my time about getting to the truth part.

I’m not saying we aren’t allowed to feel fear or anxiety, anger or sadness or uncertainty, what I’m saying is that the actions that follow those feelings are what we have to be careful of. When the enemy rings the bell to start the round we need to make sure that we have our gloves on and up and ready to go. Otherwise, we walk out of the ring with half an ear missing and looking like we haven’t been to the dentist in a few decades. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s the moment the cameras flash and it’s printed in every newspaper. People around us are watching how we react too, but that’s a post for another day.

This isn’t some kind of Pavlovian thing here. I’m not saying we are supposed to react like one of his trained dogs and start drooling when the signal is sounded. This isn’t something that we do without conscious thought, because the truth itself must be purposefully activated. We are not a bunch of robots that can simply be reprogrammed with a few lines of code, we must consciously call ourselves to the gospel and remind ourselves of God’s goodness.

The other part of that verse listed above is this:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Paul knows that our first response is to have a meltdown, and he reminds us what to do about it instead of losing our cool. And he does it from a jail cell awaiting his execution. The guy knew what he was talking about. Our first response is to acknowledge the situation and engage our minds in the practice of thinking on the right things.

Instead of going into a panic and eating copious amounts of ice cream in my anxiety, what I should have done was strap on my walking shoes and gone for a prayer march. Instead of thinking, “oh no, what do I do now?” I should have been thinking:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

You aren’t going to figure it all out anyway, stop making yourself bonkers trying. In all ways, including your thinking and trusting, acknowledge the fact that God is way smarter than you are and had it all taken care of even before He scooped out the Grand Canyon. Let go of trying to figure everything out and accept the fact that we simply don’t have the capacity to know all the right answers. Let go and trust Him to lead you in the right direction, give you the right answer, grant you the wisdom to know which path to take or, as is often the case, know when to just be still.

Or how about:

God is able through His might power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20)
He sees things that we aren’t even aware of. Take a second and think about the number of things that He protected you from or forced to fly right over you without you even knowing it was a threat. Bakes the noodle doesn’t it? He stepped in front of arrows you didn’t even know where aimed right at you. Think about the fact that from the moment you accepted Jesus the same power that resurrected Him from death was put inside you. That work is operating in you every second of every day and it can accomplish more than you can do by yourself. You can’t fix it all in your limited human ability. You don’t know all things, can’t see all things, don’t have 12 arms or eyes on the back of your head. You cannot think of every facet of every situation. So often, if we trust Him, He will take care of things we don’t even know about. Not only that, but He has a lot more go-juice than we do. He never tires or sleeps or has to take a breather. He is mighty and able to accomplish (achieve, do, attain, manage, carry out, finish, take care of, fulfill, produce, bring about, shut the door on, open the door on, put to rest or bring to life) way more than we even realize needs to be accomplished.

Next time, before I freak out and blow a gasket, I pray that I will take two and a half seconds to breath, and remember it never was in my control in the first place. I pray that I remember that no matter what happens, no matter what happens, I am the apple of His eye and He loves me. He will protect me and lead me and guide me where I need to go to have a good life. A whole life. A life of peace - not one made up of ninnyhammer moments.

1: The use of the word “ninnyhammer” here is the result of entirely too much leisure reading of the thesaurus. I realize that casually dropping such a word into modern conversation will immediately illicit the collective thought of those around me of “what a nerd.” I accept this.

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