Ask my friend, and she'll tell you I'm a tweaker. Give me a problem, and I'll work out how to solve it. Anxiety? Perhaps if I had a 1/2 hour quiet time every morning. Exhaustion? Perhaps if I limited my working time to an hour a day. Illness? Perhaps if I ate more healthily, did more exercise, got more sleep.
They're excellent things to do, but you'll notice that they all revolve around the same word: "I".
I'm convinced that somewhere, somehow, there's a perfect life within my grasp. I just have to figure out the right work/rest balance, the right organisational methods, the right ministry decisions, and I'll feel less anxious, less bewildered, less overworked, less miserable. I'll feel that elusive sense of happiness which I know is waiting for me if I just get things - well, if I just get things right.
Except that the solution to my problems doesn't lie with me. It doesn't matter how many books I read, how many solutions I come up with (thought-diaries, self-talk, spiritual disciplines) - these aren't where wholeness and happiness can be found. As I heard in a Christian talk recently, security isn't a somewhere or a somehow: it's a Someone.*
What do the psalmists do when they feel worried, fearful, discouraged or despairing? They pray. And I'm not talking about prayer that pretends the problem isn't there, or prayers where you sort your thoughts and feelings out before you pray. I'm talking about real, raw, honest prayer: "Oh, God, I feel dreadful! Help!!"
The psalmists pour out their pain and confusion to God. They sort out their problems in the presence of God - or, more to the point, they ask God to sort out their problems. They don't get things right and then come to God; they admit they don't get it, and cry out to God for help. They do the "I" thing - "Oh my soul, trust in God!" - but they do it with God.
I've been trying to depend less on myself: my abilities, my determination, my organisation, my psychological ploys. I've been trying to depend more on God: starting, instead of finishing, with prayer. Over and over again, I'm surprised to discover that God's grace and strength are there for me: all I need to do is ask.
* The talk was by Lisa Watson at Belgrave Heights Women's Convention.
images are by Sultry and Bold Bone at flickr