Thursday, December 16, 2010

tweaking is not the solution

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


Valori said...

I am right there with you, Jean. It's amazing how he answers every prayer for help and grace. He is so faithful! And it's amazing how He makes sure that we realize our need to ask :).

When is your last post before your break coming? :)

Jean said...

I'll be blogging up until just before Christmas...then not again for some months...

Love Jean.

Anonymous said...

I so often feel like I'm reading my own diary when I read your blog!! Thanks for your posts on burnout too, they have been an encouragement to keep examining my own heart and motives. May it all be for his glory! Love, Jo Charles

Valori said...

I hope you have a wonderful break and receive much wisdom and direction from the Lord. I've been blessed by your blog and by being "pen pals." We must keep in touch from time to time :).

Jean said...

Thanks, Jo, glad you found it encouraging.

Oh, yes, Valori, definitely we must keep in touch!

Alison said...

I know - i need to tweak my life by praying more! (just kidding. But i do need to talk to God more.)

Hi Jean, you don't know me but i've been reading for a while. I only just had one baby and am in awe of you making it to where you are. Your blog is hugely encouraging as you have shared your life as a fallen one not as a perfect one - God has used your testimony about what he's done to change me too. This is just one more example - learning not to get so caught up in doing it all yourself (myself?) and squeezing God out.

xx Alison

Jean said...

Actually, Alison, I absolutely agree: prayer can easily become another "tweak"! That is, it can become about me working out another solution, rather than about me depending on God for grace. I've done this with prayer often! - when it becomes about me making myself feel better rather than me turning to God. It's just a little harder to get away with when it comes to prayer. Especially since God has a way of answering it in his own way! :)