Wednesday, February 3, 2016

deeper realities

Colt was gone for 7 days on a work trip recently. He doesn't travel a lot for his job, but the few weeks out of the year that he does, I'm not always a sweetheart about it. When he's away, I tend to report all the chaos, all the drama, all the bad behavior, and all the feelings I feel. Communication is good, but that's not technically what that is. Through my juvenile updates, I hope to yield some kind of result from him that sounds like this:  "Wow, Claire, you're the best and doing the hardest job and I can't imagine doing it and I probably couldn't do it and what would I do without you???"

Newsflash:  that strategy usually doesn't work the way I hope for it to. Not because Colt doesn't praise me. He really is great about doing that. But because even when he does affirm me after a week of being gone, it doesn't feel how it should feel because of the way I've acted. It feels crummy because I've been crummy.

So as we approached the week of him being gone, I knew I needed to pray. 

I told God, "I don't want to act like that. Being with 2 little people and doing all that comes with it by myself for a week is going to be tiring. That's the nature of it. Colt's going to be gone and the kids will inevitably act like their normal, childlike selves. Since those circumstances can't change, please just change me. Work in me. More patience, more kindness, more endurance, more self-control. Let me enjoy my time with my kids."

Well, I can officially say that the Lord answered my prayer. It wasn't the awful and ridiculously hard trial that I had anticipated. Things were normal. Messes, diapers, laundry, tantrums, timeouts, cleaning, whining, taking toys, cooking, baths. No magic and no perfectly behaved children. Just normal life. The circumstances weren't different, but I was different. More specifically, my attitude was different. And because of that, the circumstances felt different. Surprisingly, it seemed like those 7 days were even better than our normal. Truly, I had nothing to do with it. The only explanation is that the Lord was working in me and I was actually paying attention.

What I've been thinking about lately is how I pray. How we pray doesn't matter in the sense of what words we use or how smart we sound. No, what matters is our heart. The heart behind my prayers that week was Do a work in me so that I can face this week with your power and strength, not mine rather than God, just please make the kids behave and make things easy for me. We all know where that last prayer will lead – straight down the road to disappointment and unmet expectation.

Now, we are certainly allowed to ask God to change our circumstances. He is powerful and many times, he will do that. He works miracles, heals people, remedies our situations without us having to lift a finger, and gives us good gifts we don't deserve.

Yes, I believe God loves to change our circumstances. But, more than that, I believe God loves to change us.

If we find ourselves stuck, praying the same "change my circumstance" prayers over and over, but we see no fruit, it's probably a good idea to take a deeper look. Maybe the Lord wants to do something with us, not our circumstances. As Paul Miller puts it in "A Praying Life," we don't want to miss finding deeper realities because we were just looking for pleasant results. And the great part is that when God changes us and brings us to those deeper realities, our circumstances can change! The specifics of the circumstances may not be different, but because we walk through them relying on God's strength and with changed hearts, our circumstances feel different.

And so you know, just because I'm writing this with my own fingers and I believe it to be true doesn't mean I'm awesome at it. I'm learning and I'm trying. Some days are easier than others. Some days, change sounds exhausting, I refuse to listen, and I stand stubbornly in the same place. For those days, there's always grace. But some days I choose to listen, take correction, and admit the places where I need growth. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it's on those days, the days that I welcome the change, that I feel more at ease.  Because I realize and accept that the pressure is off of me.

"A Praying Life" by Paul Miller
Sometimes God really does box us in and, many times, he uses our circumstances. Sometimes there is nothing we do can about a situation. We can't fix it, we can't speed it up, we can't make it better. It's in those times that we are pushed toward God. And the best thing we can do for ourselves is to go with it. Talk with God, express our feelings and frustrations, ask him questions, humbly listen to what he has to say, and be open to receiving correction.

We were all eager to finally see Colt when he returned home. And I was eager to run a bath and spend a good hour in there alone, in silence, with hot tea in hand. But even though I was tired and ready for a break, I felt satisfied. God didn't leave me to do that week on my own. He gave me just what I needed. Instead of finishing that week wishing Colt would gush about how he couldn't live without me, the Lord gently reminded me that I'm the one who can't live without Him. I'm thankful to know a God who knows what I need, is committed to changing me, and always nudges me toward deeper realities.

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