The answer came in two pieces: 1) I have been reading through the One Year Bible, which gives me a portion of the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs to read each day. In the Psalms, what has been jumping off the page at me are verses like these:
“Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.” ~Psalm 3:7
“Let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them.” ~Psalm 54:5
“Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the grave, for evil finds lodging among them.” ~Psalm 55:15
And 2) An email from a dear friend of mine. She noticed that I had deleted my personal facebook account, and asked me about it. So, we started talking via email about my reasons, and she encouraged me with these words: “Get what you want.” She explained it this way:
“It’s good that you are taking steps to improve things. It’s the hardest thing…not just knowing triggers, but actively taking steps to remove the triggers to better your situation. When my bestie was having big troubles getting over her divorce and then entered the dating world, I had one word of advice all the time. It seemed to help – “get what you want”.
It’s easier to implement if you go broad. Like, if I say, “I am only going watch one episode of Dr. Who a night”, I will find ways of justifying why I am watching two. I’ve had a hard day, blah blah blah. But, more broadly, I like to have a good time at work. I have to work backwards. In order to have a good time at work, I have to be rested. To be rested, I have to go to bed at 9 because I get up at 6. In order to not to have to get up at 5:30, I have to prep everything the night before, but I have to be done with dinner and cleaned up, have worked out (and being fit is another goal), etc. It’s my “good time at work” that makes all the decisions for me. I get off track, but by and large, it really helps me. I really had to think of the things that make me feel fulfilled which was actually the hard part. A good work day where I am not tired, managed to pack a lunch, and am not rushed in the morning is really a good place for me. Is a second episode of Dr. Who really that important? Will I actually feel fulfilled? I will be amused, but then the next day, I’ll feel worse….so the decision is made. I want a good time at work. That wins.”
In other words, it was a sharp reminder to keep the main thing the main thing. Priorities, people. Priorities.
Pardon me while I ramble a bit.
Back to the first part of God’s answer to my prayer.
See the pattern? It happens over and over again. The psalmist asks that God destroy his enemies. I couldn’t figure out why those verses wouldn’t leave my mind, because I was thinking (like the disciples so often did) in earthly, literal terms. I don’t have any “enemies,” per se. What was God trying to tell me?
On Sunday, nearly two weeks ago, I had my answer. I have been struggling with overpowering feelings of discouragement, defeat, and failure. I didn’t just feel like a failure, I was convinced that failure was an objective fact about who I am. I could see evidence of that truth all around me. I would wake up in the morning with good intentions and my eyes on Jesus (or so I thought), and fail within an hour of my first cup of coffee.
Then, that Sunday morning, during worship service at my home church, it dawned on me: God wanted me to ask him to fight for me. To crush my enemies, named Failure, Discouragement, and Defeat. I was not walking in victory because I was trying to fight these battles on my own, when all God calls me to do (right now) is to armor up and stand.
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” ~Ephesians 6:13 (NIV, emphasis mine)
So, I did. Tears streaming down my face, I lifted my hands in surrender and asked the Lord to do battle for me. He showed me that I only need to be strong and courageous, do everything I can do, then stand and see what he would do on my behalf against Failure, Discouragement, and Defeat.
It took me until the following Thursday to notice that I had not struggled with those demons since that morning. Not once, even though I had failed at times, did I believe I was an abject failure. Not once had I felt truly discouraged or defeated. I just kept walking, and my eyes were no longer on me, but on Jesus.
On that day, I had become a little more self-less. I cannot wait for the day when I forget myself completely, and Jesus is truly everything. I will have myself handed back to me, whole and complete and mature, when I have finally given my life for His sake. When I have finally learned not to put down my daily cross once it has been picked up. Once I learn to walk as a living sacrifice, and quit climbing down from the altar.
The second part came during the same time period as the first. My friend told me to “get what I want,” and I mulled over what that meant. When she illustrated with her own personal version of that, it made sense. God was reminding me of my priorities.
Sure, I’d taken the first critical step in eliminating something that was stealing from my family, from me, and from everything I truly care about, but it wasn’t quite enough to just get rid of a bad habit. I have to form new ones.
The way to do that is to decide what I want. That threw me into days of contemplation, prayer, and examining my heart, my choices, and life.
Ultimately, I want God’s will to direct my life. From there, I have to work downward. What is his will for me? To love him, love others, and to take up my cross daily. To give my life for his sake. To glorify the name of Jesus.
Taken alone, these all sound so lofty, as if I should be Billy Graham-ing my life everyday.
I want to live my life by the power and grace of Almighty God, starting within the four walls of my home. The seeds of what I want are planted, and what they grow to look like may change from time to time, but I am determined to water them.
So, what do I want? If I answer that right now, what comes to mind is this:
- I want to know God, love him more, and share his love with all I meet.
- I want a peaceful home, where everyone who crosses my threshold feels safe, and where relationships are more important than things.
- I want to be healthy and whole, so that I can serve others at home and in my work without burning out.
These are the seeds I am starting with. On purpose, they are simple, broad goals. Like my friend, Sarah, I want to step back and focus on the practical ways to keep the big picture in front of my eyes always. Will the choice I’m making, right now, in this moment, help me to “get what I want?”
If not, then I need to make a different choice. It’s not about the means, it’s about the end. The end I have in mind only allows the means God has laid out for me in his Word, yet I walk in more freedom when I follow his means than when I follow my own. When I follow my own, I can’t help but walk in failure, discouragement, and defeat.
For the first time in months, I feel optimistic. Hopeful that I can change. I am sure that what I want now is flawed, but I also know that God can and will refine me. He can and will conform my will to his, and that in the end, if my eyes are on him, I will get what I want in ways I never imagined.
Jesus really is the answer to everything.
It’s about time that I allowed him to be the answer to my everything.
How about you? What has God been trying to teach you lately? What have you learned about priorities and how to keep the important things at the top? What do YOU want in your life? Whatever it is, God can do better for you, and wants to do better for you. Will you have him?
Grace & Peace,