I’m sitting here in dark quiet, gathering strength for the hours ahead, arming myself with God’s righteousness for what comes in this day
…and I spill an entire mug of coffee all over my already-dressed-for-work self.
At rapid speed, the following internal combustion takes place:
*The outfit I laid out the night before and donned in my early morning sleepiness—can it be salvaged?
*Can an entire mug of coffee be adequately sponged off of my pants and shirt?
*What other outfit do I have, clean and hanging in the closet, that requires the least amount of changing and decision? What else goes with grey trouser socks and black flats?
*Is it worth giving up some of my quiet time to change now, or can the damp be undistracting?
*I do NOT want to give up the time to redecide and redress—these are precious moments to me, my time here in the Word and in prayer.
*Is the whole day going to be like this?
I didn’t have a ready answer for any one of those questions except the last, and most important one.
The answer is no. The whole day is NOT going to be like this, because I choose otherwise.
There was a time—a long and ever-pervasive time—when I would have allowed this small thing to open the floodgates of agitation and to frame my day. It would have been difficult to shake the irritation and frustration off. It would have colored my thoughts, my speech, my actions—even how I walked. I would have clung to the negativity and stewed, only magnifying its importance. I would have allowed it to grow in power and excuse for my tone, my decisions, and my faults in the minutes and hours that followed. Crabby and unsettled might best describe it.
Today gets to be different, and I rejoice in that difference and acknowledge He who made that difference.
I can feel my roots hold strong.
The other day, while tromping in the autumn woods by the river, my husband marveled at how, over time, the swirling waters wear away at the granite boulders and carve them smooth. This process takes decades, but with the investment of nature’s time, the result is stunning.
So, what’s the difference? I ask myself. There was a time when I had come to expect the instant flame of (FIRE PICTURE FROM CABIN) aggravation to ignite and linger, so I could stoke it with the logs of negative self-talk. I was ready to list all the heavy things weighing on my mind in the last days—all the relationship snags and lackings, my unmet needs, all the work frustrations, the worries, all the household demands screaming– from the marred flooring, dust-filled surfaces to the mounting must-dos. Isn’t it strange how one minor incident that has no real life-impact can be the proverbial finger in the dike that is removed, allowing a flood of unrelated negativity to pour over our souls and drown our spirits?
But this time the flame did not rise.
Instead, I felt the roots grown deep, and hold my heart steady, even in this minor gust.
I have been rising early, way earlier than I ever thought consistently possible for this girl who needs a crowbar to eject herself from bed every morning. In the discipline of rising, I have sat with God, lit only by moon silver, and taken in His word, written His word, shared His word. Each day I have armed myself with affirmation of His Presence and grace.
THAT’S the difference.
I can feel the roots holding strong, and each one of them has a name:
Hope. Grace. Peace. Perspective.
What matter is it, really, that my clothes were sodden? My real garments remained.
“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness…Isaiah 61:10 RSV
What good comes from wallowing in the agitation? This moment is not my real place, and is already gone.
Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature be thus minded; and if in anything you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you. Philippians 3:12-16 RSV
Several years ago, we had a strange and violent wind storm rip through our area on a February night. The wind came from an unusual direction. The tall and thick pines that fill the landscape of New Hampshire, keeping steady company with our maples and oaks, were accustomed to a differently directed force. Their root systems had grown strong on the side of their trunks where there were predictable, prevailing winds.
But sometimes God sends the unexpected. Sometimes He allows a gale to rip through our neatly ordered lives. Sometimes the Enemy changes tactics and claims the element of surprise—the wind direction suddenly changes.
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
Psalm 2 (RSV)
Where would I be if I hadn’t buried my roots deep on all sides?
Without roots sunk deep toward the life-giving water, how could I withstand the either the sudden gusts of small aggravations that open the floodgates to crabbiness, discontent, despair, or the full-blown storms? How can the guard on my mouth be in place if the guard is not armed and ready? How can my heart receive and calm its unsolicited guests like Disappointment, Frustration, or Discipline, if my soul-house is not in order?
Today’s resolve is to stay firmly planted. To stretch my roots down deep toward the water of life. To prepare by drinking daily.
It is worth the sacrifice of sleepiness. It is worth dressing in the cold and dark. It is worth the sacrifice of an extra hour of sleep. It is worth the purchase of a few more crowbars. Sometimes I need the big ones.
I pray today that God bless you with resolve to plant yourself by His stream daily-that you meet with Him to dwell in His presence and fill yourself up with His word. Whether your time be carved out of morning slumber or afternoon toddler-naps, late-day dinner prep, or nighttime routine, meet Him there and drink deep.
I know you’ll be blessed. Your roots will grow long and strong. The dike will stay plugged more often. You will prosper and the fruits of your prosperity shall be named Peace, Steadfastness, Wisdom, Courage, Perspective, and Hope.
By-the-way…as for the sodden clothing?
After my rapid leap upward, I noticed with relief that most of the coffee had spilled on the fleece blanket covering me. I had a few soggy spots that I sponged off and did not change my clothes. I figured I am always scurrying around the classroom so fast, I’d take the chance that no eight-year-old would notice a barely-there mark if one remained. No one did. The only casualty was my beloved rice beanie that I heat to keep my toasty. I made another one.