I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.John 5:19
Today was a stressful day. Already late in starting on an important deadline, trying to make up for four wonderful days off with my kids – which also meant four days away from work — with an inbox piled high with emails saying “time sensitive” in the subject line, I found myself on an emotional razor’s edge all day.
I somewhat pride myself on being able to maintain a sense of calm even when surrounded by increasingly urgent demands and deadlines – and yet that calm and peace was nowhere in sight today. It apparently evaporated somewhere between finding that several way-too-long conference calls were, yet again, eating away half of my precious work hours before the kids got home, and realizing that several way-too-high business expenses had eaten up a much larger than expected portion of my bank balance.
Because of being perched on this emotional razor’s edge, I found myself ready to scream whenever another email pinged into my inbox. During the second (unnecessarily long) conference call, I found my tone becoming sharp simply out of impatience. Making dinner, I found myself getting irritated with my husband or kids for the least little thing. Today I found myself, in fact, being quite unlike myself. Um… At least I hope I was unlike myself!
Tonight, after I sent the kids to bed early due to them being completely disrespectful to each other (a reality that normally wouldn’t have stood my hair on end), I curled up in a chair with a cup of hot tea and a ‘beach read novel’ in hand, ready to escape for a while. The laundry needed to be taken out of the dryer and folded, some urgent emailed questions from my staff were insistently calling my name from my home office a few yards away, and yet I was determined to take a break. Since, according to the rather wild-eyed look my husband gave me the third time I snapped at the kids, I probably needed one.
And yet…. As I picked up the novel, something stirred. That gentle touch that only comes from the Holy Spirit, calling you to stop what you are about to do, and listen. (As an aside, I can’t help thinking that God is so much more gentle than we are. If I was a heavenly parent watching my behavior that day, I would have whapped me upside the head!)
I set the book down and dropped my head into my hands. I tried to pray and focus on His presence, but concerns, and questions and work decisions and family budget issues kept swimming to the surface and blocking Him out. Finally, I just said, “Lord, I’m in no condition to hear from you. But help me hear from you anyway.”
I had a hard time completely blanking out my spiraling worries, so I decided I would just pick one of them and pray about it; a thorny decision about whether to go in a certain direction with my ministry — something that is very much needed, that I know we are hindered without, but also means more expense than we should incur right now.
The moment I focused my thoughts on this pervasive worry, the whisper of the Lord became so clear: Shaunti, is that what I have called you to focus on right now?
The honest answer is: no. For months, I have known that my overwhelming focus this spring needs to be on finishing my next book and ministering well to audiences through my speaking engagements; focusing mostly on those two will also mean I can be true to my first calling as a wife and mom. All the other ministry opportunities and needs are important – some of them vitally so – but they also are, if I’m honest, distracting me from those two main ministry callings. Which mean they are also distracting me from my first calling to be the wife and mom my family needs.
I’ve had this realization many times before, but it’s apparently a lesson I need to keep learning : if something is causing me this type of stress and worry, it is because it is something that I am doing, not something God is doing.
In his landmark book and Bible Study Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby says, essentially, that we need to stop doing important things and asking God to bless them. Instead, we need to look to see where God is working, and go join Him. The reason I was so stressed was that I was losing sight of the main thing God was doing, the main thing He had called me to focus on in my ministry; my book writing, especially, was vanishing behind an inbox of other tasks that were good things – but things He wasn’t doing right now.
One day two thousand years ago, Jesus walked around the pool of Bethesda, filled with the hurting, the sick, the injured, and spoke to and healed just one man. Shortly thereafter, in response to being challenged about working on the Sabbath he explained why – but his words also profoundly explained why he bypassed the “multitude” at the pool to focus on the one: I can do nothing by myself. I do only what I see my Father doing. Whatever my Father does, I do. Which also means, by definition, “I do not do those things that my Father isn’t doing and leading me to do.”
I had to repent tonight, yet again, for running ahead of Jesus. If He was willing to pass up the multitude in trust in His Father’s plan, I need to be willing to pass up multitudes of opportunities – good things! — the same way. If He was able to focus in on the one thing that God was doing, to the exclusion of others, I need to be able to do the same. How like our gentle God, to give us this peaceful prescription to follow.
Hm. Its 9:00 pm. I think I’ll go upstairs now and kiss two sleeping kids, reassure a wary husband, and get some sleep. That seems like something God is doing.