Friday, January 17, 2014

The Fight for Peace

I was debating yesterday whether or not the window for sending New Year's cards has passed. I still can't decide. But I am grateful its a new year. Ever since I had Eden I feel like years get all muddled together, and I can't ever figure out when I did certain things. I have to measure it by what stage Eden or Cade was at- and time seems to have suddenly grown wings. But I love getting to a new year. I have heard more debate this year on resolutions than ever before, and all these intelligent intellectual people writing them off. That's fine. I get it. Most of them never get kept. I'm less into resolutions too, the older I get, and more into waiting on God for what He might speak about this new year.

What's waiting on God? For me, its sloppy. Sometimes I get real superstitious about it and think if I do certain things God's voice will be easier to hear. Sometimes I stick straight to just seeing if He will speak through a verse in the Bible, rather than listening for a phrase in my mind or a word on my heart. God is so gracious. Whether I'm being a southern Baptist or a charismatic, I always run into His grace. He is good like that. I love how one pastor puts it, "Jesus is the Word of God, it's going to be hard to find a time when He isn't speaking." Oh heart, take time to listen.

I wrote a synopsis to 2012 a few days before Cade was born, wherein I confessed that the entire time I was pregnant with him, I dealt with anxiety. I'd never encountered it before. I didn't' even have a name for it. I just knew I felt this heavy weight on me that would keep me up at night, worrying about how to flee nuclear winters with Eden and how to survive an apocalypse.

A few months after that, I was invited to a Bible study for a few moms, and the opening passage we examined was 1 Peter 3, where it talks about how women should make themselves beautiful. Some verses are so familiar that I have a hard time actually reading them. They don't affect me as much as they should. But I had never read, like really read, the last portion of that scripture.

"Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands,
so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
Do not let your adorning be external-the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear- but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.
For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves,
by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.
 And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening."

I don't understand a lot of this Scripture. Like the part about calling her husband lord. I do understand the last verse though, and it struck me almost a year ago and has been on my mind ever since. I am not to be afraid of anything that is frightening. When I first read it I had to shake my head. I was not only afraid of things there were actually frightening, I'd also become afraid of a million things that were potentially frightening, or marginally frightening. The question all last year on my heart was, "How, Lord?" If He calls us to it, then we can do it. But I see all around me the affects of anxiety and fear, especially on women, and I just don't understand how to get from where I am- to where this verse points I ought to be.

I knew step one was acknowledging I didn't know how to do it, & that I needed to admit I was living in a wasteland of fear. It's a lonely place, the sort of place where you are completely alone, under a starless night, cold, shivering, hearing the howls of distant animals and watching your own heart become depleted of joy, depleted of hope, depleted of love. I'd read Psalm 23 about my Good Shepherd leading me beside still waters, and I kept thinking, I literally need an IV of Psalm 23 to my soul.

My fear-to-rest ratio was way out of whack. Fear-Fear-Fear-Little tiny rest-Fear-Fear-Fear.

At the end of the summer 2013, one of my dear friends here came home from a five week ministry school at a farm run by Jonathan David Helser and his wife. Selah. Anything involving five weeks on a farm with two worship leaders sounds really good right about now.

One night she was over, and for some reason Cade wasn't settling down to go to sleep. I'd spent about 8 months agonizing over what to do with a baby who didn't take a pacifier. It sounds like a small thing when you don't have kids to hear about babies who don't sleep, but when you're the parent, that reality looms large and depressing. I was deliberating aloud with Nancy whether to go get my baby or to let him cry or to change his diaper, or the other million options that I could attempt-- and Nancy stopped and said, "Holy Spirit, what should Charis do for Cade?"

 I suddenly felt the atmosphere in my heart shift. God is God. He delights in the details of our lives. Why not ask Him what to do? It's so simple. But it's the hardest principle on earth to live out. Why not invite His opinion? Why not trust His voice to speak? I don't remember the outcome of that night. I just remember that I felt a little bit rebuked. Like, how much time do I waste trying to solve a puzzle I cannot solve? The other day I was getting ready in my room, where we have a giant box from a new carseat for Eden laying on the floor-- both kids are enthralled by it-- don't judge me-- and I suddenly heard Cade's muffled cry. When I walked into the bedroom, I saw his toes sticking out of the box-- he had crawled in head-first. And he was so angry. But don't I do that? I crawl headfirst into a box that is too narrow for me to turn around in and then I freak out like I should know how to get myself out. But I need someone big and strong to come and pick me up and pull me out. And maybe put the box somewhere I can't reach it again.

As I was thinking about this year, 2014, and the dreams I have on my heart for it- one of them is to fight to walk in peace. It sounds counter-intuitive. But it's the phrase on my heart. Peace is available. But it's not free. It's not just going to settle on me all the time like a blanket around my shoulders. Some days it might. But other days, its going to be a fight. I must contend for a place of peace.

I've loved Psalm 18 ever since college, when I would return to it over and over during a hard season back then. But its the Psalm on my heart for this season as well. The Lord is teaching me how to contend for my peace, and the different positions that I need to take. He does the work, yes, but He invites me to work as well. He's not enabling us to continue to be infants, just sucking on a bottle, lying completely helpless. He wants us to grow up in Him, and learn how to be a child of the Lion of Judah. Remember that African proverb, "the daughter of a Lion is also a lion".

 In Psalm 18 David says,
"You light a lamp for me.
    The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
29 In your strength I can crush an army;
    with my God I can scale any wall.
30 God’s way is perfect.
    All the Lord’s promises prove true.
    He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
31 For who is God except the Lord?
    Who but our God is a solid rock?
32 God arms me with strength,
    and he makes my way perfect.
33 He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
    he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
35 You have given me your shield of victory.
    Your right hand supports me;
    your help has made me great.
36 You have made a wide path for my feet
    to keep them from slipping.

I have been loving kickboxing classes lately. I might look a fool doing them, but I just can't get enough of the punching and kicking and feeling like if somebody came up to me in a dark alley, I might could hold my own. Maybe. But the truth is, its kind of been mirroring what's been going on inside of me this past year too. Fighting the fear, fighting the voices that come raging in and demanding I respond-- one more school shooting, what am I going to do about it when my kids get to school? One more failed vaccination-- one more horror story-- one more disease. All of them act like they must have a response from me. The truth is, they have no right to demand any fear from me. Fear is torment. Yes, there is a tormentor; but he is NOT my master. Jesus does not torment. He gives peace that isn't like the world's. He lays open our racing hearts and calms them, He breathes rest into our souls. "Come to me, all you who weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest."

I am learning how vital it is that I take what is intimidating me to the throne of God. Lay it out before my Good Shepherd, and ask Him how to fight. The fight I am called to, I have found, is most often praying. Learning to pray, learning to put faith into action, learning to pray God's heart for my city, the schools in it, the kids in it, the people in it. Learning to pray over my kids not out of fear, but out of faith.

I think when God initiates something one place for one person, its kind of a like an open invitation for everyone else to learn it, take, savor it too. So, anyone who has been battling anxiety or fear, feel free to accept this invitation too: This year, I've been invited to continue to walk purposefully into the pasture of God. In John 10 Jesus says His sheep go in and out and find pasture. He has not left us as orphans in a crumbling, wicked world. He sent His Helper to walk alongside us. I found a verse in 2 Peter 3 two nights ago that I am holding onto as well: "Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace." He isn't coming back for His church that is wigging out, running frantically away from everything. If He says we are to be at peace, than He will provide the grace for us to walk in it.
"God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging."
Psalm 46:1-3

Fight the darkness in your life with Jesus to lay hold of your peace, the peace Jesus makes available to us every day. Do not let the enemy torment you any longer and endure it thinking it's just how you're wired or its the road you are called to walk right now. Jesus says satan is the father of lies, and he cannot speak any truth. The truth is, peace has been offered to us. We can walk in it. Receive the free gift Jesus gave us:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27