I began to realize sometime last year… actually it was exactly 10 days before Thanksgiving 2011… that I am getting old. Or older anyway. The usual stuff for sure – like sore muscles after doing a project around the house… waking up in the middle of the night needing to take a pee… finding enough grey hairs that it is no longer prudent to pluck them lest I go bald. More than that though, 10 days before Thanksgiving 2011, I was convinced in the middle of the night that I was having a heart attack or stroking out. I was sure it was my “lights out” moment. It wasn’t though – thus my ability to write this text 3 months later. I went to the doctor the next day for a battery of tests that all came back completely normal. The doc said that they tested me for everything short of pregnancy and he felt ruling that one out based on his own medical knowledge and expertise was a safe call. I trust him. He said, “you just have to cut out the stress.”
Huh? Doc – I am a “pastor,” I replied in my most spiritually pompous voice. I thought to myself who is he kidding? He has missed something… I mean I have sparrows tattooed on my shoulder because of Luke 12:6. I believe in a God who sees to my every need and takes care of every stress in my life. I don’t have a stress issue… I mean if I do … then I am such a hypocrite! I tell everyone all the time not to worry – That God is in charge!!
In my mind and my heart though – I knew he was right. I had let stress overtake me. I began to slowly realize that at some point I had quit taking all of my troubles and concerns and worries to God and instead had begun trying to deal with them on my own.
It happens to all of us – pastor or not. We sometimes “forget” about God. I don’t mean permanently – or even really “forget” in the amnesia sense. I just mean that we get into streaks where we consistently push Him to the background so far that while we aren’t really forgetting Him – we forget to look to Him. Sometimes the patterns are easy to identify. We have a fairly stress free few months where things are all going smoothly and we take Him for granted. We “forget” that all our blessings pour from Him. At other times – times of sorrow, grief, anger… stress… We get too focused on our terrible circumstances and they become what we spend all of our time focusing on. We forget to ask Him for His hands to rescue us.
It comes down – ultimately in both scenarios – to a matter of discipline. If we don’t stay focused and disciplined in turning to God in both the good and the bad, then we begin to weave back and forth through life. We are like an unbridled horse… still moving, sometime fast, sometimes slow… but with no real purpose. It is a strange concept that being disciplined and submitting to God is actually freeing. Society doesn’t teach that. People outside of a relationship with God certainly don’t believe that. The sad part is that for many of us who claim Christ – we don’t really believe it either. We want God in our pocket… there when we need Him… Put away when we don’t. The disciplined response is that we need Him all the time. When He stays at the center of our focus… Everything else fades away… all our worries, our fears, our anger, our bitterness, our loneliness, our heartbreak… It’s not that we won’t still experience tough stuff – it’s just that we trust in Him to pick us up and see us through. So yes… Look at the sparrows. Let them be a reminder that God will provide… And just like them, we don’t need to worry.