HA! Do you ever feel like you’re going around in circles like a kid on a merry-go-round? I’m not referring to the hectic hamster-wheel of life where you run and run but never seem to get anywhere (though I suppose that’s related), but the cycling around of life lessons… Just when you think you’ve learned something, grasped some gem of truth, been propelled on into maturity, you find the same old lessons coming ‘round again…like a child on a merry-go-round.
I installed a dandy KEYWORD SEARCH on my blog yesterday (Check out the sidebar!) and did a little search of: ‘quiet confidence’, just to see what I’d already said on the subject. And surprise, surprise, last year at this time I was in a very similar place mentally, blogging about “Peace and Quiet”:
“Is it really inevitable as long as we are living and breathing that we as mothers should bear the quiet strain of anxiety (legitimized as ‘concern’) for our children’s welfare”--Mar.4,2011
And a couple weeks later this quote:
The victory that overcomes the world is our faith. So of course it’s the target of all the zombies and vampires of the unseen realm. And they obviously know my vulnerabilities, namely my tendency to feel responsible to control things I cannot and my wimpy tendency to conclude there’s nothing I can do that will make a difference. “Of Silver Bullets and Zombies”-- Mar.18,2011
If you have read my ponderings for very long, you likely have seen this recurring theme of struggling to have faith in the face of factors outside my control, without simultaneously caving to helpless inadequacy. Sigh. I could stand to re-read these posts myself…
“the best growth happens in a context of restful faith”
…“the necessity of faith as a starting point. When I view myself (or my 'charges') as my responsibility to 'fix' through some application of 'discipline' it takes me right out of that 'calmed and quieted' state. I must do 'something', anything, at least keep anxious watch, sit on the alert growling...And suddenly the focus is all wrong. Who am I watching? Who am I trusting?” Fresh Joy—Nov.5, 2010
And it keeps coming—I’ve been on this merry-go-round for a long time…
“An overzealous pursuit of character transformation can actually work against us rather than for us.” Our uneasiness and agitation “proceeds from an inordinate desire of being delivered from the evil which we feel, or of acquiring the good which we desire: and yet there is nothing which tends more to increase evil, and toprevent the enjoyment of good, than an unquiet mind.”(Thomas,44 quoting Francis DeSales' Introduction to the Devout Life,307)
Thomas concludes by saying:
"In general, our pursuit of holiness should be a patient pursuit. We grow best living in a pool of spiritual serenity. Instead of a frantic and desperate clutching, we should adopt a patient waiting and a hopeful expectation:”
OK, so all that was by way of saying, I seem to be on the merry-go-round of learning and relearning lessons in ‘spiritual serenity’… but just as a parent doesn’t abandon his child on the playground, God has stuck with me for the ride and maybe we’re gaining more ground than I can rightly perceive. Maybe that’s why He’s given us His Word and those verses that stick with us for life and just keep on being meaningful (and needful) no matter how old we’re getting. Isaiah 30:15 has risen to the surface again as one I need to hang onto:
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.”
Ah, for quiet confidence… I’ve been looking at a negative example of confidence this week in the life of King Saul. His story is a curious one to me and pertinent. Despite being tall, dark and handsome and coming from a wealthy family, he had a confidence deficit. (I Sam.9:1,2) When the time came to be officially sanctioned “King” he had to be ferreted out of hiding. “He [had] hidden himself among the baggage.” (I Sam.10:22) God had chosen this unlikely fellow to save His people from their Philistine enemies. (I Sam.9:16) But apparently lack of confidence in himself was no virtue…the inbuilt fear of man that came with it would be his downfall. Rather than transferring his deficit to explicit trust in God he relied on his own evaluations of good, better, and best sparing the wicked king he was to put to death and saving ‘the best of the sheep and …the fattened calves and the lambs and all that was good’. (I Sam.15:9) (Of course it was purportedly ‘the people’s’ fault). God’s indictment against him was that “he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” (I Sam.15:11)
Samuel confronted him with the situation:
"Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And the LORD sent you on a mission and said, 'Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.' Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD?" I Sam.15:17-19
I had always assumed Saul had gone from thinking too little of himself to thinking too much of himself, but this isn’t the main point as Samuel expounds it. Rather he failed to take seriously the importance of his position as head over the people by the Lord’s appointment. He had an important mission but failed to fulfill it because he was guided more by the fear of man than the fear of God. His ‘littleness in his own eyes’ predisposed him to be unduly influenced by people and not attentive enough to the Lord’s voice. His judgment was so impaired that what he thought ‘good’ the Lord saw as evil!
Somewhere here there’s a lesson for the faint of heart who find themselves called to a ‘mission’ bigger than they. There is cause for confidence as an appointee of the Lord of the universe—a position to be taken seriously, a position to walk confidently in, without apology, without fear—except the fear of God. To listen for His voice is enough. To follow where His instructions lead is all that’s needful. It is not my mission. I do not need to develop the game plan or use my best judgment when things don’t make sense.
It was said of Saul: “He has turned back from following me…” (I Sam.15:11)
What better resolution than ‘returning and rest’, quietness and confidence (Is.30:15)-–the verse that has come round to me again in this unfolding season of my life. (Both words in fact derive from the same root, shuwb, to return.) Return to what I know to be the Lord’s directives. Return to faith from fear and doubt. Return to rest in His sovereign purposes for my life. Yes!
As I type, a silly song lilts up from downstairs where the grandbabies play:
Shoo, fly, don't bother me,
For I belong to somebody.
I think that’s a good piece of closing advice for Grandmom, when the ‘flies’ buzz about my head tempting me to unrest. I belong to Somebody! Shoo!
P.S. Give the new KEYWORD SEARCH a try. Never have the archives been so accessible…