Monday, January 21, 2008

Don't Hit the Reset

Three of my four children are of the age to participate in youth group at church. Since there was no school today, the youth had a lock-in last night. Basically, the idea behind a lock-in is to stay up all night long. (You know you are old when this idea sounds more like the worst possible form of torture than fun.) Anyway, although I have been known to have sleep deprivation issues, I volunteered for the 1-4 a.m. parental chaperon shift. I went to bed really early on Sunday night, with the idea that I would roll out of bed at 12:30 a.m., grab a few books and be on my way. I'm thinking, heck, I'll be up ... may as well plough my way through this stack of books.

1:13 a.m. -- We decide it's too cold in the church and we'll turn the heater on. 1:14 a.m. -- the fire alarm goes off. For the next 2 hours, 15 minutes, I'm hitting the alarm silence and reset buttons at 15 second intervals. Hmmm ... this was not how I had envisioned spending my lock-in time. I am feeling just a little annoyed.

An hour into button pushing and phoning the alarm company to assure them there really isn't a fire, I call handyman Allan, an insomniac who also fixes a lot of things at the church. (He was there when the alarms initially sounded because he is one of the few people who has keys to access the thermostat.) We decide it's time to wake up the Pastor and get the keys we need to access a second fire alarm panel in another part of the building. Now the alarms are blaring outside as well and I'm thinking, the neighbors are loving this! When Allan and I still can't get the alarms to stop, we next call Trisha, the preschool director, who has vast experience manipulating the tempermental alarm system. She suggests a series of different solutions (which she has seen the alarm company do before). Finally, after sending Allan into the attic to "blow out" the alarm sensor in the heater vents and using her trusty screwdriver to somehow disengage her side of the alarm panel, the alarm stops ... for good.

It's 3:40 a.m. and Trisha is remarkably cheerful for having been woke up from a dead sleep. She tells me she has to be back in a few hours to open up the school for early drop off. Then she gives her final instructions to me: "If the alarm goes off again, just hit the buttons to acknowledge and silence the alarm. Don't hit the reset or we'll have to start all over again."

Don't hit the reset. That's interesting. It seems the reset button causes the alarm system to go through its paces to see if the original "problem" has been taken care of. When it discovers that it hasn't (in this case, the smell of smoke in the heater vents), it sounds again. And again. And again. Apparently the system is designed so that once an alarm is tripped, it won't stop looking for problems until everything is perfect.

(Yes, it really has taken more than 500 words to get to the point -- don't hit the reset.)

This mandate -- don't hit the reset -- relates to a book I've been reading called Life's Healing Choices. In it, the author uses the beatitudes to work his way through eight "choices" a person must make in the process of recovering from some sort of hurt, hang-up or habit. Choice #3 of the 8 choices (which he ties to "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth") says, "Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ's care and control." The choice applies equally to those of us who have already turned to Jesus Christ for salvation and those who have not. I fall into the category of the former, and like many of you, I find it difficult at times to stop trying to control my life. Oh sure, I will mouth the words that I am surrendering it all to Christ, acknowledging that his yoke is easy and his burden is light, and for the most part I succeed. But from time to time, I find myself hitting the reset button to see if the system can detect any problems. (And of course it always can.)

"For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me." -- Psalm 40:12

The author of Life's Healing Choices, John Baker, states that we often hesitate to surrender completely to Christ because we can't imagine what the solution to our particular hurt, hang-up or habit could possibly be. He assures the reader that the solution comes later, gradually, in God's time; let God handle that. For now, it's enough to surrender.

"Meekness is surrender; it is submitting; it is agreeing to do what God wants done in your life ... It's not the size of your faith that matters, it's the who or what that you put your faith in that matters." (Life's Healing Choices).

I've been turning a question over in my mind lately as it relates to the women in recovery that I minister to. One woman in particular, Roseanna, put in words what I have seen spray painted across many of their faces: "How can I ever forgive myself for what I have done to my children?" I was talking about this question -- how to forgive oneself of consequences -- in Sunday school yesterday as we worked our way through the second blessing, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." The answer I gave Roseanna at the time when she spoke these words in class were, "Well, unless you have a time machine, you need to get better and then return to your children and be for them the best person you can possibly be from this point forward." As I thought about this advice, and about the teaching behind the second blessing that the experience of mourning ushers in God's spectacular comfort, I began to believe that there was hope for delivering hope to this overwhelming question of getting over the consequences; dealing with shame.

As "coincidence" would have it, our pastor preached in church yesterday on what to do when you feel ashamed. I scrambled to retrieve a pen from my purse and some paper to take a few quick notes. He used a verse from Isaiah as the launching point: "Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name." (Isaiah 49:1) His point was that God knew us before we existed; he intended for us to be here and wants us when no one else does. And from that promise of love, God calls us to move on; to attend to the Gospel (loving him), the culture (loving our brothers and sisters) and the church. No matter how far we have fallen, my pastor said, God is calling us to use the opportunities he gives us to live for him and serve his kingdom.

Quite interestingly, a similar point is made by Shane Stanford in his book, The Eight Blessings. Standford says that living a life of meekness means living in balance, being fully aware of our weaknesses but confident in our circumstances because God is in control. When we live in this balance, Stanford concludes, we obtain the greatest treasure of all the earth: a relationship with God and a life lived in God's way of mercy, justice and peace.

So you see, the meek really will inherit the earth. It's not necessary to keep hitting the reset button, looking for that "system operating normal" message. That's not important. What is important is understanding how surrendering to God will not only relieve us of the daunting task of trying to keep all those balls up in the air, but empower us to accomplish great things for his kingdom.

Copyright 2008 Just Enough Grace Publications

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