My friend sends me Psalm 119:54-55: “Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge. In the night I remember your name, O Lord.”
I thought about the “theme of my song” being more like complaining about jet lag, poor sleep, body aches from sitting too long on flights: that’s my usual travel theme song.
And in the night when I cannot sleep? My theme song doesn’t sound like me praising God’s promises; it’s more like a despairing tune that nothing will ever feel right again and that all has fallen apart because I’ve missed a night of sound sleep.
But then I remember that no matter where I go or how I feel, God’s promises are the theme of my song. Instead of complaining, I rejoice that God is a sustaining, providing, comforting God. This is always true no matter where I’m staying.
And now, I feel better just thinking about this new theme song to replace my old dirge.
I watch the college students race into the auditorium for their Christian conference, Bibles and notebooks in hand, and both eagerness and uncertainty on their faces.
I look carefully as they all rush by me where I’m sitting in the back with all the older folks and the visiting professors.
And I think: Which one are you?
I see myself in a thousand faces. I remember those college years of joy and sorrow and confusion, of terrible choices and marvelous insight. I remember how I felt everything too deeply for my own good. The angst. The hope. The possibility. The quick descent into despair one day and the labor upwards to joy the next. The poetry. The music. The fear.
I see myself in each face, especially that girl clutching the new journal that represents all she wishes and all she’s yearning to understand. It’s a hungry look she’s wearing. It’s a desperation for truth.
I speak to her this morning.
As I walked along the San Francisco Bay this morning, I thanked the Lord for helping me overcome the fear of travel, of speaking. of being anywhere away from home. Each time I journeyed out in faith, the fear shrank down.
Now, fear feels like a small, familiar friend who’s there to remind me that God is bigger and that faith wins the day.
I remember all I miss when I let fear control me. I look at the beautiful bird sitting, now soaring, now feeding on the rich feast below the surface, and I rejoice in God’s strengthening power.
The fear just means that you’re about to experience something new and wonderful that you can’t predict. It’s a sign that you’re in a place of trust and dependence. I use the fear the drive me to deeper places of trust–as deep and wide at the water at my feet.
I depart for my San Francisco conference a day early to get ahead of the coming storm. At the advice of the airline, I change my flights immediately. While relaxing in the airport today after a safe trip out of Pennsylvania (no snow) and a safe arrival to Chicago (no snow), I realize that I indeed got out ahead of the storm.
I find I love the expression. I love also how my getting out ahead of the storm came about. I fretted over my travel plans until I finally decided to pray with a friend. No sooner had she uttered the words, “Amen!” after seeking wisdom from God than the airline alert came through. I was so thankful for God’s immediate direction.
But getting ahead of the storm seems like a theme in my life this month. I’m learning so much about anticipating what’s coming and making decisions ahead of the storm. It’s a way of minimizing stress, preempting spiritual attack, and ensuring the smooth operation of whatever I need to do.
I look ahead. I learn to get ahead of the storm.
Maybe God’s teaching me this because of my particular season of life with a teen headed to college and one headed to high school. Maybe it’s about all that’s coming ahead of me with new books to write and new speaking events. Maybe it’s about living in such a way that I’m OK when things don’t go as planned (simply acknowledging this seems like a way of getting ahead of the storm). Maybe it’s about managing my health now to avoid the storm of middle age. All my dietary changes position me to be at my best ahead of the storm.
At any rate, I continue to learn.
I remember to pray. God hears and answers.
I talk to my daughters about the idea that, technically, we’re always tidying. I know that sounds bizarre, but if you think about it, it’s the only way to manage the chaos and to always have a clean environment. And it’s not hard.
Always tidying simply means that after we use something, we put it back immediately. That’s it. That’s the secret.
Nothing’s really ever out of place because everything goes back to its home after we use it. This includes mail coming in and papers we must either sign, discard, save in a file, or display.
I tell my daughters that they learned this from Ms. Juli, the preschool teacher, who said, “Everything has a home.”
It’s such a temptation to refuse to help students anymore who ask the same questions that you clearly answer on the syllabus. And even after you tell them to check the syllabus, they’ll keep taking shortcuts to ask you questions they don’t want to work for.
It’s all in the syllabus. All of it. Everything you need. It’s right here. Look! Look! I’ve done all the work of preempting every question you have!
I find myself angry. I find myself tempted to shame students. I even want to wear a t-shirt that says, “It’s on the syllabus.”
But I don’t. I answer the questions.
I realized that something tugged at my heart, some recognition of my own tendency to live like this, spiritually at least. I approach God with endless, obvious, ignorant questions when He’s told me what I need to know in the Bible. It’s like He says, “Read it! It’s all right there. Everything you need! Look!”
It’s a strange and beautiful thing to see your own sin in your students.
So, yes, check the syllabus. But meanwhile, I’m here for you. How could I be angry? I’m just like you, all the time.
This morning in my Hannah Whitall Smith devotional, God is Enough, I read the simple and most astonishing statement that because God is enough for us, “all must go right for us.”
I linger on the phrase for a moment and consider how different a life becomes when lived in light of this amazing truth. Can you imagine worries and fears dissolving under the warmth of this truth that with God in our lives, “all must go right for us?”
She writes, “Neglect, indifference, forgetfulness, ignorance, are all impossible to God. He knows everything, He cares about everything, He can manage everything, and He loves us. What more could we ask?”
What more could we ask? What more do we need?
All must go right for us.
The statement changes how I approach problems in my life of any kind. Small inconveniences or large disappointments change under the belief that this thing happening is actually something going right for me because of who God is.
I remember another astonishing line that “every problem we have is related to our view of God” from Walter Henrichsen. If our God is big, our problems are small. If our God is small, our problems rise up and seem to conquer us.
But they can’t. Because God is enough, “all must go right for us.”