In Philippians 4:6, Paul writes “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (ESV) The New Living Bible makes the point by simply saying, “Do not worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.” I had begun to turn that around so that I was worrying about everything and not praying about much of anything. My “not” was in the wrong place.
I don’t think I noticed at first, because I was still praying quite a bit. Praying for my family, for the ministry, for needs and joys in the church. I was praying more as an activity – another task – and less as a relationship. So as I often do, I stepped back to look at the behaviors that my Father did not like – short with my wife, pushy with the leadership team, fretting over decisions to be made, rushing through relationships – and began asking: “What sort of heart in me is leading to these behaviors?” The answer was an anxious heart. So Philippians 4:6 – committed to memory – then helped me to see that my “not” was in the wrong place.
A little more navigating of the pathways of my heart with the Holy Spirit and I began to see some things that had “moved my ‘not.’”
Living In The Details – We’re in a season where we are doing a lot of planning and decision-making both in the ministry and in our family. While I understand the importance of carefully working the details for a good decision, I had begun to live for the details and feel like those details were my responsibility to collect, analyze and understand. I’d lost my sense of wonder at the Gospel – the Big Picture of my Father’s work and the wonder of his love for all creation, including me. My details look different in the light of His Big Picture. I need to be stunned by the magnificence of the Gospel more often, so that I can face the mundane of my life differently.
No Sabbath – Some of the Ten Commandments are easy for me. That one about the Sabbath though; that’s a place my heart is most out of square with the plans of God. I’ve been blowing through the Sabbath rest with “important Kingdom things” only to discover that I missed a reality that comes with rest: my Father can be trusted.
Burdened By Control – I’ve been involved with launching a number of new projects and taking steps into new areas of ministry. Each of these “new” things added a pinch of anxiety to the stew of my life. Pretty soon the soup was dangerously spicy. I have been able to see that some of the anxiety in new situations for me is my own habit of security from competence and control. If I can do my tasks well, then I feel fine about myself. In new situations though, I’m not so sure I can perform up to my needed standard. Once I saw things in that way, I realized that my heart was looking to find its security in my own competence by avoiding new situations, rather than being grounded in the secure hope of grace. The security of my Father’s grace gives me a freedom to enter new situations without the anxiety of meeting my own inner competence issues.
Honestly, I am not sure my drawers are totally unwound, but I’m praying and will take the evening off. And now I know that when I’ve got a knot in the wrong place, it might just be because my “not” is in the wrong place.