Final chapter of the 7 read-along with Marla and friends. Like all of her other chapters, Jen Hatmaker does a fine job of blowing my expectations out of the water in this chapter on Stress. Did I expect her to ACTUALLY observe the Sabbath? Nope. Did I expect 7 sacred pauses? Nope. Did I expect God to wreck my heart last night during the Night Watch? ummm, no. Did I SO need this chapter? Yep.
Thank you mighty Creator of the Universe for making Jen Hatmaker just so, and gifting her in such ways that you can work in my heart through her words. I know she is a mere human being, but I am thankful for her messy, beautiful ministry.
Confession time. When I was younger I wanted to be a nun. I went to Catholic school for 4 years, even though my family is not Catholic, and in those 4 formative years I developed a strong affinity for liturgy and for nuns. I still observe Lent and Advent, not because anyone I know observes them, or because I come from a church tradition of such observations, but because my heart longs for periods of focused reflection on the Holy. I love being purposefully liturgical in our morning family worship, and enjoy seeing the unspoken liturgy of a Sunday church service at our non-denominational, Baptist-rooted-with-Presbyterian-leanings church. I was very upset when my parents laughed at my dream of becoming a nun, all I wanted to do is grow up to sing and pray all day. I know, that's not all that nuns do, but the only other thing I knew they did is teach and I didn't want to do that. Ironic because I teach teenagers every week. I also thought nuns were married to priests for a while, but was firmly set in my place by Sister Carol on that matter. (I will have you know, not all nuns are the sweet ladies from Sound of Music and Sister Act.)
I say all that to say that this chapter resonated in my heart. It brought up all those longings to sing and pray all day, longings I had laughed off as childish dreams. I don't think that 7 sacred pauses is much different from the intent behind God's command to the people regarding the covenant, for it to be ever before them and on their lips. It is no coincidence that God reminds his people throughout the entire Bible to remember his covenant, his character, his goodness now and throughout all generations.We are forgetful people, but he created order to help us remember. What a great and gracious God that he helps us in our weakness!
Here's the other part of the confession that I left out. I am terrible at praying. I am a "quick shout out while I'm thinking about it" or a "times are tough, so God I'm begging for help here" kind of pray-er. I am least often a "be still and know that I am God" pray-er. If it was my chosen vocation to pray 7 times a day I would go bonkers within a week because I am too distracted in times of prayer. Thank the Lord that he knew better!
"My prayers include rogue parenthetical thoughts:" yeah me too Jen. Me too. I love praying for people, but seriously can't go beyond about 4 sentences before I forget why I'm praying and have to look at my email again. I am of the MTV generation, and my attention span is evidence of that. I completely understand the need for "the bell" I would never remember to stop and pray if I didn't have an awkward physical reminder. (Lord, why don't I have an iPhone? I would pray so much better if I did! - yes, I admit I had that dumb thought. Then I realized my "dumb" phone could do that many alarms too.)
So, about the Night Watch. Take Day 6 (Jen's friend Jenny praying for the oppressed) and add in Day 14 (Jen's crying out for her adoptive kiddos) and that would be Night Watch for me last night. I have talked about this in depth already so I'll spare you the details and give you the quick version: we thought we were adopting a 13 year old girl, then everything fell apart. Ugly thorns and thistles have sprouted up in the beautiful garden of love for my daughter in my heart. So I read this chapter, turned off the light and just laid there. I tried to sleep, but God had different plans. I cried out for my daughter for hours. I have not prayed like that maybe ever. There was a moment when I was out of tears, and I raised my head to get some tissue and realized it was after midnight. God took my heart through the Night Watch on behalf of my baby. I may never know why God took me on this journey. I do know that at 1:00 am I prayed through the aspects of the Lord's Prayer with a deeper understanding than I had ever before. I was praying to my Father, who has infinitely greater love for me than I could ever fathom having for my daughter.
Marla asked that we share 2 things, and I would like to end on that note.
1. What’s something you feel burdened to pray about today?
I need to ask God what his plans are for my life. I want to just shut down, live just how I am now for the rest of my life, but I feel tugging in my heart for something more, greater purpose, harder but better things. I know that tugging is the Holy Spirit, so I need to ask, and be willing to hear the answer. I feel like that's a selfish answer, but at the same time feel like I have shut down any contemplation of the future as a result of the present being so hard that I just need to buck up and actually seek God for direction.
2. What’s something causing you stress that you could use prayer for today?
I have chronic pain. There are good days (2-4 on a pain scale of 1-10) and there are bad days (7-9) but there are no pain free days. This is not a new thing in my life, but has been at least a 20 year battle between my body and soul that has become more heated with age. I am hesitant to tell people of the current diagnosis because everyone either tells me I'm looney or tells me that Western medicine is a joke. (Both may be true but that doesn't help me right now.) The real point of stress in all this is that I need more rest than I am willing to give myself most days. The bad days I spend all day feeling guilty for not doing more, and the good days I drive myself so hard that I pay for it the next day. I need balance. I need to stop comparing myself to every other 30-something woman I know. I need to find real rest in Jesus.
Maybe I need to institute the sacred pauses to realign my priorities.