Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lights! Action! . . . Stillness.

There have been several times in my life when I knew I was so dependent upon God that I found it easy to fast. I have done frequent, regular short fasts, and I have done more lengthy ones--one lasting even a full week. It has been a long time since I have fasted though. Lately I have cycled up and down with a sense that I am only aimlessly wandering through life. It has been hard to see a long-term purpose to my life, although I have always believed God has one for me. I have been struggling with discouragement, frustration, feelings of being overwhelmed, and hopelessness concerning my future.

Over the years, I have discovered things about myself. One of them is that when the going gets tough, Lisa just puts her fingers in her ears or sticks her head in the sand and tries to pretend for a while that she's a super-crime-fighter or a hotly pursued beauty or a witty entertaining writer. Of course nothing helps you drown out the present reality like . . . well . . . pretending, and there's nothing like escaping to a TV show or game to pretend! Over the last months (or years?) I have begun to escape more and more to my happy places. Sure enough, the pain and uncertainty of life . . . the loneliness . . . was drowned out by a world of living color and sound! Of course, eventually you have to turn the electronic devices off, or you have to try to sleep, and then you find things even worse than you left them. (Amazing how those bills and dishes pile up the more you ignore them!)

While reading the book God, I Need Help some months ago, I began asking myself some very difficult questions. Why couldn't I hear Jesus like author Linda Heaner was able to? Why was my life so unsettled? Was I really following Jesus in spite of my circumstances like I once had, or could I really say that any more? How could I constantly miss or forget all the ways God had provided for our family over the years? Over the weekend, I realized that I couldn't hear God because there was just too much noise in my life. God speaks often through His efforts to comfort us, and while I was drowning out the pain, I was drowning out the comfort too.

With great fear and trepidation, I made a decision. I would fast for a week from all electronic entertainment. No Twitter. No Facebook. No TV, movies, or DVD's. Even my iPod would only be used for music or to check necessary information (like the weather, Bible references, or the news!). I went into it praying heavily for help--I don't have a very good track record for following through on goals I set. I anticipated extreme withdrawals as I dodged any entertainment my kids were enjoying while I suffered the extreme boredom of  . . . nothing.

On Monday I got up fully intending to see it through. I had made myself accountable to my boys, and I knew they would be watching to blow the whistle on me. But by the end of the first day, I was amazed at how relaxed I was. Instead of trying to figure out how to cram a half hour of quiet time into my day, I had spent the day talking to God, meditating on scripture, and thinking. Thinking! It had been a long time since I had done that. I confessed more sins than I cared to realize, and began tackling tasks I had been putting off. Instead of finding boredom, when I had "free time" I was suddenly remembering to pray for something, or to work a little on a project I had put off. School with my boys became a delight instead of a chore, and we even ate at the dinner table together one night! It was glorious! It was delightful!

I reentered the world of media with trepidation, planning to limit myself. But now here I am, months later, consumed again by the noise and lights and distractions of a media-infused life. Over and over I hear that still, small voice, wooing me . . . whispering . . .
So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.   Mat 5:29-30
We think of the "big troubles" as hard to handle . . . those things that we find we have to surrender to God because we are painfully aware that we cannot manage them ourselves. But I'm slowly learning that, for me at least, it is the smallest things that are deceptive. I need God in my entertainment choices, in selecting the food I will eat, in how I respond to an angry child. I'm tempted to think I have those things under my control . . . but I don't. I suspect that it is in the little things that the world around me can see God in my life most easily, not that it's always as obvious that He is the one enabling me to be patient, kind, faithful, gentle . . . but it is in the constant evidence of those things in my life, and in their continuation in the crises, where God's character is really revealed.

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