The Vibrant Relevance of God’s Word nailed me last week! And I didn’t even feel the blow until later when it started to sting.
When I opened my Bible for my quiet time, I didn’t get further than this:
I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind… (Deuteronomy 5:6-8a, NLT, emphasis mine)
It felt like God slammed on the breaks. Built a concrete wall. Created a massive barrier—I couldn’t go any further.
I tried, but I literally could NOT read further. I started again. Same thing. Again. Yup, the wall was still there.
What in the world? This has NEVER happened to me before.
Why did God throw on the breaks and keep me from reading any further? Why was I forced to stop here? And why does my heart ache so?—I don’t have any idols. I don’t worship other gods.—I don’t understand!
So I prayed Psalm 139:23-24,
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
By this time, I was exasperated. I was getting nowhere. So I grabbed my commentaries to see if they could shed some light. I stopped at the notes in my Life Application Study Bible: “A god is whatever people use as a driving force in their lives. Some people literally worship other gods by joining cults or strange religions. In a more subtle way, many of us worship other gods by building our lives around something other than the one true God. If your greatest desire is for popularity, power, or money, you are devoting yourself to something other than God.”
“Lord, am I guilty of this? If so, how?”
“Not yet, but you are dangerously close.”
*Me searching my heart…
I felt rather than heard the affirmative. Remember that earlier mentioned “sting?” I figured out where it came from.
Since I accepted God’s call to write, I’ve been doing everything I can to honor that call. But somewhere along the way, I allowed my writing to consume me. To become my top priority. My focus. My drive.
Don’t get me wrong, when God calls us to do something; we should pursue it with complete abandon. However, we shouldn’t abandon cultivating our relationship with Him or our other priorities in pursuit of it.
And I was.
I just didn’t realize it. Or should I say, I refused to acknowledge I was?
About mid-December, my schedule started to become more and more crowded as Christmas drew closer and closer. Soon those seasonal responsibilities started to eclipse my study and writing time. So I focused on putting out my blog posts and decided to let the rest go until after New Year’s.
Then I got sick (influenza?) Christmas Day and was not healthy until the first week of January. This put me “behind schedule” but not to the point where I couldn’t catch up. So I wasn’t too stressed about it yet. But then the boys started getting sick (influenza?). And Thad’s Achilles ruptured. And the septic spewed. And. And. And.
And my writing time evaporated. And I grew more and more irritable.
I was irritated that I wasn’t getting
- My blog posts out on time and in the frequency I wanted
- My reading completed
- My compel training done
- My book proposal and Bible study edited
- The quota of social media posts and tweets made
- Opportunities to grow my audience; increase my followers and subscribers.
I was feeling stressed and crabby about things beyond my control and how they were affecting MY goals. I resented running errands and going to various appointments because they invaded my writing time. I even caught myself begrudging time spent with family, friends, or mentoring. (And if you know me, that’s not like me at all—those are moments I cherish!)
To make matters worse, my prayer and quiet times were sporadic at best. I often didn’t believe I had time for both so I justified prioritizing writing because that’s “God’s call on my life.” However, this subtle shift in my in my focus only enhanced my stress, insecurity, and irritability. And instead of being fixated on God, I became obsessed with The Numbers: subscribers to my website, likes, comments, shares, and retweets. I was inadvertently seeking the praises of people rather than the glory of my Father.
I was exhausted. Weary. Worn to the core.
I was a mess.
Beloved, it took God slamming on the brakes at this handful of verses from Deuteronomy for me to realize I was writing for God, not with God. In my state of being overwhelmed, overstretched and overburdened, I was trying (and failing) to do it on my own.
See about a year ago, after He dropped the bomb on publishing, God had me in Joshua 1. I read and re-read verses 1-9 for every day for a month! I pondered over His words. Wept over them. Argued with Him over them. Eventually, He took my terrified heart and poured His Truth into it. He calmed and strengthened my shaking hands. He breathed His confidence into my insecurities, I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail or abandon you. Be strong and courageous. (Joshua 1:5b-6a)
All of the things I listed above are important. They all need to be done. They all need to happen. And The Numbers ARE vital. But I failed in one major area:
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. (Luke 12:31)
In my time of stress and chaos, I failed to seek God FIRST. I failed the test. I tried to do it myself—for Him. But He wants to do it with me. To guide me.
Want to know a secret?
For me, the publishing world is what a densely wooded area at night is to a small child—terrifying!
In my determination to be brave, to honor God’s call, I dropped His hand. I grew impatient with the baby-steps and charged ahead. And I lost my way. I forgot whose call I was following. Whose goals I was achieving. Whose words I am writing. Fear and insecurity overcame me. Frantic, I tried to find my path. My way. But I couldn’t see my hand before my face. The chaos around me overwhelmed my senses and my ability to reason. Then I caught a glimpse of God’s outstretched hand…And I took it. And he started to lead me again, one baby-step at a time.
Beloved, What I Learned in January is summed up in an echo of Luke 12:31
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:33)
I need to seek God, FIRST and FOREMOST. And when I do, He will supply my needs, in His timing.