A few weeks ago I prayed for GOD to show me areas in my life where I need to grow.
This wasn't a repeat prayer or something I'd been focused on regularly.
I was just thinking one day that I really need GOD to show me where He wants me to grow, so I asked Him to help me.
Well, He answered.
And thus far it's been painful, but very much worth it. Let me explain.
In this process, I've been reminded of Heb. 12:4-12, which says:
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
(Heb. 12:4-13 NIV)
I've previously discussed one of these "growth opportunity" areas at length in the following posts:
- In Pursuit of Safety (How Safety Becomes Our Idol)
- He isn't Safe, But He is Good (Studying GOD's Character)
- To the Fearful (How to Overcome Being Afraid)
- The Wild One Whose Image We Bear (Inspired by "Wild at Heart")
However, GOD showed me another area of improvement.
I'm a planner.
In personality tests I consistently score as being "flexible," pretty laid back and easy to get along with (in low-stress environments, that is). (As stress increases, my personality gravitates more to a "take charge, my-way-or-the-highway" type.)
I like the idea of being sponaneous; I just find that life's demands and responsibilities cause me to feel like planning is necessary 99.5% of the time.
Additionally, I am somehow almost continually mindful of life's unstable and short nature. So I exert a lot of mental energy to ensure I'm opimizing the time I'm given, working on those things I deem most significant.
Now, I think being a planner—being driven, goal-oriented—is a great character trait to have.
But it can be overdone too.
And that's where GOD showed me I was ... er, am.
A frequent prayer request of mine for some time now has been for GOD to use me in whatever way He sees fit.
Since I've been praying this, I've had some opportunities that have felt like answers to this prayer, which made me feel good. I felt like I was making progress.
Then it hit me, just recently.
One of my flaws is that I really, really like to "control" my time.
(This actually feels awkward to type because the reality is that any sense of control we feel we have over our life is a lie. GOD is the only One in control. Our lives—every single detail, every single breath we take—are in His hands completely and totally. But then that's kind of the point.)
Being a planner, I've already thought about what I need to accomplish when I get home from work, when I arrive at work in the morning, and for the upcoming weekend(s).
I don't dwell on it, but, as my dad says, it's just how I'm wired.
So whenever something changes that disrupts my plans, I've tended to allow that to negatively impact my attitude.
For example, early in our marriage, my wife Holly and I rode to and from work together because we both worked at the same place.
Occasionally, on the way home, Holly would spontaneously announce that we needed to stop by the grocery store to pick up a few items for dinner.
Oh man, did this ruin my day!
I'm ashamed to admit that I allowed this to start more than a few fights arguments in our young marriage.
Thankfully, we worked out a compromise where she'd do her best to minimize these occasions and to give me as much notice as possible, and I'd ensure I didn't have a poor attitude when the need arose.
Here's the point of all of this:
In the past few weeks I've realized (or been reminded of) the following things:
- If I want to be a servant, if I really want GOD to use me for His purpose, I must surrender the false sense of control I have had over "my time" or "my plans."
- As Christians, we are commanded to surrender our bodies as living sacrifices for GOD's glory (Rom. 12:1-2).
Time and plans are aspects of this surrender.
To withhold either of these things from GOD is to refuse Jesus full and total control over our will. In other words, it's me sitting on the throne of my heart and not Him.
- Rarely (Never?) do opportunities to serve others appear when we have nothing planned or nothing to get done.
Life doesn't work this way.
I recently saw a car accident while pumping gasoline and thought, "Wow, how inconvenient it would be if I got in a wreck today!" The I immediately thought, "Well duh. I don't know a single person who gets in their car and just drives around aimlessly with no purpose just for fun. Virtually every person is on the road because they've got some place to be."
Similarly, people don't have needs or emergencies at times when it's convenient for others because we don't routinely build in time to sit around and do nothing just in case somebody needs us.
Life doesn't work that way. Life is constantly busy.
- The concept of things occurring "in His time" doesn't always imply waiting. Sometimes it means acting, now!
We often think of it in terms of waiting on the LORD, but sometimes He calls us to act at a time when we've made other plans.
The Christ-follower will do what needs to be done, helping joyfully and without feeling like you're being forced to. Because "GOD loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7) applies to way more than just money.
What about you?
Have you prayed for GOD to show you places where you need to grow? What was your experience like following that prayer? Do you struggle with a compulsive tendency like I have?
If you've overcome a similar past struggle, I'd love to know how you did it, what you found to be the key(s). Share your experience in the comments below.