PART ONE: In which I remember that I’m ridiculous
Anxiety has been rising.
It looks calm on the top. I’m not worried! What do I have to be worried about? It’s just stuff! I have my people! It looks like cheerfully going about my work with extra energy. It looks like no appetite. Then it looks like snacking. It looks like indigestion. Where are the Tums in this wonderful house we have evacuated to? But when it starts to look like snapping at your people… that’s when I know. My cup is full of anxiety. Bump this full and boiling cauldron at your own risk.
A few days ago My People were giving me one of THOSE mornings. My head was full of the song, “You are my strong tower. Shelter when I’m weak.” I was singing it… but I was short tempered as HAIL. I was singing, “You are my Shelter when the storms are beating the stink out of me” but I was standing in the middle of the emotional hurricane with my fists balled and my teeth gritted. Suddenly, with my hands in the pile of spilled coffee grounds and my shirt smelling vaguely of baby sick, I thought… It’s not enough to say, “You are my strong tower” if I don’t turn myself over to the safety of it. It’s not enough to say, “You’re my shelter” if I don’t take refuge.
There in the middle of crazy I remembered that He looks at me with loving eyes, He is a calm space. Immovable. Kind. He is trustworthy. No tragedy has ever overwhelmed me before. Every wound has been a blessing before. He knows my anxiety cup is full and he says, without a shred of condemnation, “Let’s let some of that go, sista. Let a smile spread over your face. Be still. Breathe in thankfulness, relaxing your body. Breathe out fear. KNOW that I am God.”
A little lift. That’s all it takes. A little wing spreading and you rise above. A little opening of the heart and light floods in. A little raising of the eyes and peace covers the heart. A little obedience to stop thrashing around in the storm, come into the full presence of his gaze and say, “This. And this. And this. And that. All these are my worries. My angers. My grief. My fear. And I know that you see them. And I know that you hold them. And I know you never leave. And I know I am loved. And I can let your Love Light flood me… no matter what.”
So here I am… mere days later… a real hurricane is barreling toward me, my people, my stuff, my city. Am I obedient to this sweet submission to love? Am I leaning into the presence of God?
Oh no, my friends I am not!
I am leaning into the coffee and the Ibuprofen for my stress headache.
I am leaning into the Facebook for the updates about my people.
I am leaning into the random busy-ness to keep my mind off the thing that’s palpating in my chest.
I am leaning into the feeling, “You haven’t done enough for me” instead of the feeling, “I’m vulnerable and lashing out at innocent bystanders.”
I am leaning into WORK (like I do)… Good work. I’m writing a Bible study… But I am not leaning into prayer.
Trying to control the wind instead of taking shelter.
Let my soul take shelter. Oh let my soul take shelter. There is shelter! There it is! It is always sweet. It never fails. It has been my solace in so many storms before. Remind me! Remind me again, my own soul, how good it is to take shelter in the warm heart of Love.
PART TWO: In which I begin to pray… and remember what matters…
Last night around midnight I remembered that I was standing right next to Shelter. I turned myself in to it. I remembered Faithfulness. I felt the soothing kiss of Father. And then I started to list all my fears. All of them! And I mean every little one.
Jesus, remember those pillows… the ones I sewed out of the fabric I bought from a bazaar in the Tanzanian bush? Yeah. Those are super special to me. They embody a zillion memories. Could you protect my pillows?
Jesus, remember that photograph my husband gave to me at our wedding… of Prague… Imma need that picture to be kosher when I get back. Cause it matters.
Jesus… I have a star fish and a potted plant on my window sill… I’m sure my husband didn’t put them somewhere safe. Forgive him Lord. And, I’m surrendering those two things to you. The star fish and the potted plant. They can go. Put protect the pillows O Lord.
And my magnolia tree!! You can take the oak by the road, but leave me my magnolia tree!
Ready for the Ah Ha moment?
Oh… and Joe and Priscilla. They don’t have anywhere else to go. Please keep their house safe.
Oh… and Willy… the homeless man I had breakfast with a few weeks ago…
Gosh. I forgot about Willy because I was so busy talking about the pillows.
Jesus, guide him to shelter! To food!
Oh Jesus, protect the nurses who have to work 36 hour mandatory shifts. Who can’t evacuate with their families. Who will see the worst of it.
And the national guard… and the priests… and the servants… and the electrical linemen… and the disenfranchised with nowhere to go… Oh Jesus. How could my heart forget?
Please don’t worry about the pillows, Jesus. You’re big enough for all of it, but if even a shred of your infinite self can be spared for the Least, don’t waste it on my pillows.
That’s how you pray in a hurricane.
You start with the things at the top of your heart. The pillows and the starfish. And he touches them and looks at you and says, “I see them. What else?” And you pray for the computer and the windows. “Yes. What else, dearest one?” And you pray for the magnolia tree… and he doesn’t scorn a single prayer. He just says, “Yes. It’s so precious to you. I see. What else?” And when you have dumped all your little fears out and let them be washed clean… you remember what is precious to him.
The poor. The lonely. The old. The vulnerable.
The proud. The foolish.
The servants. The hungry.
The weak. The wanting.
Remember them tenderly.
And suddenly all the things that were keeping me up at night… literally… are ok. I’ve let them go. I’m not fretting. I’m not grieving for the pillows. My heart priorities have been rearranged. I’m praying for the people.
Isn’t it beautiful how Jesus leads us to HIS HEART so tenderly?
He doesn’t say, “You sick bastard! How can you pray for pillows at a time like this?!” Not at all. Oh so gently he touched each anxious part of my heart, giving freedom from my own fears so that I could have His Heart Beat for the city.
Lean into the shelter of his love.
Pray for every single worry, small, large, relevant, irrelevant. Hide nothing.
His heart is kind. And big. And it will meet us in our need. And them in their need. And he can protect the pillows. He can. So release the pillows… and prepare your heart for the people. Pray for the people. Pray for compassion. Pray for margin to love others. Pray for priorities to be rearranged in your own heart. And when it’s all over… go home and serve the people.