I had to work something out with God a few weeks ago when my husband was in a car accident.
At the end of August, school was about to start face-to-face for the first time in 16 months, so I spent the weekend getting ready. I wanted to face my first day back at work feeling organized and ready to go.
I cleaned my entire closet and office.
Then I got the call my husband had been in a wreck.
He was okay, but the car was not. Some of my first words to God were, “This feels really personal, Lord. Help me.” Let me explain the history connected to my response.
In 1986 I was in graduate school. One beautiful Saturday morning I went for a run and to brunch with friends. Feeling happy, I arrived home to shower, don my favorite sweats and spend the rest of the day studying.
I organized my desk before settling in and remember how great it looked.
Then I got the call.
My brother Dan had been in a motorcycle accident. I dropped everything to have a friend drive me to his bedside in a nearby state. He died eight days later.
About 6 years ago I finished a large writing project for Jesus and felt happy about getting it done. I was suddenly in the mood to bring my dog into the house to play, which is something I do not normally do. When my dog exited the pen, I stooped to pet him for a bit while I told him I loved him, but I forgot I was still on a step as I turned to head into the house.
I was in such an unusually happy mood.
Then I went flying from the last step into the bushes.
I sheered my left elbow. Surgery happened quickly and recovery was long because pieces of my elbow were lost in the shattering.
This summer began a new decade of life. A lot of personal preparation went into transitioning from the 50’s to 60’s. I cleaned, shopped, and planned a kind of spiritual retreat for myself. I wanted to wake up on my birthday with just me and Jesus before returning home.
My house was organized as I left for a happy trip.
Then I woke up the morning of my birthday with hives and a locked jaw.
It must have been how I slept, but for the first time in my life my jaw was locked out of joint. I forced it back into place, but that meant I ate my birthday breakfast in some pain. I had also been taking an antibiotic and found out I was allergic to it on my birthday. After all the planning and having everything “just so,” that was my birthday morning.
Do you see the pattern?
Whenever I feel organized or happy, I have developed a knee-jerk response of fear that something bad is about to happen.
There, I said it.
I fight this fear and I think you can see why.
But here’s the truth.
The events just listed are not associated.
Sometimes circumstances are connected. Having sex can lead to babies. Not studying can lead to poor grades. Overeating can lead to weight problems. Being chronically grumpy can lead to broken relationships.
cleaning a closet, wearing favorite sweats at a tidy desk, being giddy about finishing a big project, and planning a special celebration for my birthday have zero associations with the difficult circumstances that followed.
I remember feeling in control on the day Dan had his accident. In a prideful way, I remember thinking I had finally figured out how to do this “grad school thing.” God used Dan’s accident to remind me that I cannot predict what will occur in the next minute of life, but God did not cause Dan to have an accident to teach me that lesson. Hear the difference?
Such associations occur only in my imagination and emotional responses, not in truth.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
The devil doesn’t physically devour us. He gets us ensnared through believing lies and engaging in faulty thinking. In this case, I fight the trap of false associations. As Scripture says, we are to be watchful. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV
I know false associations are alive and well.
There are other people besides me who fight the fear of being organized or happy. There are people who are afraid of intimate relationships and conflict because of connections to past events that have no association to current events. The list goes on.
Don’t let tricky thinking ensnare you!
In those first tender moments when my husband called to tell me he had been in an accident and the ambulance was coming (after I had just cleaned my office and closet for a new school year),
I first told the Lord my feelings:
“This feels really personal, Lord. Help me.”
Then I stood against those feelings:
“I stand against the lie there there is any association between my clean office and closet and this accident. You control my circumstances, not me. I am not that powerful. I will not be afraid.”
Picture Explanation: While walking my dog early on Saturday morning, I captured some beauty. A heron decided to land nearby, and I was captivated by the dew drops hanging off the ends of branches like Christmas lights in the early morning sunshine.
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