The last few weeks have been fairly stressful for my family. And they have come to a head during the last couple of days. There’s nothing like a good stretch of stress to really reveal one’s inward state.
A couple of weeks ago I confided to Mark that since September I’ve been slacking off on my spiritual disciplines. When I was a swimmer a couple of decades ago, there were times when I would just slide through my daily workouts. I wouldn’t push myself. I would just get by, finding a comfortable compromise where I was going through the motions, but not really developing. That is what has been happening the last several months in my personal life. And I knew it would come around to bite me in the butt.
As the winter holidays passed, I sensed a need inside to move deeper into God’s grace through spiritual disciplines. So I’ve been attempting to reconstruct a personal schedule that would accommodate this. Yet despite my renewed efforts, these past few days have demonstrated the consequences of slacking off the last several months.
I was a mess yesterday. I was exhausted, frustrated, and frenzied. All I could think of was trying to get my plan accomplished. And because of that, I treated people selfishly and with little concern for their needs.
Earlier yesterday, Debbie told me that she had been reflecting on Psalm 23 that morning. I thought, “Great idea!” and planned on reflecting on that Psalm through the day. But the last several months had conditioned me in such a way that I was unable to. In just months, I had retrained my mind to NOT automatically reflect on Scripture.
So I went through the day worrying and fretting, filled with anxiety, frustration and anger. When things weren’t working out according to my plan and schedule, I treated people poorly. And when I actually accomplished some of my agenda, I was distressed to discover that I was filled with “peace” because I had gotten my way.
This morning, as I drove away from my house, the first lines of Psalm 23 flashed to mind. That’s when I realized I hadn’t thought about that passage at all yesterday. So I began reciting it:
“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.”
I hadn’t followed my shepherd. So when I needed it most, I was unable to lie down in green pastures or to walk beside quiet waters. My soul is a mess.
Part of the stress these past few days has been car trouble. The “Check Engine” light popped on the dashboard of my car, signaling something significant was wrong under the hood. And it ended up being very costly.
What an appropriate metaphor for what’s been happening to me. Anxiety. Anger. Selfishness. Wrongly placed peace. All of these are “Check Engine” lights demonstrating that there is something significantly wrong under my hood. These are “Check Soul” lights signifying that maintenance and repair are needed immediately.
Fortunately, my Shepherd is an expert at soul restoration… if I follow him. And although I am sorry at my current condition and the consequences it’s had on people around me, I’m glad the warning lights have come on. I don’t dread a costly repair bill. Rather, I sense the invitation to healing, restoration and growth in God’s abundant grace.