I’ve always been told I was a pretty laid back guy. Some of my friends in school used to even call me ‘Smooth.’ Now, I couldn’t tell you then exactly why I had such a calm demeanor without holding hands with my ego and skipping all around the truth. I thought it was just the way I was wired. This one thing is true, though: it wasn’t because I processed stress any better than anyone else. In fact, a therapist once told me that I ‘stuffed’ my emotions. Even though I projected the very essence of peace, inside I was a bottle of shook up Coke. That counselor helped me be in the moment with my emotions, to express myself healthily and thus reduce much of the anxiety and depression I had suffered with most of my life.
In 2005 when I came to the Lord, I wish I could tell you I put away that old struggling self. It didn’t happen all at once because I still had (and still do have) a sinful nature. But between prayer, studying the Bible and fellowship with other Christians, God has slowly helped me understand and deal with the internal conflicts I bear. Last night in prayer, as I asked for help in surrendering my will to Him, the Holy Spirit whispered to me “He helps those who help themselves.” How many times have I heard that catch phrase and brushed it off without contemplating the incredible truth found in those words! Another layer of ignorance (believe me, there are too many layers to count) was peeled off my mind, and I understood that in order to know and do God’s will, I must seek His will in the Word, in the scriptures, in the countless ways He speaks to me through others, the powerful beauty of nature, and in quiet contemplation. As this simple understanding finally imprinted itself upon my heart I felt a peacefulness come over me like a blanket, and I dwelled on it the rest of the night, even taking it with me into sleep.
Get this: last night I dreamed I was in college again and had only one more class to finish my schooling and move on. It was lunch time so a couple of friends and I went to the cafeteria to grab a bite and hang out until class time. When we arrived we were the only ones at the counter. The only thing on the menu was hamburgers and French fries, which was fine with me, but when it came my turn to get food, the server said I would have to wait awhile because they were out of fries and were making more. No biggie. I stood there munching the delicious hamburger and watching the food workers bustling around on the other side of the counter. In just a moment, though, the cafeteria began filling up with other students, and they all crowded around me calling out their orders. The growing horde began pressing in on me from every side like worker bees in a hive trying to jostle for position. I began to grow alarmed thinking that when the French fries finally came I wouldn’t be the first to get them, so I climbed on top of the counter and began shouting over the clamor of the crowd while the food workers ignored us all. I became more and more angry; my half-eaten hamburger was now lost in the crowd and it was taking forever to get my fries. To make matters worse, when the fries finally did come up a group of professors appeared on the other side of the counter and scooped them all up. The crowd howled in anger and I was the tip of that spear. A bored server then came from the back with a mountain of fries, and even though I wasn’t the very first to get some I certainly made sure I was one of the first. I elbowed my way out of the mass of shouting students, found an empty table and wolfed down my fries in complete anger, then tossed the plate onto the floor and ran out of the cafeteria to catch my last class.
I woke up with this dream still ensconced in my memory and it troubled me. I had worked so hard to manage my negative emotions over the recent years, and now was committed to learning and implementing God’s Divine will. How could I have been so impatient and full of rage? Well, I looked at my clock and saw I had overslept by three hours. I said my morning prayer a little quicker than I normally do, got up and began to carry on with my day, telling myself that being late was ok because I could just adjust to my new schedule. No problem. I fixed my morning coffee and turned on the computer to take care of a couple of things before getting dressed and doing the things I had to do for the day. Wouldn’t you know it, the computer was in a rare funk, acting unusually sluggish and taxing my patience. I sat where I am now feeling echoes of that dream creeping in on me as the morning quickly sped away. Yes, the Lord wants me to know that in order to learn His will I should practice patience. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 12: 12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” I certainly have a lot to learn still, especially if I think I’ve only got one more class to attend before graduating into God’s will! Philippians 4:6 tells me “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Finally, the Lord reminds me in Titus 2:2 “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.” I think I’m getting the picture. What I seek will come to me, but while I’m waiting I need to practice patience, steadfastness and self-control while I study and apply God’s plan for me.