Perspective is everything. On yesterday when I originally read this Bible study, I was in a semi-dreary mood; the weather was cloudy and humid, my husband was traveling soon, and I was tired. I probably would have answered much differently. So I let it marinate. Then this morning I took all the kids to the dentist and read a few pages of Bobbie Howard’s Encouragement Along the Way. It all seemed to come together in that moment of quiet and peace of the dentist’s office.
Here are this week’s questions:
1. Do you struggle with a sense of self-worth? How do you perceive this has affected the way you are able to ‘keep your head upright’? If not, do you know someone who suffers in this area?
2. What are you most afraid of? Does this fear affect the way you move through life? (Ex. Are you overprotective with children? Afraid to take risks?)
3. What is one of the most marvelous ways God has provided a need? I can’t wait to hear your stories on this one!
4. Steve Brown, a Moody Broadcasting Bible Teacher, is one of the first people I ever heard teach the concept that God was not mad at me. I grew up in a denomination that led me to believe He was in a continuous state of disappointment over my failures. How about you? Though in your heart you know God says He loves you, does Satan in your mind ever try to convince you otherwise?
5. How close are you to your own Promised Land? Not at all, 1/2 way, almost there? By this I mean the place of abundant living and effectiveness here on earth, not the ultimate fulfillment in Glory! Though I hope you are going to heaven, I don’t want it to be today! 🙂
Of all the things I struggle with, I’ve never struggled with a sense of self-worth, and I’ve shared many stories of God’s provision for us, but the 2nd question intrigued me. What is my deepest fear? I thought long and hard about that this morning, and as I read my heart amidst Bobbie’s words, I knew beyond hesitation my deepest fear: the fear of failure.
The fear of failure has taken many forms over the years, and yes, that same fear has absolutely affected my travel through this life. In my twenties, fresh out of college, my fears were based on my job. Would I be good at what I did for a living? Would I be known as intelligent and innovative, or bumbling and incompetent? In my thirties, as a fairly new wife and new mom, I obsessed over being supermom. I stressed over looking like I’d never had a baby, even though I wasn’t exactly lean and mean as a newlywed, and I wanted everything perfect–the perfect family, the perfect wife, the perfect life. Now, I can see my fear almost as clearly as I can see the words I type: I fear not fulfilling my purpose. As crazy as it might sound, I sometimes wonder if the Lord would say, “well done, good and faithful servant,” or am I the person with the one talent, but because I don’t know all of what God has in store for me, I’m dumb enough not to know any better.
It constantly occurs to me all the times I don’t get it right, whether I’m distracted at church, or whether I grow weary in well doing. There’s also the number of decisions I’ve made—critical decisions—without praying first. As just one example, were we supposed to stop at three children, or did my decision that I was “old and tired” cause us to miss a blessing? Should our budget be set differently so I could give more to missions? Am I teaching my children things that will propel them spiritually and academically, or are my own issues clouding their growth? I know enough scripture to know that the trick of the enemy is to remind you of everything that you aren’t, which is the point of the “I Am” Bible study, but I don’t want to miss anything that God has in store.
Having said all of this, I certainly don’t feel completely effective (question #5). Each day I’m challenged to dig deeper—in prayer, that is. As another example, we’ve been taking a fellow church member to church each Sunday. Although this kind woman has been praying and, at least allegedly, saving toward a car, she currently has no transportation. To put this in perspective, my husband drives a company car that fits the five of us perfectly, and is a free car to us—all gas is paid for by the company. In order to transport our church member, we have to abandon the free car and take our personal car at almost $3/gal for a round trip of 50-60 miles to church and back. Six months ago, we went about our task joyfully, knowing that the Lord would bless us doing for the least of them. Six months later, I still know that deep in my heart, but if I take off my Christian mask (one of our associate pastors uses that analogy and it so works for me), it’s gotten old. I don’t feel completely safe in the area where we’re picking her up, I feel the kid’s timidity with a guest in the car, and I keep thinking that something is a bit fishy. I won’t even dwell on the occasional mid-week transportation needs that the routine-lover in me finds completely disruptive. So as we listened to each other beginning to complain, my husband and I decided instead to agree with her that she’d find a reliable car to match her budget. Is this another opportunity I’m slowly spoiling to be used? Did I fail God? Am I missing yet another blessing because of selfishness? As I write I don’t know. And maybe that is the point, to trust God and lean not to my own understanding. This I do know: when I reach Heaven, I don’t want to leave any unfinished business with my name on it.