January 4, 2017

Happy “Hump” Day

It is January 4, 2017, and it is a good Wednesday. I woke up with a sinus headache and some tension in the back of my neck, but after getting up to take Sudafed and Advil, my headache and tension have since settled into the back of my head some, and I feel that both aches are finally starting to subside. I am sitting here at the computer, waiting on a friend to call so we can chat about our progress (research).

In all, the morning has been quite a slow one. I am rested, but a bit stressed over some recent events, and at this point in the week, feeling a bit of a pinch since I know that I will be returning to work come Monday morning. I am stressed — over details and logistics — mostly. But, I know — I believe — the Lord has me well-covered and that He will provide a way for me. He is good to me. He is so very good to me. I don’t know the history of how Wednesday came to be known as “hump” day, but today is the middle of the week, and well, I get the connection. It is the hump as in the camel’s back and it lands right in the middle of the work week. My prayer today is to make the most of this Wednesday, my last one, before the spring semester kicks into gear next week.

“Victory is Mine” says the Lord

I mentioned above that I am feeling the pinch or panic. Really, I think the panic stems from the fact as that school is beginning on Monday. Right now, I have so much to finish before the week starts, and while I know it will all get done, I honestly am struggling with some personal issues that are causing me to lose my focus and to become highly distracted. I realized this morning as I laid on bed that all this distraction is due to the enemy, my enemy who desires for me to fail my program and not graduate, who wants to see me hurt, really hurt, to the point where I turn away from my faith in God. Yes, my enemy knows that he cannot pull me from the Lord, but he can dent my faith, he can cause a big dent in my faith if only he hurls enough “stuff” at me right now — right when I am bogged down and barely making it through each day. This is the point when he knows I am weakest, when I am at my lowest, when my emotions are taxed, and when it takes the slightest offense to send me off in a huff or cause me to explode in anger. He knows this is the point, the best time to attack me. Right when I am defenseless and left unguarded due to my preoccupation with work, with prepping for work, and of course, with my dissertation project.

In truth, my enemy has routed me several times already. The worst of it came at me the other night when I got into a tangle with a family member over dinner. Yes, the tangle was unanticipated, but not completely unforeseen. I just didn’t expect to be caught in the cross fire, in the middle of a fire fight,  right as my last week of rest and vacation was beginning. As a result, tensions have been running so high in my home that I have been distracted and distraught. As odd as it may seem, I am not really surprised that right now, right at this point in time, I am caught in the middle of discord. If there was ever a time to keep me confused, well then, now would be it. I mean, if I were planning an attack on my enemy, I would pick a time when my enemy was caught unaware. I would plan it for a time when his world was in flux, when the events in time and place were spinning madly out of control. Why not? It makes perfect strategic sense!

However, since I am the focus of the enemy’s attack, the pings and points of the arrow not only hurt me personally, but they cause deep harm to the Lord’s work. They cause distraction and disruption to the Lord’s plan, and in this way, the overall outcome could be threatened and even curtailed. Yet, my faith rests in God alone, and that means that despite the pangs of pain, I am resolute. I am resolved to do this work, and to finish it so that God receives all the glory. He alone is worthy to be praised. He alone is so worthy to be praised.

My approach is simple. I must accept this harassment as the work of my enemy, and I must let the Lord fight this battle for me (Ex. 14:14). Though my enemy has chosen to use a family member to do his dirty work, I will not give way; I will not lose ground. Yes, I will stand my ground, I will take heart, and I will lift up my shield of faith, and I will stand as a warrior against the cries and defamation with which my enemy hopes to assail me.

My plan of attack, in response to his, is to turn the other cheek (when possible), to let things slide, and to remember that my God is bigger, badder, and better than any adversary the enemy can rouse. In truth, even Goliath was too small to stand against the Lord’s anointed. Yes, little David, with his giant faith in God, was too much for the massive Philistine to handle. The word reminds us that the Lord can bring victory with even the smallest, the most frail, and the most insecure solider in His great army so long as it is the Lord who does the fighting. The Lord is with One who will engage the enemy. Our role is to be still. We are called to remain still, to stand and be strong, but to remain absolutely still. If we believe that the Lord can do all things, then we will experience victory over our enemy and all those that our enemy ensnares to do his work. Yes, the word says, “With God, nothing is impossible,” and as such, if we believe that the Lord is able to handle what concerns us most this good, good day, then we can rest in His ability to take care of all attacks, all avenues, and all aggression by those whom are weak and easily used by Satan.

More so, since I am convinced that His way is best, and that despite the fact that certain stones will be lobbed at me today (as in words), I will stand strong and valiant because it is in His Name and with His Strength that I do this good work, that I wage this war, and that I wait for the final victory to come. Yes, I stand today in His power and with His authority and with His call on my shoulders. I stand strong, and I experience the deliverance because I go in the power and the position given to me by my Lord and Savior, Jesus — the risen and exalted One. I go and do this work today to bring Him praise, to bring Him honor, and to bring Him glory. I go and do this work because He has asked me to do it, and with this knowledge, I know that I can do it because the word tells me that, “I can all things through Christ who strengthens me!” It is done. Selah!

Taking Inventory

The past two weeks, I have taken inventory of the fifteen websites I am analyzing for my research project. I am almost finished with the inventory stage, and frankly, it has been a long and very boring process. Yet, as with any inventory type work, the result is always in the numbers. I remember many, many years ago how I worked part-time, just a couple days during one winter, counting boards at a lumber mill. The work was cold and unpleasant. I didn’t enjoy it, but I was paid a fair wage, and I used that wage to go on a church ski trip. The work was boring, and I hated being placed in a position where I had to be “accurate.” The work took all day, and once it was over, I was so happy to be let free. I feel the same way with this inventory work. I know I have to do it, so there is no putting it off any longer. Yet, I want it to be over so I can move on to the more interesting work — the writing of my chapters and the finishing of my research so I can graduate — work.

Still, there is blessing in the numbers, so to speak. When we take inventory, whether in physical terms like counting items or clearing house or in spiritual terms when we assess relationships or personal goals, we often learn interesting facts about our progress or plans. We will often learn some new thing that helps us to better plan and prepare or to become more proficient or efficient the next time we have to do similar work.

The past couple weeks as I have taken inventory in my research, I have also taken inventory in my life. I have come to terms with some difficult aspects of my life, and I have realized that I need to let go of some things because they weigh me down, pull me down, and keep me from realizing or achieving all that the Lord has in mind for me. I have to let things go, and in doing so, once I have let them go, I will be free to move on, free to do and go and live in the way the Lord wants me to live. Let me explain…

The Painful Process

The past week has been difficult for me. In truth, the past semester has been difficult, but up until last week, I felt pretty confident that I had everything under control. I mean, semi-control. I was working out my days at school, tackling every to-do on my list, and each week, making sure to complete every task required of me. In the end, I felt like I had survived delivering a child. Yes, I felt like I gave birth because I had pushed myself so hard through a narrow little channel or window, and I had come out alive and well on the other side — just like giving birth to a beautiful child.

This past week, however, the tension and stress ramped up for me. I was so busy, so distracted, and so pulled in different directions that I found myself overwhelmed before I even got out of bed in the morning. I rested fitfully, and I struggled to make any progress on my research. By the end of the week, I was panic stricken and I really believed all hopes for graduation were beyond me. But, as the Lord would have it, I recovered and entered this week determined to once again, push a baby of work out of this very narrow little window in time.

I have had to let go of many things over the past semester. I have had to place friends on hold, to ask them to wait, and to forgo opportunities for connection. I have had to say “no” a lot of the time, and I have had to cut myself a great deal of slack to make sure I rested in the evenings. Even if I was free, I had to reserve my free time for relaxing. This meant saying no to invitations to chat or to spend time with friends simply because downtime, resting downtime, chilling out, was more important to my mental health and physical well-being than spending quality time in relationships with others.

I know that we are not supposed to place a higher priority on work over that of people. This is not something that the Lord would delight in (at least I think He would prefer we engage with people more so than our work regularly), but in my case, my work is my degree and everything I have sacrificed for the past three years. I have to do this work. I have to finish it. I have to see it through, and to do so, that means I have to let things and people and places and ideas and thoughts and wishes — go. I have to let them go. I can only focus on one thing now, and that one thing is my dissertation and the completion of my PhD program.

I am sure that other people who have gone through a PhD understand what I am saying right now. I was told by my faculty at Regent University that when you get to the dissertation phase, most people quit their jobs in order to finish. Most refuse to take on any new work or they cut back on hours just to make it through. Their families suffer most, and this is why it is so important to make sure that family commitment and support is there. The PhD Candidate cannot go to games, to parties, to events because they are working on their research. It is just a fact. The research cannot be interrupted; it cannot be picked and pulled a part and then fashioned piecemeal together. It has to be completed. It is something that less than 6% of the population will ever understand, so it makes sense that families, peers, friends, coworkers simply fail to grasp the significance of the work. They simply fail to recognize the level of concentration, the time commitment, and the overall stress involved in finishing a PhD program.

As I have considered the things, the people and pressures I need to let go of in my life, I have realized that some people and things come into our life for a specific season or time. Other people or things are with us for the journey, the long haul. These people or things are able to endure through hardship, they survive the ups and downs, and of course, they eventually are passed out of our hands at the end of our life or their life, or its life. I have come to sense that the blessing in handling change is recognizing when it is time to let something go. I mean, if we continue to hold onto things that are past their “sell by date,” well, we will end us with something pretty smelly and foul looking as a result. We regularly clear-house, clean out the dead and the debris, and we make room for new growth, new seasons in life, and new ways of looking at the world.

I have come to this place of change. I have come to this place where I am ready to let things go, to let go of thoughts, wishes, dreams, and even ideas that while good and wonderful in their own right, simply are not meant to be long-term or long lasting. I am ready to say good-bye to people and to purposes that have run their course, stayed long enough, but now are ready to be let loose so they can be a blessing to others or can be repurposed in a way to bring joy and comfort to other people who have that need in life right now.

My heart is feeling generous as I give things away, as I release my hold on people in my life, and as I say, “Adieu” to all the regrets, the missed opportunities, and the forgotten moments that have caused me sorrow or made me feel less than successful or worthy or both. Yes, the time has come to say good bye, and in doing so, to realize that as I say good bye, I am not closing doors; rather, I am simply walking on and leaving these people and things where they are at, where they need to remain, in order for them to fill their purpose in life.

You see, I have learned through this inventory phase that I cannot force people to go where I am going. More so, I cannot wait for people to catch up with me. I cannot stop doing my work just so others can agree to do more or decide to follow after me. I cannot make people work to my timeline, to press as hard as I press, and to go the distance the way I choose to go the distance. It is like a long-distance runner walking in a race simply to let everyone else catch up with him. He is a runner, and he is fast, yet he has slowed his pace down so that slower runners could catch up. Sure, perhaps there is a reason for doing this, but if the goal is to run the race to win, then that fast runner is doing no one a service by not running the race according to his skill and ability. I feel this way often. I feel as if I slow down to wait for others to catch up. I have always done it, and while I am not saying that my desire is to leave others in my dust; no, not at all. What I am saying is that I work at a pace that is uncommon to many people. I work at a rabbit’s pace in a world filled with tortoises, if you get the story connection. I am running this race, the race God has called me to run, with my speed and agility. Yet, there are others who are also running this race with the gifts God has given to them. I have been called to run fast, to press hard, to work without ceasing, and this is what I do. It is the way I have been “made” by God, and I have long suffered when I have been made to slow down, to stop doing things the way I do them, just in order to please someone or to wait for others who are made differently.

In biblical terms, I am made as an eye, and as such, my job is to do the work of an eye well. I cannot try to become an ear. I am not made as an ear. So to have all those ears out there tell me to change my pace, to stop being any eye, and to start behaving more like an ear just because this is what makes sense to them, well, this says that there is just one body part and not many. In Paul’s own words, we are all part of one body, Christ’s, but we are not all the same body part. We must do the work God has called us to do — in the way He has called us to do it — in order to fulfill our role in His body.

Thus, in letting go, I realize that I am not letting people or things go because they are not useful to me, rather, I am letting them go so they can begin to fulfill their role in Christ’s body by being what He made them to be. I am an eye, and I must do my own work. Others are ears, mouths, and hands. They must do the work Christ has called them to do. I cannot stop doing what He has made me to do, and I can no longer wait for others to do things the way I prefer or need them done. I must let them be as God made them to be, and I must embrace my own role within His body, and I must do this work to the very best of my ability. It is, after all, for His praise. His honor. His glory. I do it all for His glory. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!

In Closing

As I close this blog post, I am able to final say that I believe God is calling me to take on a new role and responsibility in my life. I believe He is calling me to do extraordinary work, but only in the way that I can do it. I must focus my energies on His work now, and that means that I must let all others — family members, friends, loved ones — live as God has called them to live. I cannot wait for them to catch my flame or reduce my flame to a flicker — to give them time to grow in faith or to experience some epiphany moment so they are able to understand what God is asking me to do. I must let them walk their own journey of faith, and while my journey is no more significant or special than any other person’s journey, it is unique to me. I guess what I am trying to say is that when you let people go, people in particular, you are letting them go with the full knowledge that they are on their own journey, their own faith walk, and that faith walk may look very different then your own. There is no right or wrong way, per se — but there is a right and wrong way — for each person. In my own view, I am simply acknowledging that to go and do God’s work, for me, is the sum total of my life. There is no other way for me. It is my life, and I cannot give up what I believe God wants me to do simply to please other people, to make other people happy, or even to remain in a relationship with other people. It would not be fair to me or to them, especially because I am convinced that God has a wonderful and uniquely designed plan for every one of His children. Thus, I have to let God design and order and delight in that plan, and in doing so, I let Him make the decisions for each person based according to His will for their life. I want to empower, to equip, and to encourage others to find this purpose in God, and in this way, they too can come to enjoy the blessing of being called, being created, and being set as a specific part of the blessed Body of Christ Jesus.

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