Therapeutic grace

 

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‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.‘ Psalm 23.6

I suffer from a disease.

It is called fearful indecision-itis and the prognosis without treatment is grim. It results in a life of untapped potential, capped by caution and riddled by regret.

But thankfully there is a successful therapeutic; its called grace.

God’s grace, His unmerited favour, is the birthright of His children. It is underserved and unreserved. Grace means that God’s goodness and mercy follow me, even through my mistakes or missteps or mishaps. Grace isn’t scared off by wrong turns.  

And this God-grace, if I will let it, can embolden me to step out of the boat and onto the water. God’s grace can give me courage to invest myself, my time and resources, instead of fearfully burying them for safe-keeping. Grace can and should make me brave.

Jesus explained to His disciples that in order to enter the Kingdom of God, we need to be like children. Have you watched a child recently? Have you seen how they are free to try things, to explore, to create? When did I trade freedom for caution?

Probably about the time I first experienced the shame of falling short and the uncomfortable feelings it produced. And then, like my firstborn daughter who determined to learn to ride her bike without ever falling over, I started to live very cautiously.  Soon I gave up bike riding altogether.

It has been a miserable trade.

Because it was for freedom that Christ set me free. Fearful indecision is not what I am made for. I am created to walk on water, to do great exploits for the kindgom. My inheritance is boldness, my spiritual dna is undaunted. My God is so, so big.

When I get it wrong, He forgives and helps me clean up the mess. When my own stupidity robs from me, God’s grace redeems and restores. When I blow it, He is my soft place to land, where truth and love can fix me.

When I am lost He doesn’t ask me to find Him, although He would be well within HIs rights to do so. Instead, He finds me. He comes close when questions and doubts take me down dead ends and when I am stranded by indecision. He is there to help when I bite off more than I can chew or when restlessness takes me off track.

God’s hand is long enough save.

It reaches down into the valleys of my life and rescues me. No situation ever surprises my Good Shepherd or lands outside of His jurisdiction. I am never more than a breath away from His goodness and unending mercy.  

Neither are you. If you know Jesus, His mercy and goodness are your life-long companions. His grace is sticking to you like glue.

So keep your heart soft and your ears listening. Always listen, obey and trust. But don’t be afraid.

You are the child of a good father. 

Live free and open. Have a go. Learn from your mistakes and move on. Shake off regret.  Face fear and do it anyway. Pray for the impossible. Try something really hard. Dream. Create. Ask. Try.

Live life with a carefree boldness that shows you know whose child you are and that you believe His grace is always more than enough.  

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Doers not thinkers

 

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Unfortunately, lockdown is a perfect storm for over-thinkers like me.

With its combination of empty diary pages and the daily flow of pandemic news, my tendency towards analytical overdrive has only gotten worse.

And the busier my mind gets, the less I seem to achieve.  Like a fairground roller-coaster, my thoughts, dilemmas, worries and fears go round and round never reaching any kind of conclusion.

It is exhausting.

Indecision brings confusion. It leads me into a paralysis of analysis that achieves nothing of value and steals my peace and forward motion. Over-thinking tells me that fear is carefulness; it persuades me to trade accomplishment for ‘keeping my options open’. And like the hall of mirrors in a Fun House, it leaves me in a dead end with an distorted view of myself and my circumstances.

There is a book in the Bible that speaks strongly to us over-thinkers, the Book of James.  If you haven’t read it recently, open it up. I did this week and the familiar words were still painfully challenging.

‘But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, will be blessed in his doing.’  James 1.22-25

James is clear. Power lies in doing things, not just thinking about them. And the first dangerous step towards deception is to stop doing anything. The minute my faith becomes something I only think about, when it only consists of theories and metaphors, I have moved away from the mirror and I am in danger of losing my way.

There is somethings very grounding about looking in a mirror.  It helps us see things as they are, not as we wish them to be.  After weeks of quarantine, every glance in the mirror reminds me how I desperately need to see my hairdresser!  It also reveals that I haven’t been outside in the sun enough recently and that I better ease off the snacks or I won’t fit into my mother-of-the-bride dress when it is needed.

I can’t escape the truth when I look in the mirror.

But I can walk away and forget.

God’s truth is my mirror. It reminds me of the reality of my condition. If I look at it with an open heart it restores perspective and helps me to resist the unnecessary rabbit holes that over-thinking leads me down.

But is the acting on that truth that keeps me from forgetting it.

Before experiencing this season of enforced rest, I really believed that a quieter routine would automatically lead to a quieter soul. I have now discovered it is not that easy. It is perfectly possible for me to sit in my garden, surrounded by peace and tranquillity while I reap a whirlwind in my mind that churns out anxiety and fear. And it happens more often than I wold ever want to admit.

But James gives us a key to ending this cycle.

Be a doer.

Act. Begin. Obey. Follow through.

Create. Design. Fix. Build.

Thank. Praise. Worship. Pray.

Sometimes we need to tell ourselves to file away questions and to put pending decisions on the back burner. There are things we don’t know, things we can’t control, things we don’t understand. Clarity will come soon enough but until it does, there are things we can do.

Because that is where the power is and that is where the blessing is.   

The enemy is quite happy when I am over-thinking, living in the busy world in my head.  Because in that world there is no grace for me. Grace is only found when I live in the present. When my mind is stuck in lockdown limbo I can’t make promised-land progress. God’s promises in my life are only ever received by faith and an atmosphere of over-thinking only produces hesitancy, fear, indecision and doubt.

It is okay that there are circumstances we are confused about right now. It is okay to feel unsure about certain decisions and bewildered about how the current situation will play out long-term. But it is not okay to stop being a doer.

In the midst of waiting for God’s direction, we can still move forward in faith. If we are experiencing indecision in an area of our lives, we can turn our attention to other ways to obey.

This is a great time to pull out old journals and sermon notes and remind ourselves of truths we heard and never acted upon. It is the time to dig deep in God’s Word and to put into practice what we find because even in times where we have little control of our lives there is always something we can do, something we can obey, someone we can bless or serve.

And I suspect when we choose action over endless thinking, wisdom from God’s heart will come and we will see the right way ahead for our lives when the time is right.

So lets’ get out of our heads and back in the real world. Let’s choose sunshine on our faces today, petting our dogs and Zooming our friends. Let’s turn off the news. Lets create something good to eat or make something pretty to look at.  Let’s breathe and trust and worship and laugh.  Let’s do something.

Let’s look for every opportunity to do good and to obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit so that lockdown, despite its frustrations and worries, will be a beautifully fruitful season in our lives.

 

 

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