Wednesday, June 13, 2012

That's a really big "but"....

Let's be real here, I'm not so good at posting on a regular basis. Oh well.

Quick life update: school's out! and already back in...last Monday I began my new position at Oklahoma Christian University as the Coordinator of Student Alumni Relations. Consequently, that meant packing up and leaving Tulsa, Scott's job, and our parents behind. The hardest decision Scott and I have ever made, but we're learning that staying comfortable isn't always what God has in mind.

Through all this decision-making Scott and I learned the value of prayer. It's awesome, isn't it? And not in the "Dude totally awesome!" way, but in the awe-inspiring, "Holy cow, is this real life?" kind of way. The fact that the Creator listens to me, my thoughts, my Overwhelming. I prayed everything that I could think of regarding our decision: is it right for us? am I forcing Scott into this? am I just making up in my mind that this is what the Lord wants? In the end, our questions were answered and here we are.

But something stood out to me during this whole process--was I asking God for guidance, or permission? Or, more realistically, was I simply informing him of what "His will" was for me? I can tell you with good conscience that we listened...really listened. This wasn't easy by any means, in any way shape or form. To be blunt, it kind of sucked. But it was undeniable the ways we were being pushed towards this, not away. And the whole time we prayed, studied the Word, and prayed some more. And a verse I had to force myself to look away from was Phillipians 4:6-7.

How many times have you read Phillipians 4:6-7? Be honest. Hundreds? Or, if you're anxiety-ridden like me, thousands perhaps? If you're unfamiliar I'll fill you in. The verse reads, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." -Phillipians 4:6-7 NIV

Awesome, right? We can submit everything to Him. Whoa. Something I've noticed recently, though, is the context in which this scripture seems to be repeatedly presented. You're talking to a friend and she's at a crossroads in life; she wants one thing but seems to be pulled in another. This scripture is brought up because, obviously, it's calming. "The peace of God which transcends all understanding"....that's powerful stuff, right there. So you quote this scripture because everything will be alright. Which, in truth, it will. But it will be alright according to God, not according to us.

I used to read this scripture constantly, meditating on it for hours at a time. My prayers surrounding this scripture would generally go as follows: "Lord, Creator, you know me from the inside out. You know my struggles, and you only you know the answers. Lord, help me to be submissive to your will and follow you. "And peace? Yes, that would come. But only from myself, not from Him. You see, I'd follow it up with a pretty big "But...."  Have you ever done that? "Lord, I want to do your will always. But....have you heard me talk about my plan? It is ROCKIN'. So, when you get on board, that would be just great if you could fill me with peace so that I know my plan's all good." Hmm. The Lord doesn't quite operate that way.

Speaking for me personally, I honestly think I used this verse as a crutch--a green light, if you will. I prayed, I petitioned, and I got peace. That's it, right? That's all I need? Kgreatthanx. I'll just go ahead God and keep on truckin' because obviously I'm good to go. Yeah, not so much. And this verse, this message of peace, it caused me pain. Physical pain. At times I just could not possibly comprehend why on earth things weren't working out. "I followed the process, don't you get it? I want to do your will but....this just seems really great and I just need you to follow my lead here."

Friends, let me tell you something. If the Lord God listens to my prayer....shouldn't I listen to Him in return? That never occurred to me before. It was just a formula, now where's my peace? I was praying conditionally. There was always a pretty big "but." I've learned now that peace--understanding and accepting God's will--does not always equal happiness.

And the thing that I was missing the whole time, and continue to miss, is the middle of the scripture. Did you catch it? "...but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Whoa whoa, hold up. With thanksgiving? Where did that come from? I thought we were talking about me, here. My anxieties and concerns. Oh...we're not? That's selfish? Okay. Awk-ward.

Sometimes, guys, we just miss it. We miss it entirely. The point, from my understanding (which, to be fair, is limited let's be real) is just that: we're not the point. He is. Always. Yes, we can pray and petition, but we're to be thankful. Why? Because this is a opportunity we've got, here. We've got the Lord listening to what we want...He's giving us a shot. I think we've got MORE than enough reasons to be thankful, don't you?

So when you see your friends with big ol' "buts," call them out. Sit them down and pray, really pray with them. Because that peace? It will happen. And when it does, the size of your but won't matter any more.

How about you, have you ever played the "but" card?