Chapter 5 – Broken Lead
I have always been a lead breaker. As a lefty my writing style is rather unorthodox, and I have a bad habit of holding utensils too tightly and pushing down hard. Mechanical pencils are impossible and even ballpoint pens sometimes crack in two, sending parts flying into the air.
Some of my classmates used to groan when our teacher insisted we bring two #2 pencils. I worried two might not be enough. More than once I did indeed break them both, and only under careful surveillance was allowed to trek to the back of the room where a hand-crank pencil sharpener was screwed to a door frame.
My response to fear and doubt reminds me of the two pencil rule. When trials come, I press against my circumstances in a feeble attempt to maintain control. If I am unable to effect change where it counts I will look for anything over which I can claim dominion and launch an all-out assault.
Several years ago the church I serve experienced a fire that destroyed its facility. The months that followed were filled with nightly meetings, daily challenges, victories and disappointments. More than once, I teetered on the cliff of personal despair. One afternoon I was driving to the hospital to see a church member when I experienced heaviness in my chest and sharp pains in my jaw. In a short time I was in the emergency room being examined for a possible heart attack.
My heart was fine, but it was time for me to undergo a total lifestyle makeover that included more exercise, better food and a thorough shake down of my work schedule. The only problem was, I was a slave to our fire recovery process, and there was no way I could avoid the needs around me.
So I found something to control. I had always exercised regularly, but I decided to ramp things up. I started eating like a mouse and running like a fool. In a short time I had lost nearly thirty pounds and was running seven miles a day, seven days a week.
Honestly, it felt wonderful to lose the weight, and I placed impressively at a local 5K race, if I must say so myself. But one night at a church elder’s meeting, as I was standing with the men who were faithfully walking with me through our trial, my body failed. We had formed a circle for our closing prayer and as my hands started to slip from the hands of the elders on either side, I collapsed in a chair at the table.
A cookie and a soft drink revived me, but clearly the things I was controlling had found a way to control me. I learned an important lesson about control: the harder we press to control something that is out of our control, the closer we come to disaster in all areas of our lives.
It is difficult to discern when our spiritual walk is out of control. When the certainties we once counted on are shaken to their core, Satan uses pride to drive our obsessions. At least we know we are not the first.
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus finished His prayer and woke up His disciples just in time for Judas’ grand entrance. The betrayer delivered his kiss and a crowd of henchmen from the chief priests took Jesus into custody. There must have been a violent scuffle with shoving, screaming and perhaps a cuss word or two. Then Peter drew a sword and in the presence of everyone cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the High Priest. Ouch!
The poor servant must have fallen to his knees, writhing in pain with his hand cupped around a bloody stub. But Jesus reached out healed him. Then He said, “No more of this!”
“No more of this!”
No more of what? No more pushing back against the providential plan of God. No more attempting to control the uncontrollable. No more intervention in the ministry of the Savior who came to give His life for many.
Wasn’t it God who asked Job, “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him” (Job 40:2a)? Peter and Job had both tried to restore order to chaos when in fact chaos is what God was using to accomplish His ends.
I think we can all understand their confusion. Isn’t God a God of order? Why then do we feel we are working against Him when all we want is a logical framework within which to organize our circumstances? We don’t need a finished product. Even some scaffolding will do.
“No more of this!”
Then, God, what am I supposed to do?