This week has been extraordinarily stressful. Adjusting to hiccups or bumps in the road has always been a struggle for me. When things are going well and as planned, I function much better than when things begin to crumble or shift around me. It is so hard for me to give control to God or even realize that He is, in fact, already in control.
Proverbs 19:21 [ESV] Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
I am a planner. At times, I can take the ideas that God has placed in my heart during morning prayer and have it all planned out or even up and running by dinnertime the same day. I love making plans. I plan my meals at least one week in advance. I plan my outfits out a couple of days at a time. I have my lesson plans done earlier than most of my teacher pals. I have schedules, planners, calendars, and task lists galore. But because of this creativity and obsession with planning, I often lose sight of whose plan it is I am to follow. And, within that following, I struggle with being flexible and malleable to changes. Facing things that I didn’t anticipate when I was making MY plan often causes me great discomfort. This week was one of those uncomfortable times.
It is no secret that being a pastor’s wife is stressful. I am trying to be better at that role by seeking out mentors in my local area, corresponding with friends in the same position in other states, and reading books written to encourage women in my role. At the same time, however, I am one of just three teachers at our church’s brand new Christian school that teaches high school classes and my load within that ministry is heavy. I teach American lit, American history, three levels of Spanish, chemistry, and music. I also teach introductory Spanish and ELA to the middle schoolers. At the school I also function in the role of guidance counselor and co-administrator/liason with the state department of education. I assist the other teachers with their needs and counsel them and offer them guidance. Being that the school is AT our church facility, I am there six days a week. To top off the ministry load, my husband and I also pastor an additional church that meets on what used to be our “day off.” In our town, my husband and I minister seven days per week.
Matthew 19:26 [ESV] But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Once you wrap your brain around that… now, add in a full-time college education. Yes, that’s right. I am a full-time college student earning my certification in adolescent education. This semester is killing me! I have three English classes. One requires me to read a whopping dozen books. The other is an advanced independent study of American literature that I have to create the syllabus for. Finally, the third course is Shakespeare. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You think I am out of my mind to do so much at once. For this season of my life, I know that I am doing what God has called me to do. All that to say, even knowing I am in God’s perfect plan for my life I am at risk of facing burnout if I don’t refocus and shift my attention to the One whose plan I am seeking to follow.
Psalm 115:3 [ESV] Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
After the events of this past week, I found myself feeling anxious. I’m not talking about minor worry or un-surety. I am talking about full-blown panic attack anxiety. My arms went cold, my heart started to race, part of my face went numb, my vision began to tunnel. Even now writing this blog, the stress is very fresh and real in my soul but I want to share with you the vision and strategy that God has shown me. Yesterday, the Lord (and my husband) encouraged me to stay home from church. This was a very hard decision for me to accept. I knew I would get a flood of texts from the church members of encouraging quotes and smiley emojis. What would Pastor Joel tell them as to why I was not in my usual front row seat? What would the others think of me not being there to cheer on my hubby during his sermon? Who would make sure there was order and that everything was just as it needed to be? What if we had visitors? All of those thoughts had to fall by the wayside and I had to focus on God.
The Lord then showed me a tight rope. This was no ordinary tight rope. It was stretched across a giant chasm and below was a fiery river lashing up at times toward the rope. And there I was, in the middle of the tight rope. I was too far across to go back and too scared to go forward. I was just halted in the center, panicking, looking at the fire below me and the distance between myself and the relief of being on the other side of the chasm. Then God spoke to me. He said, “Fix your eyes on Me. Don’t look to the right or left. Don’t look back and don’t look down. Just put one foot in front of the other and keep your eyes on my eyes.” I had to do as the writer of Hebrews teaches in Hebrews 12:2 [NASB]: Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Verses like 2 Corinthians 4:18 ([NIV] “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,”) and Deuteronomy 31:6 ([NIV] “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you,”) became very real sources of strength and manna for me at that moment. When my heart would race and my thoughts would turn from looking into the eyes of my Maker, I would consciously “fix my eyes” again and the anxiety subsided. This repeated purposeful action occurred over and over for the first part of the day. I refused to think about ministry work or the stressful situation that had me hung up in the first place. When I did, the anxiety would return and I would purposely “re-fix my eyes”. As the day went along, I realized that God was guiding me across that proverbial tight rope. As uncomfortable as it was, I knew that He would not leave me or forsake me but He would guide me into His arms. Even today, I am still crossing but the end is in sight. It isn’t the end of my troubles or stress or even my inflexibility that I am anticipating but the end of this one small challenge from God. I know hard days are always just one problem or issue away but what makes it better is consciously focusing on God when I am walking that tight rope. I am NOT in this alone.
Psalm 27:1 [ESV] The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
So, as I traverse the remainder of this tight rope and hopefully enjoy some peace before the next obstacle bears down on me, I have to remember to keep my focus where it belongs. God is in control. God loves me endlessly. God wants the best for me and will grant me perfect peace if I keep my focus on Him. He is perfecting my faith and carving out my unique path for His glory. There is nothing that I can’t handle with Christ in my heart, His spirit comforting and leading me, and my Father pouring His love out over and over before me.
1 Timothy 1:14 And the grace of our Lord overflowed to me, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
So, as we tackle this week together remember this: whether you’re on the mountain top, the tight rope, or the sidelines, this season is ordained for you by our King. God loves you. God wants the best for you. God wants to use you and is using you even now. This season will pass (even if it is a really good season) and you will be brought to the next season. Use these verses and my testimony as encouragement to build your faith. Take these verses and store them in your heart. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Trust what God is doing. He will never leave your or forsake you.
Isaiah 26:3, ESV You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
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