Monday, January 29, 2018

When Nothing Feels Truly Safe

2017 was a doozy of a year for me and my family.  In case you haven't heard all the gory details, I wrote about it here.  And even though 2018 has only been here a minute, I see much better things on the horizon.  The biggest piece of news is that my husband starts work with a brand new company this week.  He is brimming with excitement about the COO position with Strategic Government Resources and the opportunities for growth and development being afforded him.  In other news, Shelby has surgery scheduled this week to repair the heart defect we discovered, which will then again make her a candidate for an anti-epileptic drug trial that we have high hopes for.  And I have just 3 more months of maintenance infusions in my cancer treatment regimen.  I look forward to kicking the unpleasant side effects to the curb and only seeing my oncologist for well checks.

So why do I still feel unsettled?

In my adult life, I have never really struggled with fear, doubt or anxiety.  Every spiritual gift inventory I have ever taken has me off the charts in the area of faith.  And that is honestly how I have functioned in the day to day.  I truly believe that everything is in God's hands and that He works all things for good - even if I don't particularly like those things in the here and now.  But even now, as the Sparks family seems to be turning a corner, I feel insecure.  And it's a strange and foreign feeling for me.

After loosing two jobs last year, I can't honestly say I feel peacefully secure in Chuck's employment and our financial stability.  Shelby's health has never seen stable, but that hospital stay in the fall left me metaphorically waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I have had some hard relationship issues and at times feel very alone.  So friendships seem very fragile in this moment.  And even my writing - where I find great satisfaction and a deep sense of calling - makes me slightly uneasy.  My desire to be increasingly authentic and real sometimes feels painfully vulnerable.

Nothing feels truly safe.

As a believer in Jesus Christ with a profound conviction of God's love and provision for me, I don't mind telling you I'm not ok with this new normal.  Proverbs 3:5 tells me, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;"  NIV  The last part of this command?  No problem.  The circumstances of the past year have driven me far beyond my own strength and wisdom.  I have no delusions about my ability to handle any of it.  But trusting God with all my heart?  How do I do that when my heart isn't quite in agreement with my head?

My head knows all the promises of God.  "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."  Deuteronomy 31:8.  And Psalm 9:10, "...you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you."   "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:7 (All passages from the NIV). But how - practically- do I align my heart and my mind again?

As I prepared to teach my yoga class this morning, I put on this shirt:


It did not occur to me until much later in the day how much this word tied into my emotional struggle.  "Surrender your heart to God, turn to him in prayer,"  Job 11:13 CEV  Surrender is a good churchy word.  But what does it mean?  Surrender is traditionally a battle term.  I think that's appropriate.  It basically means to relinquish control.  As believers, the first time we do this, we gain salvation.  We decide that following Jesus and his commands is better than trying to handle this life on our own.  But, at least for me, the battle occurs on a semi-constant basis as I try repeatedly to wrist control back from Him.  Jesus says in John 10:28 that once I am in His hand, nothing and no one can take me away from Him.  But in my sinful stupidity, I am constantly trying to hold back pieces of myself - thinking I can handle a certain corner of my life on my own.  Until a year like 2017 happens.  I can't do it.  I don't want it.  I certainly don't need control.  And I KNOW all of this.  But my perspective needs to jump on my knowledge train.  What do I do?  How do I SURRENDER?

In my personal study time, I have been reading the book of Philippians and a corresponding commentary by Warren W. Wiersbe.  From Chapter 4 verse 8, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."  NIV  The only thing I know that fits all of those descriptors is our triune God.  I think my first step to SURRENDER is to stop dwelling on all the crappy things that have happened and start focusing on how incredible my Savior is.  As Wierbe says, "No Christian can afford to waste mind power on thoughts that tear him down..."  

Worship.  

Praise.

Adoration of the one who made me, saved me and sustained me.  God is so great and majestic.  Seeing anew how BIG He is just might usher peace back into my world and change the posturing of my heart.  I don't pretend to know all the answers, nor do I think a chorus of "How Great Thou Art" will fix the roller coaster ride I've been on.  But I feel conviction that worship is the place for me to start.  Songs of praise.  Scriptures extolling his mighty deeds.  Reciting his attributes.  This is how I'll start to surrender this battle.  

"Surrender yourself to the Lord, and wait patiently for him."  Psalm 37:7 GW

What brings you the most peace?  I would love to hear from you.

I am joining Kate Motaung and other members of the Five Minute Friday community  for our weekly writing adventure. To learn about Five Minute Friday, click here. This week’s prompt is, “Surrender”.


3 comments:

  1. WOW Lauren Koepf Sparks! What a truly incredible, humble, and encouraging message. This is the first time I've come across your name. Obviously, you were meant to be the last thing I read tonight before I close my eyes to slumber! What a great ending to a day where the Lord Almighty has shown his glorious hand upon my sister in such small, significant ways that not many would think much of it. But you & your year is the icing for sweet slumber!.

    I hope to take my first ever missions trip abroad to Africa! I am both terrified and excited; a mix of emotions that seem to keep me day-to-day on an emotional rollercoaster. But I can identify with you that praise, worship and surrender are the only things in my arsenal that I can do & leave the rest to God - I'm HIS WORKMANSHIP (Eph. 2:10); not the other way around.

    Sounds like a lot going on in your life - but you know who to turn to regardless of the battle(s) you and your family have been facing. I THANK YOU, and I'll be PRAYING FOR YOU! And in the end, when it is all said and done, God will do all that He promises and more--for his glory, and worked out to our good! Thank you for sharing your life!!

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    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments and encouragement, Wanda. I appreciate it more than you know.

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  2. Wow - this post was so perfectly timed for me...and fit in with my personal Bible study this morning as well as several things I have been struggling with! God really used your words and the sharing from your heart to help me! Thanks much!!

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