It’s annoying when people who can’t formulate an argument default to “That’s stupid.” It’s equally annoying when people who don’t examine everything they do and say and just do things because they’ve always done it that way.
(Yes, I do annoy myself a lot. Why do you ask?)
Last year I participated in a Bible study called Rooted. The section on prayer was life changing. Thought it could have used several chapters on that it was so good. I’ve kind of always prayed the old ACTS prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. But the study introduced me to PRAY. Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield.
In the “yield” time during prayer, you are supposed to be silent so you can hear God speaking to you. I have a friend who makes regular practice of this and he seems like a nice guy so I figured it might be something I ought to try.
Unfortunately for me, God said the same thing every single time I did this. Seriously. On all accounts.
Unfortunate, because God was asking me to give up something I’ve always done/had. Namely, my coping mechanism. I’ve had my coping mechanism since I was ten. It got me through all the hell of my childhood, and the nightmare that was my marriage. And, let’s face it, life is still stressful. I can’t just give up my coping mechanism. Yet, each night, it was the same thought. Each night I reasoned with God as to why it was impossible.
At first I asked God if it was even Him. I figured that was a good place to start. The answer was “yes.” Each night I got the same answer. So I began to reason with God. He had to understand that I might still need this coping mechanism. I mean, life is still difficult. And so it went, for quite a few months actually. Until I started to read Moby Dick to the kids.
It’s weird, the bugs that get into our heads and later we wonder…um, maybe that wasn’t my own thought.
The kids kept asking about Moby Dick because of the upcoming (or has it already come out?) Chris Hemsworth movie about the actual story the book was inspired by. So I pulled it out and we’ve slowly been making our way through. As I always do in literature, when it got to a chapter about a church, I steeled myself. You never know which way it’s going to go. But it goes in a really nice direction, and I read the best sermon on Jonah I’d ever heard.
A lot of takeaways, but the big one is “To obey God is to disobey self, and that’s why obeying God is so difficult.” Or something along those lines.
It didn’t really occur to me until Tuesday that it applied to my disagreement with God over my coping mechanism. On Tuesday, it finally hit me that, right that second, I had to give it up. So, I wrote to a few of my writing friends, told them I was not going to write anymore of my fiction that I’ve been writing since I was a kid (both on paper, usually just in my head). As I wrote it out and needed to give them an explanation, I realized that my coping mechanism had become something I was still hiding in instead of doing what God wanted me to do. Or even trying to honestly figure out what God wanted me to do.
It wasn’t easy, but I figured I’d rather obey God that get swallowed by a whale. 🙂
To be honest, I didn’t see why He asked me to do it. It seemed like a huge thing to not be able to have that to escape too when things get too intense. But laster that day, as my mind skitted over to its usual place to start a story, I heard very clearly, “You don’t need that anymore.”
Now, I really, really wish that what God was saying is that my life is going to be all rosy from here on out. But He’s not. As we talked I realized that, yes, it had helped me live through the trauma, but the trauma was over. It seems premature, considering everything going on, but maybe that’s part of the healing. Maybe my coping mechanism was no longer helping me, it was actually keeping me back. I think it was.
We get stuck in the way we’ve always done something. Sometimes these things aren’t really bad, like the story I heard once about a family that always cut their turkey in half to cook it. Turns out, they did it because their grandmother, who had a small oven, had to do it that way. There’s nothing wrong with what they did, it just wasn’t necessary now that there were bigger ovens that could fit the whole turkey.
Sometimes, we mature out of our need for a coping mechanism that we’ve had all our lives. And that is not really a bad thing.