The Remedy



I read an article in a Worship Leader magazine today that really impacted me. It was a story about a woman in her late 60s who was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure after several months of shortness of breath, weakness, and feeling shaky. Her doctor explained to her the function of the heart: that the ventricles which are responsible for pumping blood throughout the body must also relax in order to be refilled after each pump. For her, disease had hardened her ventricles and her heart was no longer able to relax and receive the quantity of blood she needed to pump out. So fluid was getting backed up in her body and her life was in jeopardy even though her heart was technically pumping with strength. The magazine used her story to illustrate the need for rest and silence in our spiritual life, and it hit home with me.

I am a wife, mom of three, a student finishing my degree, and a very part-time producer. I have been proud of myself for my ability to juggle all of these balls and get it all done. I have started cooking more, and am breastfeeding my baby girl – both things I had longed to do. Tasks and projects keep getting added to my agenda and I am getting a good portion of them done (and doing a decent job at squashing the guilt from the things I just can’t get to).  It’s not pretty – but I’m working hard and accomplishing quite a bit more than I ever thought I could. So I should feel really accomplished. But I feel tired, out of breath, weak, and shaky. My eyes fill with tears at the strangest times.

I keep looking to my husband to help make me feel better. Maybe he can take me on more dates, or bring me flowers, or write me a sweet note. But he’s busy (his task-list each week rivals or surpasses mine), and I still need more. So I go to church, thinking that just one more worship service, a chance to raise my hands in praise, a sermon that will inspire and convict will get me back on track. But so often I leave church in tears. I still feel crummy. It was exhausting getting our kids up and getting them there, the baby was restless in service so I heard about a fourth of it, and it just didn’t do the trick.

Today when I read the article it hit me. I am a girl in congestive heart failure. I am pumping out as fast and furious as I can, but I’m not filling up. I can’t get a deep breath. I am shaky.

When you are diagnosed with CHF, the goal is to get the blood efficiently moving through the heart again. This means, if possible, reversing the damage to the ventricle so that it can relax and fill normally.  You need to get the blood pressure down, the heart rate stabilized, and the fluid balance of the body back to a healthy set point.

But for people like us, in spiritual congestive heart failure? What is the remedy?

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself…  Psalm 37:7

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. Exodus 14:14

And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. Isaiah 32:17

There are good reasons why Justin and I do all of the things we do. We think each one is necessary for our family’s survival and right now I can’t think of one thing that I can drop without serious consequences. But I think we need to look to Jesus as our example. There was nobody in history with a more vital purpose on earth. He literally came to seek and save that which was lost. His mission was to redeem humanity yet the Bible is clear He took time away to pray and sit in silence. He slept. He rested. He is never portrayed in Scripture as panicked or frantic. In fact, He was almost always infuriatingly calm.

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” Mark 6:30 (When Jesus said this people were literally chasing after them – this wasn’t a down time or a break in the schedule.)

How can I think that the things on my list are so important that I don’t have time to rest when I have a Savior with tasks infinitely more important who modeled rest for me? And how have I forgotten the truth that Jesus is all I need so much that I am relying on my husband and church to fill me up when I feel empty? I’ve clearly lost my way here.

Somehow, I have to start receiving from the Lord the rest I need to do the important stuff in my life with health and not just efficiency. I’m not sure exactly what that will look like. I’m not sure what things we need to extricate ourselves from. I’m not sure what balls I need to just let fall to the ground despite the consequences. But I’m planning to sit here for a bit in silence until the Lord reveals it. Because I feel like I can’t take a deep breath, and I know living in spiritual CHF is not God’s best for me, my husband, or my kids.

The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:24-25

The Beast.

I knew this blog post, and with it this confession, was coming.  I have felt it rising in me.  This realization that I had a problem.  That there was a “beast” in my life, lurking under the surface.  And as I often do – I am going to be vulnerable and attempt to confess it and work through it here on my blog, in hopes that the Biblical act of confession will free me even as maybe it frees someone else from the sin that so easily entangles.

I have really struggled with anger the past few months.  Truthfully – I have struggled with anger my entire life.  But recently it has been rough.  I will erupt and feel out of control.  I will say and do things that are cruel.  I will be remorseful afterwards.  I will hate myself.  And yet I will do it again.  And often, the victim of my anger is someone I love more than my own life.

When I started receiving the promotional materials for the new series on anger at Keystone Church, TICK’D, I began to prepare my heart.  I knew I needed this message – I prayed it would change me.  I had been trying for months, with little success.  I had told Justin about my struggle.  We have been praying about it.  I told my brother.  I confessed it to a few trusted girlfriends.  I was fearful of this beast in my life.  I was tired of being out of control.  I felt helpless against it.  I am terrified that my daughters will be wounded and damaged by this sin in my life.  I am terrified they themselves will be angry and I will pass on this legacy of anger instead of the legacy I long to pass on to them.  I didn’t know where this was coming from.  I have seen anger from others around me for most of my life – but I wasn’t raised in a volatile environment.  So why do I struggle with this?  I even wondered if I was even saved?  I certainly didn’t feel I was acting like it.

All of these thoughts, questions and doubts have been swirling in my head the past few weeks as I have waited impatiently for this message (couldn’t even be patient for that).  And this week – something happened that completely illustrates what I am talking about.  I had a battle for control with Grace this week in which she was out of line, out of control, and rebellious in a dangerous way to her and me (in fact, I got hurt because of her rebellion).  In that moment, I was angry to a dangerous level.  Now don’t get me wrong, in some ways, anger in the situation was warranted.  What she did could not be tolerated.  But not to the level where I was on that day.  It took me hours to calm down.  I kept thinking to myself, “How can you teach her self-control when you yourself don’t demonstrate self-control?”  I was desperately praying for wisdom, for peace, for patience, for love, for help in that moment even as I seethed.  It was a scary place to be.

First of all – if you are like me and something is simmering just below the surface – listen to this message. There is so much in here that is true and good and directly from God.  And second, I ask for your prayers as I beg the Lord for freedom from this.  I want to be a person, I want to be a mom, I want to be a wife, who demonstrates the fruits of the Spirit.  Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness, Self-Control – that is what I want my children to see.  I don’t want to be this volatile tyrant.

Jesus I confess this horrible sin.  Please heal me.  Please help me.  Please become center of my life.  Please release me of my need to be in control, to look put together, to be respected.  Please take your proper place in the center of my life – the center of my heart.  Please grow in me the fruits that I cannot, by force, grow in myself.  I need You – I am lost without You.  Please free me and anyone else reading this struggling with this same sin.