Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Back Seat Driver

Jim Congdon, the head pastor of my church, has recently started a new sermon series called, "Life is Unfair," from the book of Habakkuk.  Several of my blog posts have been extensions or further commentary on Pastor Jim's sermons because he is not only a thought-provoking teacher (and gets my mental juices flowing), but I truly desire to give him some credence for that incredible teaching.  If you do not attend a church for whatever reason (even if you do), I highly recommend going to my church's website (Topeka Bible Church) and listening to Pastor Jim's Sunday Podcasts.  The link is:  Pastor Jim will not disappoint you. He is an amazingly gifted teacher, speaker, and student of God's Word.  With credentials that far surpass most pastors, he could truly be preaching at a mega-church.  But he humbly prefers to minister to our Midwest congregation, God love him.

Sunday's sermon dealt with a problem we all have--trusting, relaxing, and waiting on God.  I have blogged in the past about this topic and extensively in a blog post entitled, "While We Wait."  If you're an impatient, control freak like me, waiting isn't your best trait.  Add to that the fact that I am a recovering perfectionist and you've got the perfect storm for struggling with trusting, relaxing, and waiting.  Basically, I want things to be right and I want them right, right now!  Many of you can painfully relate to this, and to those who cannot, I envy you greatly!

In the summer of 2011 on a trip to Florida with my husband, God gave me an object lesson on my issues with control and trust that I have never forgotten.  That summer was one of the hardest in my life.  I have blogged about the reasons and details of that at length, so no need to bemoan them here.  In short, we were on this trip at a time in my life when I was tormented with trusting, relaxing, and waiting on a lot of levels.  One morning, Matt and I decided to rent a tandem bicycle from our resort hotel.  We had never before ridden one, and thought it would be fun to enjoy the beautiful beach weather while riding romantically in the sunrise down an ocean-side trail (doesn't that sound fabulous?).  Now I don't pride myself on being the, "submissive type," but I'm not such a control-freak that I don't know my place in most facets.  Naturally, Matt would be in front and would "lead," and I would ride in back and "help" pedal us along.  It would be just like God's perfect intention for us in marriage--the husband leads and the wife is his, "help-meet."  Perfect unity and all would be well with the world!  Perhaps I would even be able to take photographs on our wonderful adventure since I would just be along for the ride (and since I am an obsessive photographer).  I recall Matt saying, "Honey, do you think you can really carry your camera AND help pedal?"  Since leaving my camera behind was not even a rational thought, I replied, "Oh, sure!"  We hopped on the bike and Matt gave some quick instructions as best he could considering neither one of us knew what the heck we were doing.  We took off and for some reason, Matt thought the only way to keep the thing rolling and upright was to pedal fast.  So much for relaxing, romantic cruise along the beach trail.  I was shrieking and yelling that he was pedaling too fast, and then there were the steering and balance issues.  We also had taken a wrong turn and were now on the road instead of the trail.  We were weaving uncontrollably and cars were coming at us.  I couldn't see because Matt is so stinking tall and I am so, "not tall!"  This put me out of my comfort zone quite rapidly.  Matt kept hollering at me saying, "Settle down!  Stop trying to steer!  Would you just pedal?! Stop screaming!"  Before we'd even gone a half-mile, we were arguing and I was terrified for my very life.  At one moment I felt God say, "Would you just let him lead and chill-out!"  So I shut-up and just pedaled.  Suddenly the ride became much more enjoyable.  Then I began to laugh--hysterically.  I could not stop laughing.  Matt said angrily, "What is so funny?"  I told him and then we were both laughing hysterically.  It was the perfect picture of our marriage.  From day one, I have always tried to lead, and Matt has always gotten angrily annoyed at me in return.  God had worked on me for years to let go and let Matt lead, and God had worked on Matt to lead gently and lovingly in a way that commands my trust.  Now we were relearning this yet again in a new realm.  We finally got into a groove on that crazy bike and did enjoy the ride.  It took a little while, but I know God used that quirky moment to help me.  He knows I'm a visual learner, and He gave me that moment to recall--not only for help with my control issues in my marriage, but also for help in my personal trust issues with Him.  Now whenever I feel mistrusting of Matt or fearful of his leadership, I think of that silly tandem bicycle.   Whenever I begin to doubt or fear that God isn't going to work all things for my good, I think of that goofy bike ride.  You cannot relax, enjoy life, and take pictures along the way if you're clenching your fists onto the handlebars and screaming.  I finally relaxed enough to even let go and snap some photos along our ride (nothing gets in the way of my photography)!  But did I truly believe Matt would steer us into traffic?  Ridiculous.  My attempt to steer that bike from the back is what almost killed us.  Why do we mistrust God in the same way?  He would never steer us into traffic for sport.

Pastor Jim shared 3 main points in his sermon on waiting that I know I will never forget.  He said that even when we doubt God due to the injustices and hardships around us and in our own lives, we must relax, trust God, and wait patiently on His plan.  God IS just--He WILL make things right in our lives.  He WILL deliver us from our troubles eventually.  He WILL seek vengeance on our oppressors in life.  God has given the enemy and sinful man some power here for a time.  So we have imperfection--we have sin, evil, pain, sorrow, hurt, toiling, and discouragement.  But God's ultimate plan will be just and perfect, and we can count on it.  Habakkuk 2 speaks to all of these things.  We may not understand God's methods fully at this moment in time, but one day we will.  One day, all really will be well with the world.  The only way to forge ahead joyfully in this journey called life is to do those three things:  relax, trust, and wait.  Pastor Jim gave the congregation a great visual for this.  He had us place our hands over our hearts and say, "I trust your plan and timing for my life, Lord."  Then we placed our hand over our mouths and said, "I will relax and be silent before You, Lord."  Last, he had us put our hand over one eye and say, "I will wait patiently hoping in Your perfect plan for the future, Lord."  What a great way to demonstrate these three actions.  I realized Sunday as I thought about that tandem bike yet again, that those three things are essentially what Matt (and God) were wanting me to do as I sat in that backseat helping to pedal (and also trying to drive or lead).  I needed to relax (i.e., shut-up and stop screaming), I needed to trust Matt's leadership, and I needed to be patient while we worked out the kinks in our new adventure of tandem biking (or, "wait").  In true Steph-form, I wanted that bike ride to be perfect from the first moment.  Much like life, it wasn't.  Instead of shrieking about it and freaking out, I should have just trusted and pedaled.  That's really all God wants from us--trust and pedal. 

TRUST:  Habakkuk 2:4, "The just shall live by faith."
RELAX:  Habakkuk 2:20, "The LORD is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silent before Him."
WAIT:  Habakkuk 2:14, "The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."