Monday, October 29, 2012

Trapped Within

This month of October has been an active month in my family, in my life.  I've scarce adjusted to the fact that we are in the tenth month of the year and already I am looking to flip the calendar page to the next month.  Very many and numerous challenges have presented themselves at work, within our home, with the social agencies with whom we work in foster-care, with our health, with the public offices that I hold, with problems friends have been encountering - all of these having the cumulative effect of creating that "perfect storm", the perfect gathering of events that have drawn down strength and will week after week, day after day.  I would love to relay the testimony that I have championed the faith in walking upon the waves of trials and tribulation, laughing at the enemy through it all. 

I'd wager that Peter is in good company in this area with many of us wringing out overcoats and in need of a clothes line but he, at least, had the sense to call out for a sturdy hand.  In my introverted-male-I-can-do-this folly, I have a tendency to let the waves close over my head, holding others at bay while I try to make the adjustments forced upon me by entities outside of my control.  The result is often a very stressed out, inverted, spewing volcano of silent brooding locked within a body that has recently been rebelling against its owner.  In my wisdom, I see my marriage struggling as a result so I "try" harder rather than connecting.  I see my work load compounding, so I redouble my efforts, stealing limited energies from my family, rather than speak to my employer.  I see my children acting out so I demand stricter obedience and impose harsher punishments rather than spend more quality time with them.

Needless to say the equation isn't working.  Increased effort to increased pressures has only been leading a worse "me".  I have been trapped within myself as I feel the crushing weight of the growing responsibilities and demands of life.  Further, I feel trapped in a life that I am ill-suited and unequipped to manage in my own strength...

...and there has been the problem all along.

Why is it such a reflexive reaction to address the challenges and trials of this life in our own strength, with our own mental prowess and reasonings?  Where I fail, continually fail is that my reflex is in my own strength, and not my Father's.  Where I am trapped is in my own limitations, instead of walking in the limitless supply of his capability, knowledge, and wisdom.  Where I fail to walk out love, is when I am self-absorbed in what the world is doing to me rather than what God has called me to do, to be in the world, to my family, to my bride.

And this isn't some spiritual force I have to muster or dragging of the flesh to the Word that has to occur.  This power to draw from is already within.  It is as present as the oxygen in my lungs.

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."
2 Timothy 1:7 NLT

The Greek word for "power" here means two potent things.  It means "excellence of soul" and it means "a power dependent upon wealth, numbers, and armies/forces/hosts".

Agape is "a love feast".

The Greek for "self-discipline" is to "curb one's impulses, to keep safe and sound, fence in, block off, protect".

This verse is a power pill of spiritual truth that I need before my eyes daily.  God has already placed His Spirit within us.  His Spirit, gives explosive power for moral excellence and is backed by the armies of heaven, enforced by the God of the angel armies (I love how the Message Bible puts this).  Further we're empowered to always exude a love feast to others, even when this headache-y, tired, run-down flesh doesn't always feel like it.  And most importantly, I am empowered to build a hedge of protection around my home, my family, and my life through the Word by controlling my impulses, my tongue, what is before my eyes and ears.  This Word is life and power and when pursued diligently it protects and upholds.  When spoken into any situation it affects the course of that situation. 

Where I have been relying upon my strength to overcome the challenges of the last month, I had given only a polite nod to the very real truth that

"...we are not wrestling with flesh and blood contending only with physical opponents, but against the despotisms, against the powers, against the master spirits who are the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly supernatural sphere."
Ephesians 6:12 AMP

And be warned; when you move to rescue hearts and invade the territory of the broken you will draw the attention and malice of the enemy.  It is no coincidence that in traveling to Africa, in fostering two children, in adopting another, the greatest victory the enemy could have against me would be for me to become a harsh, impatient, and withdrawn husband and father in his own home - to hurt and harden the ones I am called upon to serve as Christ served the church.  No greater personal loss could occur than for me to openly proclaim James 1:27 to the masses and model a self-centered lifestyle driven in my moods and bents by the difficulties and challenges continually faced.  "But how can I change who I am?  How can I stop this?"

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

This peace is the "blessed state of a soul assured and confident of its salvation through Christ, unafraid of death because of the reward on the other side of it".   It is the paradigm shift of the eternal versus the here and now only.  We (I most particularly) need to live for the eternal every single day, every hour.  It is only in the perspective of God's eternal provision, His residing Spirit, and abilities that He has equipped us with versus our own limited flesh that we can be fully free in this world.  When we walk in these, we'll no longer be trapped within.

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