So I got my lawn mower stuck in the mud in my back yard last week. Well, it actually wasn't me, and it wasn't actually my lawn mower, but that's a longer story. Anyway, it was stuck in a ditch in the back of the yard where the pond drains out into a creek that runs behind our property. It was stuck good too; the tires were half way buried in the mud. Three people pushing still couldn't get it out, in fact, the harder we tried the deeper it went. Ever feel like that? Like the harder you try to extricate yourself from those broken and hurtful patterns, or ways of thinking; the harder you try to get yourself out of the mud, the deeper you seem to sink?
It is like when you try to rest. Or when you try to go to
sleep. Or you try to be still inside. The trying
seems to make it a more remote possibility. Or when you try
not to worry, or not to think about something in particular. It seems
like the more effort and energy you focus on the problem, the deeper it seems
to get. Maybe that's why Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6 not to worry,
but instead to pray. After all, that's where the peace of God (which
surpasses all understanding) enters the picture; in the prayer...letting go
of worry and holding on to God.
And maybe that's why a little later on he tells us, "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. Whatever you have learned or
received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of
peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:8-9). Peace comes not when
our hearts (and thoughts) are consumed with the problem, but when they are
consumed with that which is excellent and praiseworthy...God himself.
Years ago I had a friend that made the Olympic Team in the 100 meter
hurdles. I mean this guy could run--and still can, although he's in his
early 50's. Anyway, once I asked him how he was able to run the hurdles
so fast and so effortlessly (seemingly). And of course he talked about
practice, and preparation, and working at it. But he also talked about
the movements becoming so familiar and natural to him over time that he was
able to knock a quarter off of each hurdle with his leg without actually touching
the hurdle. Is that not amazing? I told him that if I tried that, I
would kill myself hitting the hurdle. And then he said, "You can't
focus on the hurdle, you have to focus on the finish line. If you focus
on the hurdle, you hit the hurdle." And to this day I still remember
that little piece of wisdom, because it is not only true on the track, but also
in life. We must keep our eyes focused on the good part, that
which is excellent, i.e. on the finish line. If we are
consumed by the hurdles, we will never get over them; in fact, they will
actually seem to grow larger and larger.
Maybe that's why David counsels us (in Psalm 37:1-4) not to fret,
but to: "Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe
pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:1-4). In
fact he says a little later on "do not fret—it leads only to
evil." The dictionary definition of the word fret is to
feel or express worry, annoyance, discontent, or the like. Or to
cause corrosion; gnaw into something. In other words, fretting is a
consuming activity. Don't do that! Instead, be consumed
with that which is beautiful...God...trust in Him, delight in Him.
Anyway, so the mower would not budge. We could do nothing, in and of
ourselves, to get it out. We would have to rely on something bigger and
stronger than us to pull it out for us. So we drove a four-by-four
into the back yard, tied a rope to it, and pulled the mower
out. The mower had to be attached to the truck.
Funny that the Hebrew word for trust literally means to attach.
Of course it does.
So what is it exactly that I'm trying to say? Good question. I'll
have to think about it some more and get back with you. Just
kidding...sort of. I guess I'm saying that when we get consumed with the doing
of something, sometimes it actually hinders rather than helps that certain
something become a reality. Sometimes the harder we try the more
stuck we become. So am I saying not to try? In one sense, not at
all, but in another sense, maybe I am. Maybe what we really need to be doing
is focusing our attention and affection and efforts on the beauty and
character and majesty of God instead of whatever it may be that we are
trying to solve or correct or conquer. And as we are more and more
consumed with that magnificent vision of Him, we will be more and
more captured by the vision that we see. And as Paul put it so
beautifully, transformed into that very image: "We all, with unveiled
face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same
image from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18). Thanks be