First Responder OR Nuclear Reactor?

Several weeks ago now, I was running late getting out the door for work. It was extra cold that morning and the zipper on my coat was stuck, so I had been wrestling with it for about 10 minutes with my frustration level growing as the clock ticked. I finally gave up and decided, I’d have to just slip the coat over my head and try to wrestle with it some more later. I then went to finish getting ready and my 350 degree flat iron started to fall off the counter. I reacted quickly and grabbed for it! Only problem is, I missed the handle and grabbed the actual iron! Owww!!  The pain caused me to drop it and it fell to the floor where I was then able to pick it up by the handle.

In the following moments while digging through the closet to find some burn cream, God dropped a pretty clear thought into my heart and mind. I don’t know that I appreciated it all that much in the moment, but it would be futile to argue with the truth or God for that matter!

The internal dialogue went something like this…”you seem to be reacting instead of responding to circumstances and situations in your life. It is so much better to respond than to react. You can cause damage and hurt when you react but response can bring correction, growth, healing and even reconciliation.”

Like I said, it wasn’t fun hearing it, the truth stung like the burn I was dealing with, but I knew in that moment, God was asking me to work on being more responsive and less reactive.

It hasn’t taken me too much effort in the days following to see how right God was in His summation of my reactive reflex. It may look something like this in my life or your life:

I’m at work being pulled in what feels like a hundred different directions, there’s more to get done than can ever be done and a staff person walks in my office and says, “do you have a minute?” My reaction may include a rolling of my eyes, a heavy sigh or maybe I don’t even look up and talk while I’m staring at the computer trying to finish the thought I was in the middle of.

I reacted.

Have you read any social media posts lately that have annoyed you? Dare I say, even angered you? If I was going to react, I might make a whole judgmental story in my head about the person who made the post, or I might immediately begin to type back a missive in order to set them straight!! Perhaps engage in some written warfare, whatever it takes to show them the error of their ways.

That would be a reaction.

Parents and others who play a role in shaping the lives of little ones have lots of opportunity to either react or respond. Your child spills their drink at the dinner table and before you realize it, your tone is stern, your voice is raised, “You spilled your juice again! You need to start paying attention to what you are doing! I’m tired of cleaning up after you all the time!” A simple “oops, let’s get a rag and get this cleaned up” would’ve sufficed and left you and them feeling a whole lot better about life.

Sometimes we react.

You see even if it’s as little a thing as a stuck coat zipper and a falling flat iron. My reactions are revealing the condition of my heart. It’s a character issue.

If I am reacting based on my emotion, it’s all about me. When I respond I’m taking long enough to consider another’s perspective and choosing actions and words that address the person or situation in a way that builds up. Reaction is instant but responding takes effort.

I am certain that becoming more of a responder and less of a reactor will be a life long journey. It has to be if I want to be a person who leaves people, places and situations better. If I desire to be a life giver.

I want to be a first responder not a nuclear reactor. If you feel the same, below is a prayer from my heart to His, feel free to pray it along with me.

“Lord, people and situations can be so frustrating and so daily! I find myself reacting in ways that are less than ideal, less than what I know you desire. Less than how I see you model and demonstrate in Your Word. Please forgive me for the many times I have reacted in ways that make others feel less than, for the times I have made a situation worse because of my unwillingness to seek you before reacting. I need your help, I need your wisdom so that I can be someone who interacts with people and situations in a way that brings life and ultimately gives You glory. Thank you for caring enough to correct me, thank you for being gracious and loving to me even when the discipline stings. I want to reflect Your heart to others and respond to tough circumstances with the same love and grace you consistently show me. Change my heart and help me to be a responder not a reactor. In Jesus Name, Amen!”

Turtle Like Tendencies

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the old adage, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  I get the heart of this message and agree with it, truly this world does not need another voice joining the chorus of negativity, whining, complaining or insult throwing.  Beyond that, I try to be a person that if I am speaking I am hoping it is to add to the equation and not subtract. 

A couple of months of dealing with serious family health struggles left me physically and emotionally tired, dealing with my own feelings of shame for failing at making desired progress in my life, for not being able to do everything well, add in my own physical crisis and all the issues that can make one consider left me in a place that I’d been before, back in my shell.  It’s dark and lonely there and deceptively “safe”.

What happens when life overwhelms and you’re trying to survive and feel a bit like an empty shell hoping that if you keep hanging on, the winds will shift and you’ll be able to sail again?  I can tell you what happens to me.  I don’t want to but I will.  I follow my inclination to become turtle like, I tuck inside my shell.  Radio silence. 

I mean, what is there to say?  What do I have to offer at this juncture?  Nothing you probably want.  So I go with my propensity for solitary confinement.  There’s nothing cute to talk about and I’m out of wise tips and quips so I’m quiet.  No need to meet up for coffee, I’m not good company these days.  I even stop writing so I don’t have to deal with my own internal conversations.  It’s rough when you annoy yourself!

Maybe, I’m the only one that follows this custom, but I kinda doubt it.  It seems there is likely to be a few who will read this and admit at least to themselves that they go with the train of thought that “I’ll get through this on my own”, “No one’s knocking down my door anyway”, “If they really knew what was going on with me, I’d be even more alone”, “I don’t want to be a pain or a drain”….on and on, it’s easy to believe lies when you’ve pushed anyone away who could speak truth.

My shell-like tendencies that I have often struggled with have not served me or others well.  They ensure that I stay in the pain and shame.  They cut me off from life and whisper the same old sad song. 

I want to be the kind of person who can listen to others when it’s not convenient or fun.  I want to be a person who talks with Jesus even when I don’t feel like He is answering because I hold tightly to the truth that He is for me even when my faith is faltering.  I want to be vulnerable enough to say something when it’s not cute or clever.  I want to be humble enough to admit my need and accept help.  I want to be brave enough to speak, even if it makes me feel weak and needy, because truth be told I am.  Truth is we all are. 

I’m peeking out from the shell and don’t want to retreat any longer.  If I cling to my turtle like tendencies I am fighting against the very way God intended me to operate.  He created you and I to share life, to do life together.  Sorry, but I need you and you need me!  I have recently placed some on purpose accountability in my life in different areas.  I have asked people to check in with me and check up on me.  To knock on the shell and drag me out if necessary. 

I pray that anyone reading this who may also struggle with turtle like tendencies will also choose to stick their neck out and invite others to walk this journey with them.  I’ll admit it, it’s a little scary coming out from under that shell but what is scarier is not living the lives we were meant to live because we are too busy hunkered down trying to survive. 

Be encouraged my friend!

Are We There Yet?

As a child growing up my family would make an annual road trip to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins. I always looked forward to our visits and time with them was the highlight of many of my summers.  Although, I loved being there and spending time together, I did not enjoy the 9 hour road trip! I was ready to be there before the family car left the driveway!  If teleportation was possible, I would’ve preferred that route.

I got bored in the car, tired of sitting, I could hang for a while by coming up with games to play with my brother and sister or sing some songs to entertain myself, but I just wanted to get to our destination already!  We didn’t stop when I wanted to and sometimes we stopped when I didn’t want to.  I couldn’t read because I would get car sick.  The car was too stuffy sometimes and other times I would convulse because of the frigid air coming through my dad’s rolled down window.  I didn’t really enjoy the process of getting to our destination.

I’ve come to realize that my attitude towards life has at times been fairly similar to my attitude towards my childhood summer road trips.  So little of life is spent at the finish line, a great deal of it is spent on the journey getting there.  What would be different if I learned to enjoy the process of getting there and didn’t wait to celebrate until I arrived at my intended destination?  Instead of being solely focused on the end goal, what if while heading that direction, I enjoyed the ride?

You see, most of life is the journey, very little time is spent at the finish line.  Daily life is spent preparing, working, failing, trying again, moving forward, taking two steps backwards, failing and trying again.  What a shame to not embrace the journey when it comprises most of my limited time here on earth, when it’s where I spend most time in relationship with others, when it’s where the growth happens.  If I only focus on the arrival, I’ve missed out on a lot of sweetness along the way.

Instead of asking, “Are we there yet?”  I want to learn to soak up the goodness on the way!  Anyone ready for a road trip?

Do You REALLY Want To Be Well?

True Story – Sick for 38 years, laying by a pool every single day, waiting for healing and he is asked the question, “Do you want to be well?” (see John 5:1-9)  Duh!  The answer seems obvious to me and the question slightly insulting.  Of course, the poor man wants to be well!  He’s laying by the pool again, waiting to be well.

Next, Jesus says to this man, get up, take up your mat and start walking.  What?!  If he could’ve done that, why would he have spent the last 38 years laying by the pool?  Cause, it wasn’t to get a sun tan!  However, as I ponder this story, I am struck, like right upside the head struck, with how much I have in common with this man and with the fact that I feel God Himself has asked me this same question.

Now, the majority of those who are reading this are probably not a paralytic, but the question may very likely still apply.

  • Are you stuck?
  • Sick and tired of being sick and tired?
  • Do you need a circumstance to change?
  • Do you need to change?

I think we probably have anywhere from one to many things in mind as we ask ourselves these questions.  I know for myself, for years (told you I could identify with this man), I would long for change, I would cry for it, I would pray for it, I would scream about it, I would devise plans.  The problem is, I wanted change my way and I can tell you that my way involved as little pain and effort on my part as possible!

  • How about this thought?  Could it be possible that I became so comfortable in my circumstances that although I said with my mouth I wanted change, the change itself scared me to near death?
  • Or what about this?  I wanted life to change if it was convenient but not if it was gonna be uncomfortable or hard.  No effort required on my part, God.  And, I waited for Him to get on board with my plan.
  • Maybe, the parts of my life I hated the most had become so closely attached to me that my very identity was wrapped up in everything I despised about myself and my life?

WOW!!  The question doesn’t seem so strange now.  A matter of fact it seems pretty right on!  You see, Jesus Himself was getting to the heart of the matter, something He specializes in, time and time again.  I see Him, getting down to the nitty-gritty,

You say you want to be well, but being well, is according to my plan and my ways not yours.  So, I’m checking in with you here…do you REALLY want to be well?  Cause, guess what?  It just may require your active participation.

In the case of this paralytic man, it required a physical action, he was required to GET UP, PICK UP & WALK.  I can tell you that the changes in my life over the past year, have required my action.  That doesn’t mean I have accomplished these things on my own, but it does mean that my ways and my plans had to be released and I had to say, “O.K. God, I’m willing to do things your way.  What’s the plan?”

He has required and continues to require that I be an active participant in my healing.  He has and continues to require that I take steps that challenge my understanding and are beyond my own capabilities.

Are you going to continue to lie on your mat waiting or do you REALLY want to be well? The answer may not come in the way you want or in the time you would choose, but I can tell you from experience that walking while your waiting is a much better life than lying around waiting for impending doom.

It’s true, lying out by the pool day after day, year after year, may be safe and certainly predictable, status quo usually is.  But, if you really, I mean REALLY want to be well, status quo won’t do.  Your comfort and safety will have to be discarded and exchanged for the infinite possibilities that faith in action holds for someone who really wants to be well.  Scary, Yes!  Hard, Yes! Worth It, YES!!!

“There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela